Matthews Rips GOP Candidate’s Edwards Jibe: ‘Stupid' and 'Embarrassing'

Proving that he's not a fan of Republicans, "Hardball" host Chris Matthews slammed 2008 GOP contenders on Wednesday for running a "mordant," "negative campaign." Sounding like a Democratic activist, he appeared throughout the day on MSNBC and, at one point, bitterly complained about former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s jibe that Congress spends money "like John Edwards at a beauty shop."

Mr. Matthews condemned the line, which was delivered during a May 15 presidential debate, as "stupid," "embarrassing" and "pandering." (Is it surprising that a Republican would play to his Republican audience?)

Video (1:22): Real (2.25 MB) or Windows (2.54 MB), plus MP3 (1.22 MB).

The "Hardball" host showed up in the 2pm hour of "MSNBC Live" to trash Governor Huckabee for daring to make fun of John Edwards. Responding to a question by host Contessa Brewer about whether Huckabee prepared the line in advance, Matthews could barely contain his contempt:

Chris Matthews: "Of course. You think he thought that up on the spot? Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s hokie panokie. (SP?) It's Mickey Mouse. So what. And what a stupid thing. What did it have to do– John Edwards paid the price for his haircut weeks ago, to bring that up in front of that audience was pandering. Let's face it."

In an early morning interview with Imus replacement David Gregory, Matthews attacked Republicans as "desperate" for looking to former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson. He dismissed the Tennessean as just too old:

Matthews: "Certainly if Fred Thompson is their idea of a hero, they are desperate. He is not Ronald Reagan. He seems to be uninterested in the campaign. I, I think his first campaign pledge for something would be, ‘Will somebody get my slippers?’ I mean, he looks like a guy about to retire, not about to enter a race for president."

Appearing on the newly minted "Gregory Live" show (MSNBC has been cycling through various possible replacements for the fired Don Imus), Matthews asserted that the only reason Republicans are supporting the war is because George Bush is part of the GOP:

Matthews: "They wouldn’t be with this war for a second if it was Bill Clinton’s war. They would say this is a crazy, ethnic war. What are we doing over there in the middle of all these nuts, nutty behavior? What, what are we doing there? But they are very loyal to their president and the leader of their party, George Bush."

The "Hardball" anchor also expounded on a question about GOP themes in ‘08. After citing Hillary and Bill Clinton as issues to run on, Matthews snarled that the Republicans are "going to try to really scare the country about the dangers of that and they’re going to use that as their rallying and unifying point."

Transcripts of his various May 16 appearances are below:

Gregory Live

7:37am

David Gregory: "But here’s what I don't understand, how John McCain can stand up at a debate and use the very same language that George W. Bush uses about sticking with the strategy in Iraq, and not pay a penalty for that? Even among Republicans?"

Chris Matthews: "Well, first of all, the Republican Party is a very disciplined party and even if you poll, you know this better than I, I mean, poll them today and they aren’t with the president, they are with the president. They wouldn’t be with this war for a second if it was Bill Clinton’s war. They would say this is a crazy, ethnic war. What are we doing over there in the middle of all these nuts, nutty behavior? What, what are we doing there? But they are very loyal to their president and the leader of their party, George Bush. So, I think there’s always that residual loyalty in the Republican Party that you never see in the Democratic Party. The Democrats love chaos. The Republicans like order and discipline and waiting your turn."

7:41

Gregory: "Are you clear about what the Republicans, what the top Republicans are saying to the country about what their rational for keeping hold of the presidency is? What the campaign is about?"

Matthews: "Well, I think it is about right now, the fear or the argument of what would happen if we left Iraq. That seems to be the chaos, the catastrophe to come. It is a very mordant, it’s a very negative campaign. And it won't work with the American people. The American people are hopeful people and they are not going to vote for someone who simply proposes themselves as the only alternative to disaster. That is not going to work. But I do think down the road, you and I know that the issue is going to be Hillary Clinton. If she is the nominee and it looks like she will be, if she becomes the nominee, say, next February, from February to November, the Republicans are going to try to build up a head of steam against A, her coming back, B, him coming back, C, the Democrats coming back. And they’re going to try to really scare the country about the dangers of that and they’re going to use that as their rallying and unifying point. I'm not sure it will work. I think it will get her numbers down, but, you know, this could be a three-way race in which case Hillary could win with 45 percent. The Clintons are very lucky, I really believe in luck. I believe they have demonstrated their ability to win with good fortune and last time around Bill Clinton had 43 percent and he was elected president because of Ross Perot. I can see a situation developing where the Clintons both of them come back to the White House, given everything we know, just because of events, because of the three-way race or four-way race or simply the Republicans cannot find a hero. Certainly if Fred Thompson is their idea of a hero, they are desperate. And he is not Ronald Reagan. He seems to be uninterested in the campaign. I, I think his first campaign pledge for something would be, ‘Will somebody get my slippers?’ I mean, he looks like a guy about to retire, not about to enter a race for president."

MSNBC Live

2:05pm

Contessa Brewer: "And let's talk about Mike Huckabee, because last night he sort of had the humorous line of the night. I know a lot of people are talking about it."

Chris Matthews: "That was set piece though. He brought that in with him."

Brewer: "Okay, well, let’s play it."

Matthews: "How can you respect– These guys write this stuff down ahead of time with their staff people. They bring it aboard and they waste our time with this set pieces. I'm far more impressed by the candidates who can respond intelligently and spontaneously to the actual debate than the people who bring in– Well, go ahead. Let’s show it. To me, it's like bringing in notebooks with information on it if they bring these set pieces in with them. It's embarrassing to everybody when they do these jokes."

Brewer: "All right. We’ll play it and then–"

[Brief montage of Huckabee statements.]

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee: "After I served for eight years as president I'd be happy to change the Constitution for Governor Schwarzenegger. We've had a Congress that spent money like john Edwards at a beauty shop. And it's high time that we have a different kind of tax structure."

Brewer: "So what you're saying is, they go into this, they prepare and they're going to figure out a way to use this line somewhere in the debate?"

Matthews: "Of course. You think he thought that up on the spot? Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s hokie panokie. (SP?) It's Mickey Mouse. So what. And what a stupid thing. What did it have to do– John Edwards paid the price for his haircut weeks ago, to bring that up in front of that audience was pandering. Let's face it."

Brewer: "Do you think Mike Huckabee brings anything to the table except for bad jokes?"

Matthews: "Well, that's for the voters to decide."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org