The most defining moment of how MSNBC sees President Obama came when Chris Matthews sounded giddy the night before his interview with the president. “I got the Christmas eve excitement brewing right here at Hardball because tomorrow night at precisely this time...the President of the United States is going to join us."
This means that to Matthews, Obama is either the Christmas gift he’s always wanted, or he’s still the messiah figure to die-hards at MSNBC. Either way, this should not be seen as an interview that counts in anyone’s book as a press interview holding the president accountable.
Take Obamacare. An objective interviewer would be expected to ask Obama how he could have been as oblivious as he’s said he was to how badly the website was tanking. But Matthews could only begin by asking Obama to make his case to the audience at American University to sign up for Obamacare: “There's some resistance out there among young people-- We've seen it in the polls-- to enrolling in the exchanges and to get involved in taking responsibility for their health care. What's your argument why they should do that?”
The closest they came to the Healthcare.gov disaster is Obama volunteering minutes later, answering a vague question about declining confidence in government, that “We’ve got to do a much better job, as everybody has learned, buying information technologies.” The audience laughed. Government needed to be more “customer-friendly,” but “the upshot is, the government still does a lot of good."
During the Bush years, the president going to an interview at Fox News was seen as ducking the press, not meeting the press. But eight years ago, in December of 2005, Bush granted an interview to Brit Hume, and Hume began by asking the president if he still had confidence in Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, in Vice President Cheney, in chief political adviser Karl Rove.
Hume then asked a question from the opposition: “Democrats say that there is a culture of corruption among Republicans in Congress. Now, we've had the DeLay indictment, part of which has since been dismissed. You had — you’ve got this Abramoff investigation going on up there, and whatever the outcome, it isn't pretty...What about that allegation, that there's a culture of corruption on Capitol Hill among Republicans? How do you feel about that?”
Hume also asked a series of questions about failures in the Iraq war. In a stark contrast, Matthews asked Obama absolutely nothing that a Republican would ask. No corruption, no fiascoes. Instead, he just channeled the robotic MSNBC attack on the Racist Republicans Who Hate Democracy: “This is a Twitter question we got from C. Wilhelms, his name. He said, "What can we do to stop the GOP, the Republicans, from rigging the states, rigging the votes, state by state, to disenfranchise voters and destroy our democracy?"
As Obama agreed, Matthews could only add “Thirty-six states right now, led by Republican legislatures, have been trying to make it difficult for minority people to vote, especially in big cities, and older people. Everybody knows the game. Republicans often admit the game: to deny people the vote.”
Then there was this so-called hardball from Matthews: “Your remarks the other day on economic justice to me, as a Roman Catholic, was so resonant with what the Holy Father, Francis, has been saying. Talk about that common Judeo-Christian or, even further, Muslim background to the belief we have a social responsibility, a moral responsibility to look out for people who haven`t made it in this country.”
His idea of a tough final question was asking whether Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden was a better successor. This is how Matthews concluded: “On behalf of the people who watch me every night and are loyalists, many of them to you -- thank you for coming on the show.”
The only sad thing for Matthews was that news of Nelson Mandela’s death broke after his fawning interview was in the can. So Matthews sent out a promotional announcement on Twitter: “Tonight, on the day we lost his hero, Nelson Mandela, the President gave me a powerful interview.” It came with a picture of the interview, with Matthews beaming at Obama.
Then MSNBC completed the gush with syrupy weekend anchor Alex Witt offering her endorsement on Saturday of the whole Matthews charade. After a clip of Obama answering the last question that being president is humbling, and you can only “push the boulder up the hill a little bit,” Witt gushed over Obama’s self-evaluation: “Have you ever heard such an honest, contemporaneous assessment of the presidency like this before, while in the presidency?”
After all this obsequious fawning, Obama fans are still online, sending each other cartoons of Fox News as the Kool-Aid Man. Their lack of self-awareness knows no bounds.