During his 19-year tenure as host of the Hardball cable TV political talk show, Chris Matthews has made several mistakes, but the one he will probably be remembered for most was his 2008 off-the-cuff remark that “I felt this thrill going up my leg” while listening to a speech given by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Even though he has been razzed about it many times over the years, when the situation calls for it, Matthews isn't above repeating that statement, as he did on Wednesday's edition of his weeknight program. “At least I got my thrill up my leg from Obama,” he told former John McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt. “You got it from Sarah Palin.”
The liberal host made those remarks during a debate over divisions within the Republican Party, when he asked the left-of-center guest: “Don’t you regret that you solemnized the marriage between the responsible Republican Party of John McCain and Sarah Palin?”
“At least I got my thrill up my leg from Obama,” Matthews continued before laughingly stating: “You got it from Sarah Palin.”
The discussion began with the words “Revolting Development” on the bottom of the screen next to a Republican elephant, and the liberal laid out his view of the current state of the GOP, in which he pointed to “what you might call the establishment, I guess that's as good a word as any, in the leadership, and then the right wing on the other side.”
“It looks like the line of division has moved a bit,” he stated. “Now you've got (Wisconsin Representative) Paul Ryan in the establishment circles, you've got (Oklahoma Senator Tom) Coburn outside” with what Matthews referred to as “the red hots.”
While noting that the situation is “moving around, and people are jumping from side to side,” the host asserted that “this civil war is red hot right now, and it isn't going away in your party.”
Schmidt agreed and asserted that the situation will “play out over the 2016 election” before noting that “this isn't an ideological fight within the Republican Party."
The activist continued:
The fact of the matter is these groups, in the name of conservatism, they've taken conservatism, and they've defined it not by issues but by tactics and by extreme rhetoric and by who’s the most nutty person yelling the loudest, the craziest things in the room at any given time.
They've divorced conservatism from prudence, from pragmatism, from its attenuation to reality, and so it's great that John Boehner and other leaders are saying “Enough is enough” here because we need to have a healthy Republican Party in this country to help solve some of the problems that have been built up over time.
Schmidt added: “It's true that but for the Senate Conservative Fund and these other groups, the person that Paul Ryan would be negotiating with would be the Republican Senate budget leader because we would have a majority in the Senate but for the five U.S. Senate seats we've given up over the last two election cycles because of all these nutty candidates.”
At that point, Matthews asked Schmidt about his connection to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, and the guest replied: “I knew you were going to go there!”
The host responded: “Of course I'm going to go there. It's your most famous event.”
The Republican guest then stated: “It's been self-evident for some time that, you know, when you look at some of these folks, whether it was her, whether it was a Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, we shouldn't define who is and who isn't a conservative by your capacity to suspend disbelief and say that these people have the capability to be in the United States Senate.”
When Matthews referred to getting the thrill up his leg from Obama while his guest got a similar feeling from Palin, Schmidt had a clever reply: “I think mine went away faster.”
I guess it's supposed to warm our hearts when Democrats and other liberals offer advice so the Republicans and fellow conservatives can win more elections. If only their recommendations couldn't be boiled down to “become liberals,” we might actually do what they say is best for us.
And regarding “nutty candidates,” at least Republicans know how many states there are in the nation and don't require members of the press to refer to regular gaffes as “almost endearing.”