MSNBC's Matthews Doubles Down On Absurd Call for Obama to Sue Congress

Monday's "Let Me Finish" tirade was no once-off exercise in spitballing for Chris Matthews. The host of MSNBC's Hardball picked up Tuesday night where he left off, his calling on President Obama to sue Congress for "failure to provide services." And, once again, Matthews made a few factual errors, such as suggesting that the Senate had not confirmed Obama's pick for ambassador to the Russian Federation. 

This time around he was joined by liberal scribes Joan Walsh of Salon and Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post who promptly checked their intellectual honesty at the door and seized on the opportunity as an excuse to bash congressional Republicans for obstructionism. Below the page break you'll find the relevant transcript (emphasis mine; MP3 audio here; video follows page break):


CHRIS MATTHEWS: Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews in Washington. Let me start with what caused a big remarkable reaction last night. I'm talking about the idea of the president turning the tables and suing what he calls this don't do nothing Congress. They sue him. A lot of people think he should do what I talked about last night, sue them back. Many think suing the Congress right back is precisely the way the president should respond to what the Republicans in the House of Representatives did to him last week.

Well, think about it. Time and again the Congress has failed to act on even the most routine matters of official business like approving ambassadors for posts overseas. It has failed to do what anyone out there knows is the business of the country like passing an immigration system America would be proud to enforce, fixing the country's broken down infrastructure. You name it. Isn't this a case of Congress denying the country honest and faithful service? Not doing anything. Not even its most minimal official requirements like passing a federal budget.

Is this why so many people have shared, or tweeted or commented on the sue Congress proposal I made last night? Is this why people are reacting with such excitement? Because they see the unfairness and the Republicans in Congress daring to approve a legal suit against the president, all the while preventing the government from doing its own job.

Well, there are a lot of good people who say the best way for the president to deal as I said with the legal suit against him is to throw one right back at them, sue the heck out of them. Isn't this exactly the reaction, this Boehner-headed suit against the president deserved? What else did he expect to be the reaction?

Anyway, Joan Walsh is the editor-at-large at Salon.com. And Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer at the Washington Post, both are MSNBC political analysts. Joan, you're smiling. And I got to tell you. I didn't believe the reaction last night. I came up with the idea. A friend of mine brought it up to me and I said, you know, that's a very good idea. Because if you want to go tit for tat, perfect time to do it against a do-nothing Congress which could be held liable, I believe for not doing anything.

It does have a job. They are paid to do it. They are public officials and they are not doing even the simplest things like approving non-partisan, non-political appointments to the embassy in Moscow.

At what point does doing absolutely nothing not earn a suit, it seems to me? Your thoughts?


Of course, last Thursday, the Senate -- which is controlled by Democrats, not Republicans -- confirmed John Tefft by a unanimous voice vote. What's more, thanks to Democrats forcing through a rule change on filibusters last November, nominations for ambassadorships are no longer subject to a filibuster. 

So nearly nine months have passed since those filibuster rule changes, and yet there are plenty of ambassador nominations which the Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has failed to muscle through as a favor to the president. The Senate alone votes on presidential appointments, so this is not an area where there is congressional gridlock because of House-Senate conflict.

And that bit about not passing a budget? Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has as much blame to share as Speaker Boehner, and arguably more so, since Republicans in the House have year after year passed budget blueprints while Reid typically has refused to bring up a budget blueprint for a vote. 

Of course, why muddy the waters by pointing out such inconvenient truths to the low-information viewers of the Lean Forward network?

For their parts, neither Joan Walsh nor Jonathan Capehart assailed the idiocy of Matthews's call for the president to sue Congress, although Capehart allowed the notion of suing Congress was a "frivolity" which was understandable in light of "a frivolous lawsuit" Republicans are filing against the president for selective enforcement of the terms of the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as ObamaCare.

Capehart also almost stumbled on the central reason why it's laughable to hit Congress as not doing their job. The Post opinion writer noted that: 

a majority of the people who are on Capitol Hill who are causing the gridlock and the dysfunction and "no no no" come from districts that voted them in to do nothing and actually to do less than nothing. To cut, to dismantle, to stop Washington from doing what they think is doing wrong.

Yes. Each and every Tea Party Republican elected after campaigning on reining in government spending and turning back President Obama's left-of-center policies has a mandate from his or her district to pursue that course of action. Don't like it? It's up to the electorate of their respective districts to change course and, on the aggregate, for Democrats to win a majority of the House districts in 2014 in order to recapture that chamber. 

There is no constitutional duty for Congress to do the president's bidding, any president's bidding. 

By contrast, there are tons of laws on the books -- including plenty which President Obama signed into law as passed by the Democratic Congress of the first two years of his first term -- which the president has selectively enforced, including and especially ObamaCare. 

Mr. Matthews may well be correct that the Boehner lawsuit will get thrown out for lack of standing and/or get soundly rebuked by even conservative Republican-appointed federal judges. But the president has a positive, constitutional obligation to take care that the laws of the Union be "faithfully" executed, and there's no way that a president is "faithfully" executing the law when he refuses to enforce broad swaths of it for sheer political expediency.

Matthews, Walsh, and Capehart most certainly must know this. But why let a little intellectual honesty get in the way of base-rallying partisan talking points?

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters