MSNBC Unanimously 'Giddy' Over 'Extraordinary', 'Powerful', 'Masterful' Bill Clinton

MSNBC's on-air personalities were plainly in awe of Bill Clinton on Wednesday night. Moments after the former President finished his speech at the Democratic National Convention, they kept up the praise for almost 20 minutes. Chris Matthews gushed over the "strong offensive" Clinton gave for President Obama. Al Sharpton exclaimed, "Elvis and Bubba showed up tonight."

Ed Schultz was the most enthusiastic for the former Arkansas governor: "Affable, effective - as a Democrat, it doesn't get any better. I'm sitting here - I'm giddy...I just think President Clinton just did Barack Obama the biggest favor he could have ever done." Rachel Maddow and former McCain campaign advisor Steve Schmidt agreed that Clinton's address was "powerful," with Schmidt exclaiming that "I wish to God, as a Republican, we had someone on our side who had the ability to do that. We don't. It would be great if we did. Just an amazing performance." [audio available here; video below the jump]

Matthews was the first to chime in after the former President stepped away from the podium, and depicted him as an attack dog extraordinaire against the Republicans: "Clinton came in and beat up the other side. There's no other phrase for it. He took down all the Republican arguments on welfare....hit them hard where they were weak - on obstructionism, on the failed economy they left this President with; beat them on the arguments of Medicare, on the arguments of welfare. On every charge they've made against Obama, he took it back and threw it back at them....It put them on the retreat."

Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgAndrea Mitchell then came in and emphasized the "screaming and shouting here when the video to introduce him first came up. When he came out, he had this audience." She continued with her own praise of Clinton: "Now, obviously, he has his own perspective, but as a political document, this speech was extraordinary, and I think it was classic Clinton.'

A few minutes later, Maddow turned to Schmidt, who initially remarked that the Democrat's speech was "extraordinary. It's a virtuoso political performance. There's no other politician in America in the last generation person that could hold the attention of a crowd, have them yelling and screaming." After making his lament about the apparent lack of an equivalent speaker on the Republican side, the former McCain added that the address was a "very powerful endorsement for President Obama; another good night for them." Schultz then gave his two cents about how "giddy" he was over the former President.

Later, Chris Hayes remarked that "what was striking, is it was the first real sustained mention, articulation, and excavation of the record of the House Republican caucus and the obstruction, and the fact that this has been the defining feature of the Republican Party. And, in some ways, I think it was masterful politically....I mean, it's an incredibly useful tool to remind the electorate of how extreme the House Republican Caucus is - how singular-minded they've been in their focus on defeating the President.

Eighteen minutes after Matthews's initial gush, Schultz came back to give even more praise to Clinton: "It's just amazing what he has done. There isn't anybody that walks the face of the earth - very few - that have had the life experiences of Bill Clinton. I mean, if you think about where he's been around the world and the ambassador that he has been for the United States and...the things that he has done for humanity – what a credible voice tonight! What a credible voice!..And I thought he spoke very well to the economy tonight, too."

The transcript of the relevant portions from the 11 pm Eastern hour of MSNBC's live coverage of the 2012 Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night:


11:26 pm EDT

RACHEL MADDOW:  I want to go to Chris Matthews in Charlotte – Chris, for your response.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, Rachel, I think that the – there's only one way to describe it, and that is that Bill Clinton came in and beat up the other side. There's no other phrase for it. He took down all the Republican arguments on welfare, on Medicare. He banged – the former President blamed them for the ditch they left this Democratic President in; banged them on the issue of obstructionism; hit them hard where they were weak - on obstructionism, on the failed economy they left this President with; beat them on the arguments of Medicare, on the arguments of welfare. On every charge they've made against Obama, he took it back and threw it back at them. This was a strong offensive. It put them on the retreat. I wouldn't want to be the guy fighting Bill Clinton if the issue is Barack Obama.

