On NBC's 'Today,' Chris Matthews Praises 'Leader' Mitch McConnell for 'Separating Himself' From 'Protestors on the Right'

On Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Ann Curry talked to left-wing MSNBC host Chris Matthews about the debt ceiling fight, who cheered Senator Mitch McConnell's plan to give President Obama sole authority to raise the nation's credit limit: "...the White House seems to be happy that somebody on the other side realizes how dangerous this is going to be next week."

Later, Matthews went further in his praise for McConnell, pleased that the Senate Minority Leader was moving away from conservatives: "I think what the White House is happy about is that finally Mitch McConnell who's a leader, just like the President is a leader, is separating himself from the protesters out there on the Right."

Matthews argued that McConnell was abandoning efforts to tie any increase in the debt ceiling to large spending cuts: "...he wants to separate the debt fight over whether we continue to pay our bills or not, from the fight over whether we spend too much money or not. And that's what the White House is happy about. They now are on the same page. Both sides at the top now realize they have to avoid default next week."

Curry then wondered: "Which side gets most of the blame, in your view, if a deal is not reached?" Matthews acknowledged: "I think they're afraid that both sides are going to be blamed. Obviously the President of the United States is the one where the buck stops on his desk." But he quickly attacked the GOP: "The Republicans are also afraid that if they hold up this deal over taxes for the rich, they're going to get a big measure of blame and they're going to look like they're not responsible."

Matthews went on to predict: "McConnell and probably Boehner, and the President are going to agree to separate the fight over long-term spending and deficit reduction from the fight over debt next week. They have to. They can't afford to have the security checks – Social Security checks not go out and to face default on the international markets."


Here is a full transcript of the July 13 segment:

7:04AM ET

ANN CURRY: Chris Matthews is the host of MSNBC's Hardball. Chris, good morning.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Good morning, Ann.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Deal or No Deal?; "Hardball" Predictions on Debt Ceiling Standoff]

CURRY: This is a little bit like watching your divorcing parents squabble over who pays the bills. Is it possible for these two sides to put politics aside and come up with a deal that's good for the country?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: No, I don't think they're going to get a deal by next week and I think that's what McConnell's plan is all about. And the White House seems to be happy that somebody on the other side realizes how dangerous this is going to be next week.

CURRY: Meantime, the President made a lot of Americans nervous, Chris, when he talked about Social Security checks maybe not going out. Did he go too far here?

MATTHEWS: Well, I think it's taking it from cable news debate into the primetime area of most Americans. I mean, a good number of retirees, especially the very elderly people in their 70s and 80s, all their income comes from Social Security. So this is serious business. It's going to be a national issue, not just a political issue.

And I think what the White House is happy about is that finally Mitch McConnell who's a leader, just like the President is a leader, is separating himself from the protesters out there on the Right. I think there's a real difference now and you're going to see it, not between Left and Right, Democrat and Republican, but in the next couple of days you're going to see a real separation between the leaders who are really worried about this and the protesters who can enjoy the fight.

CURRY: Well, it does seem like everybody's scrambling for political cover. So the question is what do you make of this McConnell plan that would give the President basically authority to raise the debt ceiling on his own?

MATTHEWS: Politicians and journalists are different. Politicians look ahead to the next election and also to the next week. And there's a big difference here now. The election, according to McConnell, is going to decide who wins next year, obviously. He thinks the President is going to get beaten next year. He wants to beat him. But he wants this decision over the debt to be made by next week. So he wants to separate the debt fight over whether we continue to pay our bills or not, from the fight over whether we spend too much money or not. And that's what the White House is happy about. They now are on the same page. Both sides at the top now realize they have to avoid default next week.

CURRY: Well, they had to avoid default. But which side gets most of the blame, in your view, if a deal is not reached, Chris?

MATTHEWS: I think they're afraid that both sides are going to be blamed. Obviously the President of the United States is the one where the buck stops on his desk, as Harry Truman once said. Ultimately he's the person in charge. But the Republicans are also afraid that if they hold up this deal over taxes for the rich, they're going to get a big measure of blame and they're going to look like they're not responsible.

I really think it's come down now to both leaders, McConnell and probably Boehner, and the President are going to agree to separate the fight over long-term spending and deficit reduction from the fight over debt next week. They have to. They can't afford to have the security checks – Social Security checks not go out and to face default on the international markets. They all agree on that, I think. And that's the good news.

CURRY: So it sounds like, in your view, a big deal that encompasses all the issues that they're trying to squeeze in here is dead. That you're thinking that they're just going to simply tackle the problem at hand, that that's the best we can offer – or hope for?

MATTHEWS: Yes, that's what I think.

CURRY: Alright, Chris Matthews.

MATTHEWS: We're going to do what we can to get through the night.

CURRY: Chris Matthews, don't we all. Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

CURRY: And you can catch Hardball week nights at 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time on MSNBC.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC