Is Chris Matthews having more thrills about Obama? The "Hardball" anchor appeared on the November 21 edition of "Today" sounding more enthused about the incoming Obama administration than Obama’s own spinmeisters. With the news of Hillary Clinton as the incoming secretary of State, Matthews called it "an astounding gesture of magnanimity."
Taking a swipe at the outgoing Bush administration, Matthews claimed the world is "waiting to see us back in that family of nations" and touted Bill Clinton’s alleged popularity around the world. Matthews even opined that despite past primary rivalries, "the relationship is going by swimmingly."
Meredith Vieira then questioned Matthews why Obama has not urgently named a Treasury secretary with the financial crisis. Matthews defended the Obama transition team again opining "I think he’s got to wait to do what’s right," so he can look like "a Roman phalanx."
The transcript follows.
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Chris Matthews hosts "Hardball" on MSNBC as well as "The Chris Matthews Show." Good morning to you Chris.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Good morning Meredith.
VIEIRA: Let's start with word that Hillary Clinton will be nominated as secretary of State. You have said that this is the most extraordinary event since the election. What do you mean?
MATTHEWS: Well, it's extraordinary. Can you imagine if Hillary Clinton had won the primary fight and she had picked Barack Obama as her secretary of State? Either way, it's an astounding gesture of magnanimity to take on the person you beat in a very tough, really eight-year fight if you count all the way back to when Senator Clinton wanted to become president. And it's a hell of a fight he won it and yet here he turned over basically the jewel in the crown of his administration, secretary of State, to his opponent. It's a magnanimous gesture. It's astounding to everyone involved, I think.
VIEIRA: But is it the smartest thing he could do? I mean, obviously she is very intelligent. She knows landscape, but she is also extremely independent and politically ambitious.
MATTHEWS: Well, she's not going to be a staffer. Let's make that clear. She's going to be a fellow member of the cabinet. I mean, she's going to be a member of the cabinet in the sense her judgment's important not just her service, her duty. She's got to use her brains and her experience and use the advice, certainly of the former president, her husband. And all that's part of being in the cabinet. One thing we've seen short-sighted in this current administration, President Bush tended treat cabinet members as staff people. In fact he promoted staff people to those jobs. He didn't treat them as serious colleagues. I think Hillary Clinton will be a serious counselor to the president as well as his agent. I think it will be collegial relationship, but of course he'll be the boss.
VIEIRA: And the million dollar question here: What does Barack Obama do about Bill. What role will Bill play in all of this?
MATTHEWS: Well, he's going to be whether he likes it or not, sort of an unpaid ambassador. He's going to have to give up a lot of his business relationships, a lot of those speeches and by all accounts he's quite willing to do it to help Senator Clinton become really one of the great states people of our time. I mean, this opportunity that Barack Obama has given her is to say it is generous is to undersell it. This country now stands at the verge of rebuilding its foreign policy, rejoining the family of nations. They're waiting to see us back in that family of nations. The Europeans, the Asians, the Africans, the south Asians. Everybody wants us back in the club and they don't like Bush much. They're going to like the Clinton role in this because Bill Clinton is enormously popular around the world, not just in Europe but certainly in Africa, and south Asia, and around the world. I think it could be a real plus but still say it's absolutely political dismaying. Nobody really gets it. It might have to do with the personal relationship that's been established the last three or four months in the room between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. That relationship we know nothing about, but my sense is it's been going swimmingly.
VIEIRA: Alright Chris, let me ask you a lot of people probably are not as interested in Hillary Clinton becoming secretary of State as they are as who's going to be secretary of the Treasury, the economy is tanking.
VIEIRA: And they wonder why Barack Obama has not tried to fill the vacuum here. Why hasn't he named a Treasury secretary?
MATTHEWS: For the same --
VIEIRA: -- He should try to do so quickly.
MATTHEWS: Well, the same reason Franklin Roosevelt refused to join in the politics of Herbert Hoover and the economy of Herbert Hoover. He has to have an absolute fresh break. He has to have a phalanx of economic brains around him. He has to bring it out in a rush. He has to bring it out with freshness and crispness and effectiveness. He cannot let this thing sort of flow into our system and become part of the current problem. Whenever he comes out with his economic team, it has to look like one of those Roman phalanx, four or five people standing together who give us confidence that change is coming. I think he's willing to risk waiting so that he brings out the right team. I think he's got to wait to do it right.