According to Chris Matthews, Sarah Palin is the most divisive figure since Abraham Lincoln "caused" the Civil War. In an odd historical analogy, the Hardball host marveled at Palin's bus tour: "Leading off tonight, civil war on the right. Not since the election of Abraham Lincoln has a Republican caused such a war."
The anchor frothed, "Sarah Palin went right to New Hampshire, serving as a human grenade, blowing up his announcement by saying Romney's health care is a total violation of Tea Party beliefs."
[See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Of course, this historical analogy makes little sense. If this followed a classical definition of a civil war, there would be two warring sides fighting for control of the GOP opinion on Romneycare and Obamacare. According to a May 30 Rasmussen poll, Republicans "overwhelmingly" support repeal of the health care law.
A partial transcript of the June 2 segment, which aired at 5pm EDT, follows:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Good evening, I'm Chris Matthews down in Washington. Leading off tonight, civil war on the right. Not since the election of Abraham Lincoln has a Republican caused such a war. Everybody attacked Mitt Romney today, the very day he declared for President. Sarah Palin went right to New Hampshire, serving as a human grenade, blowing up his announcement by saying Romney's health care is a total violation of Tea Party beliefs. Then, Rudy Giuliani, also in New Hampshire today, declared that Romneycare, and that's the word he used, is just as bad as Obamacare. Then, George Pataki attacked, but it was Palin who blew apart any notion that Romney can get the backing of the Tea Party.
SARAH PALIN: In my opinion, any mandate coming from government is not, not a good thing. So, obviously, I'm not the only one to say so, but, to me, the explanation coming from former Governor Romney on his support for government mandates. Well, he makes a good argument there that it does- states rights and authority and responsibility allowed in our states makes more sense then centralized government telling us what to do. However, even on a state level and a local level, mandates coming from a governing body, it's tough for a lot of us, independent Americans, because we have great faith in the private sector and in our own families and in our own business men and women making decisions for ourselves. Not in any level of government telling us what to do.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, that knife with a lot of sugar on it, Howard, but that is a knife in his gut. She is saying he is another one of those big government people telling people what to do with mandates. He better have more explaining to do but she doesn't like what she heard so far about him defending what Giuliani called Romneycare.
HOWARD FINEMAN: Well, Chris, it was quite a scene here at the Scamman farm, which is where I am, where Republicans often declare candidacy. The Bush fathers and sons did it here. Romney was here. But most of the press corps was spending time behind the risers trying to figure out where Sarah Palin was going, what she was saying. And I must say Romney's speech here, announcing, formally announcing his candidacy was so bland and so straining to be inoffensive, that he lays himself open for these kinds ever attacks by Sarah Palin. Romney had a sentence or two about health care in his speech. He glossed over the topic. He said it was a state answer for a state problem, etc. etc.
You know, the formula he has come up with. But it just begged so many questions that Sarah Palin and other are going to attack. He seems to think that if he has the staff, and he's got a good one, and he has the money, and he has a lot of it, and he has conservatives show up to eat the chili and listen to him talk, that that will amount to a front-runner candidacy. He doesn't want to fight with anybody. But, you know, the Republicans want somebody who wants to fight because they want to take the battle to Barack Obama. And I don't know how stylistically and substantively Romney kind of tries to ease his way to the nomination and then turn into this vicious fighter who will attack Obama. It doesn't make any sense.