MADDOW: Chris, I want to go to Andrea Mitchell, who's on the floor right now. Andrea - long experience covering the Clintons. You've seen a lot of Bill Clinton speeches. Tell us what the feeling is right now on the hall - I know the nomination process is going ahead - and what was the response like in the hall to Bill Clinton?

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, first of all, as you see, [Antonio] Villaraigosa – [Los Angeles] Mayor Villaraigosa is doing the nominating process. But the extraordinary speech - the defense that Chris Matthews was just describing, that we all watched, on every tough issue that had been raised by the Republicans - when he said, we can't afford to double down on trickle-down. He said it's just arithmetic. He made the case for welfare reform and for the waivers that President Obama has granted. He made the case on Medicare. He made the case on health care. It's a long speech. It's classic Bill Clinton.

But they were screaming and shouting here when the video to introduce him first came up. When he came out, he had this audience, and even though he gave a classic, Clintonian, long – you know, explanation of all of the policy points, he made it explicable. He said, listen to me: no President - not me or any of my predecessors - could have recovered from this depression and done it any better. He made the point that we're on the road to recovery – all of the issues that the Republicans have hammered away at President Obama. Now, obviously, he has his own perspective, but as a political document, this speech was extraordinary, and I think it was classic Clinton.


11:30 pm EDT

MADDOW: I want to bring in my colleagues here on the set, in terms of the response to this speech. Steve Schmidt, as a political professional who was on the other side of this for the Republicans in 2008, how was this speech?

STEVE SCHMIDT: Well, it was extraordinary. It's a virtuoso political performance. There's no other politician in America in the last generation person that could hold the attention of a crowd, have them yelling and screaming, speaking for three-quarters of an hour. I mean, I wish to God, as a Republican, we had someone on our side who had the ability to do that. We don't. It would be great if we did. Just an amazing performance - struck by the political – almost genius of how he embraced the Bush family and George W. Bush for the purposes of marginalizing House Republicans and pushing them to the extreme. It was a devastating critique, but it was delivered with an absence of malice or anger - a smile on his face, logic - aimed squarely at the middle of the electorate, where he's so popular. Very powerful endorsement for President Obama; another good night for them.

ED SCHULTZ: Affable, effective - as a Democrat, it doesn't get any better. I'm sitting here - I'm giddy. I mean, this is exactly what Barack Obama needed - mending fences, bringing people together, and understanding the facts. And I like the way that President Clinton talked about the alternative universe that the Republicans have painted President Obama in, that they're not in reality. They're not in the real world. He even used the word hate, and I'm glad he addressed this tonight....Gosh, I just think President Clinton just did Barack Obama the biggest favor he could have ever done, and I think this is going to give him the bounce.


11:34 pm EDT   

CHRIS HAYES: I think also  – I mean, what was striking, is it was the first real sustained mention, articulation, and excavation of the record of the House Republican caucus and the obstruction, and the fact that this has been the defining feature of the Republican Party. And, in some ways, I think it was masterful politically. The one big implicit opening in that is, why will things be different? What will change now? What are we looking at if we reelect President Barack Obama and we get John Boehner again, right?

I mean, it's an incredibly useful tool to remind the electorate of how extreme the House Republican Caucus is - how singular-minded they've been in their focus on defeating the President.


11:37 pm EDT

AL SHARPTON: The only thing the President has to do tomorrow night is come on and inspire, 'cause the case has been laid out - signed, sealed, and delivered. Elvis and Bubba showed up tonight. (Maddow laughs)


11:44 pm EDT

SCHULTZ: ...It's just amazing what he has done. There isn't anybody that walks the face of the earth - very few - that have had the life experiences of Bill Clinton. I mean, if you think about where he's been around the world and the ambassador that he has been for the United States and the thing – the things that he has done for humanity – what a credible voice tonight! What a credible voice! As much as he has been through, as much as he was targeted, he could speak from experience, and set forth to say, I never hated those guys. I wanted to get something done, and he did. And I thought he spoke very well to the economy tonight, too. I mean, he made the case about the philosophy of success; about, you know, wealthy people doing a little more because they can.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center