After Days Censoring ObamaCare Coverage, NBC Lets Chris Matthews Blame GOP for Failure

After NBC refused to even mention ObamaCare since November 18, Saturday's Today allowed left-wing MSNBC host Chris Matthews to actually blame Republicans for the program's ongoing failures: "I think the acid test here is participation, not efficiency. It comes down to whether young people who are healthy are willing to join up....There's a big scary thing, though, that if you look at all the criticism from the other side, from the Republican side, that's discouraging people from joining up." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Matthews proclaimed that if the young and healthy "join up in big numbers," then "the President wins." He framed signing up for ObamaCare as a matter of civic duty: "Will people join up and take their responsibility as citizens really to be part of a national health care program? That's a question that's still not answered."

After the appearance by Matthews, ObamaCare coverage again vanished from NBC's airwaves throughout the rest of the weekend – and not a word about it on Monday's Today.

The Saturday morning segment began with co-host Lester Holt asking Matthews about Senate Democrats exercising the "nuclear option" Thursday to eliminate the use of the filibuster for most presidential nominations and appointments: "Have we hit a new low here? Is this a new standard of how far we've dropped?"

While Matthews agreed with Holt's observation, he also attempted to excuse the blatant abuse of power:

I think it is, Lester. Because the fact that the [Senate] Leader [Harry] Reid went out there and did that, he knows that if the Democrats lose control of the Senate – which happens, you know, cyclically – they'll be on the other side of this thing. So they said even given that, they want a more dynamic Senate than we have right now.

It had gotten so clogged up that, for example, someone could just simply say, "I'm not going to accept [Jessica] Yellen as head of the Federal Reserve," and that's the end of it. Lindsey Graham, one senator could stop the whole movement of the administration.

Matthews even suggested some in the GOP were secretly pleased by the move: "I get the sense that there's a lot of moderate Republicans who might be open to this change because it takes them off the hook....And you won't have these constant use of the moderate Republicans, the few of them, to stop these appointments from being confirmed."


Here is a full transcript of the November 23 segment:

7:12AM ET

LESTER HOLT: The nation came together in the days and weeks after JFK's assassination, but these days in Washington, the atmosphere is toxic, especially this week. Chris Matthews is the host of MSNBC's Hardball, also the author of the book, Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked. Chris, good morning, nice to have you here.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Good morning, Lester. Thank you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "Going Nuclear"; Is Bipartisanship A Thing of the Past?]

HOLT: Boy, when politics worked. Let's talk about what happened this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid goes nuclear, eliminates the filibusters over presidential appointments or nominations. Have we hit a new low here? Is this a new standard of how far we've dropped?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I think it is, Lester. Because the fact that the Leader Reid went out there and did that, he knows that if the Democrats lose control of the Senate – which happens, you know, cyclically – they'll be on the other side of this thing. So they said even given that, they want a more dynamic Senate than we have right now.

It had gotten so clogged up that, for example, someone could just simply say, "I'm not going to accept Yellen as head of the Federal Reserve," and that's the end of it. Lindsey Graham, one senator could stop the whole movement of the administration. So I think Harry Reid did the desperate act and it's gonna cause more trouble probably.

HOLT: Yeah, and what does it mean, though, in terms of cooperation on budget deals and that sort of things? What can Republicans do in the short term?

MATTHEWS: Well, they can – there's so many ways in the Senate to slow things down and just go into slow-mo and do what we call in business and labor, "job actions," just to slow everything down. But I get the sense that there's a lot of moderate Republicans who might be open to this change because it takes them off the hook. Instead of voting against everything and being able to kill a nomination now, the majority party will get that nomination through. So the judgeships will go through, the court appointments, and of course the cabinet officials and the Federal Reserve, all that will move quickly through will go through now. And you won't have these constant use of the moderate Republicans, the few of them, to stop these appointments from being confirmed.

HOLT: Alright, some Republicans said this was a distraction from health care. Let's talk about health care and that website – the problems they've had with that. The word was they would get it fixed by the end of the month. If they don't, how big a deal is that for the President?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Fixing HealthCare.gov; Will Website Be Ready by December 1st?]

MATTHEWS: I think that's a problem in terms of publicity, there'll be more bad publicity, like there'll be more bad publicity next March. But I think the acid test here is participation, not efficiency. It comes down to whether young people who are healthy are willing to join up and become part of this shared risk for health care. If they do join up in big numbers, and make that decision not to pay the fine, but to be part of the health care program, the President wins.

There's a big scary thing, though, that if you look at all the criticism from the other side, from the Republican side, that's discouraging people from joining up. And if at the end of next year we still don't have a lot of participation, that's a real problem for the President and for the program. It really comes down to not so much the bad publicity, in the long run it matters – will people join up and take their responsibility as citizens really to be part of a national health care program? That's a question that's still not answered.

HOLT: Alright, Chris Matthews, good to talk to you, as always. Thanks so much.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Lester.  

HOLT: You can catch Hardball weeknights at 7 Eastern on MSNBC.

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