Chris Matthews Show Panel Predicts GOP House Will Make Obama 'Look Good'

On the syndicated Chris Matthews Show, over the weekend, CNN's Gloria Borger predicted that incoming House Republicans will overreach and make Barack Obama "look good" in comparison and allow the President to become the "grown-up." During a segment in which host Chris Matthews asked his panel to predict how Obama will deal with the GOP, New York magazine's John Heilemann suggested Republicans would "work with him" on issues like deficit reduction and education, which prompted Matthews to ask Borger if this meant Republicans could no longer call him a "socialist."

CHRIS MATTHEWS: So, you're shaking your head. Is one of the advantages of cutting deals with Republicans, they can't call you a socialist anymore?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN: Right! They can't call you a socialist anymore. Although there will be some Republicans, in the new Congress, who are not gonna like the deals that the other Republicans cut. So he's still gonna have those problems. But they will make him look good, by the way. And he will be able to triangulate and to look like the grown-up which is-

MATTHEWS: Oh my favorite word!

BORGER: -what people want.

A little bit later on in the segment the Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan insisted a GOP House will allow Obama to become the "President he wants to be" because, as he insisted, "he's not a big spending liberal, never was!"

The following exchange was aired on the January 2 edition of The Chris Matthews Show:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: What's his biggest challenge, though? Holding the center as he began to do, at the end of last year, with his deal or keep the left, which is a bit unhappy with him lately?

JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well that's the easiest question that you've asked me in a long time, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

HEILEMANN: I mean he needs, he needs to, he, he already - forget the, the Democratic- congressional Democrats are mad at him for various reasons. Who cares about those people? He has a huge, he has huge support among the actual members of his base, African-American voters, Latino voters, self-described liberals. Actual people in the country, they like the President, he's got a very high approval rating with them. The base is not his problem. His problem is winning back all those independent voters who shifted to the Republicans over in the 2010 elections, and he can do that. The unemployment rate is obviously important over the course of the first year, of this next year. But he's got a bunch of big agenda items that are perfectly tailored to getting back independents. He wants to deficit reduction, he wants to do education, he wants to do trade. He wants to do tax reform. Those are all things can get Republicans to work with him on and in the process do himself a world of good politically and get himself well set up for the election.

MATTHEWS: So, you're shaking your head. Is one of the advantages of cutting deals with Republicans, they can't call you a socialist anymore?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN: Right! They can't call you a socialist anymore. Although there will be some Republicans, in the new Congress, who are not gonna like the deals that the other Republicans cut. So he's still gonna have those problems. But they will make him look good, by the way. And he will be able to triangulate and to look like the grown-up which is-

MATTHEWS: Oh my favorite word!

BORGER: -what people want.

...


MATTHEWS: Andrew you're quiet. Left or center? Where's the left? Where's the action for him?

His third year is the critical year. We've seen it with Reagan, we've seen it with Carter. Carter didn't have a good third year. He couldn't put it together. What adjustments does he have to make to hold the center?

ANDREW SULLIVAN, THE ATLANTIC: I think he has to remain the President that he has always been. Unfortunately the left kept projecting stuff on to him that he wasn't and the right projected stuff on him that he wasn't. The great thing about having a Republican House is that you see Obama's greatest strength, which has always been from Harvard Law Review on, talking reasonably with conservatives. He's actually temperamentally, he likes that. He's actually really good at that. And he exudes reason in that. And this, the tax deal that he cut at the end of last year was, was the new Obama. And he was the old Obama but the new one. Because finally he was liberated, it seemed to me, in being the President he wants to be. Remember he didn't really want the stimulus package. He didn't expect, when he ran for president, he'd have the worst depression in the world. He had to spend that money. The healthcare reform, in that context, [he] could be skewed as a big spending liberal. But he's not a big spending liberal, never was! And he wants tax reform and debt for reasons he's always said. Now the key thing is that he owns it. The State of the Union will be his moment.

BORGER: Oh huge!

SULLIVAN: It'll be his moment. If he puts debt first and tax reform second, simplify your taxes and reduce the debt, and has Republican support he defuses all the demonization of him from the right and he knocks out the left.

—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.