“Now it’s the president’s call,” host Chris Matthews declared as he opened Wednesday evening’s episode of Hardball with new “bad, very bad” information surrounding the VA scandal from the inspector general’s interim report on the agency.
In a segment joined by fellow MSNBC host Chuck Todd and Derek Bennett of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Matthews posed several questions showing concern for the president “keeping his word” and doing something about the latest details of the scandal:
"Is the president going to do what he made clear he was going to do? Is the commander-in-chief going to issue a command or not?"
In a shocking moment, the tingly-legged host wanted to know if Mr. Obama would continue to “diddle” in asking Shinseki to step down. For weeks now, politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern with the president's lack of urgency about the scandal.
Granted, Matthews hasn't completely changed his tune about the political climate in the nation's capital -- he groused about some “partisan concerns” in the mix here -- but still, the Hardball host he was recognizing that Obama's handling was a liability for him:
"Will he diddle for another couple of days and wait for Shinseki to do something when, in fact, it's an executive decision from the top guy at this point? It's not Shinseki's decision now."
The thrill is probably not gone, but the Hardball host recognizes raw political reality when he sees it. Matthews has to know the VA scandal has traction and can only serve to hurt the president the longer it drags on, especially as we hurtle towards November's crucial midterm elections.
Read the relevant transcript below:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Chuck, I think there's something else here, tell me if I'm wrong, it's not just that the agency down the line screwed up. Nobody blames the President particularly for doing that, some do, partisan critics, but they want to believe when the president finds out the problem, like good King Richard the Lionhearted in the old days of television movies when the true king finds out about it, he's going to fix it, and now we have the president diddling for a week. And that's the question. Will he diddle for another couple of days and wait for Shinseki to do something when, in fact, it's an executive decision from the top guy at this point? It's not Shinseki's decision now. This is a crisis of the administration. It's the Presidents decisions if whether he stays or not. Not Shinseki’s.