Is MSNBC a liberal network? Just ask Chris Matthews, who let Al Franken whack John Fund around on "Hardball" last night, telling Fund his "buddies" in the GOP are "crooks." While Fund took offense at the personal attacks, Matthews treated it like part of Franken's stand-up routine. At the segment's end, though, Matthews oozed all over Franken's performance: "Please come back, Al. You've been doing a lot of homework, and I think you got a 'head of the class.' Very well done. I'm not sarcastic. It’s great. Thank you, Al, for coming on."
Fund never responded to the joke-slash-personal attack with the obvious line: Franken, the guy whose buddies at Air America were ripping off the Boys and Girls Clubs to pay his multi-million-dollar salary, making crook jokes? Of course, if he had, Matthews probably would have done a full Malkin on him, and told him he didn't put up with personal attacks....
Here's how it went down. Fund challenged Franken on how he didn't hear Franken say much about what Democrats would do about ethics reform. Franken began reasonably: "I think they can do it all at the same time and I think they will do it all in the first 100 hours. She talked about lobbying reform right away. I'm glad that Steny Hoyer won. I really admire Jack Murtha for standing up on the Iraq War. I admire his service. But part of the vote is what you were talking about, which is voting for ethics reform."
And then the mockery switch turned on toward Fund: "I mean, let's face it, this was your guys, your pals are corrupt. Your buddies, your chums, they're just, they’re crooks."
Matthews doesn’t come to Fund’s defense. He just tried to move on: "Let me ask you about the..."
Fund replied: "Thanks. I didn't know they were my chums."
Franken: "Oh, yeah. Come on, John. They’re uh, your uh, your buddies."
Fund: "Thanks for saying I hang around with crooks. That's really nice, Al."
Franken: "Oh, you're welcome."
Matthews shifted the attack back on Fund: "Let me ask you both -- you can start, since he just offended you and I think he did intentionally – let me ask you, John Fund and then Al Franken, there is a notion around the building, I mean, the great joke is from Mark Russell, I’ve repeated it before, because it’s hilarious, what does a Congressman say to another Congressman on Wednesday? 'Have a nice weekend.' I mean, the fact is, the fact, is people say we shouldn't do up on the Hill, we shouldn’t be doing indictments, they shouldn’t be using the subpoena power, they shouldn’t be trying to find how the hell to end this war because that gets in the way of doing minimum wage and the Medicare stuff and it gets in the way of ethics."
Looking right past Fund and sounding increasingly angry, Matthews said, "You act like, John, if you do minimum wage, they don't do ethics. They can work five days a week, can't they?"
Fund: "Well, they haven’t brought a calendar to say to do that. Look, the Republicans had a legitimate problem."
Matthews: "It’s their own job!"
Fund: "They did not do oversight that congress was supposed to do. Because you can't do it three days a week."
Matthews: "Right. Who decided that the Hill should only work three days a week? The Republican leadership."
Fund: "It was family friendly. The whole thing was going to be a family-friendly Congress."
Matthews, over the top of Fund's argument: "So you’re supposed to work three days a week? What is this, the mommy track on Capitol Hill? Jesus!"
Fund: "A lot of members decided not to move their families to Washington. They decided to keep them in the district."
Matthews, rolling his eyes: "Oh, that was a great decision."
When Matthews oddly brought Franken back in, saying "I'm not going to argue this" -- um, you just did -- Franken went back to the buddies gibe: "John's pals, his buddies, his friends, decided we'll only have 69 full work days in the whole, whole year. Your buddies did that."
Then, as the topic shifted to energy, Fund argued we should not leap again into subsidizing wasteful alternative energy sources like ethanol (which Franken supported), Franken did it again: "By giving tax breaks to oil companies like your buddies did in the last congress? In the last energy bill? Your pals, giving billions of dollars in tax breaks, john?" At this point, Matthews was laughing so hard at this alleged humor that he put his hand on his head, as if to say, please, I can't handle the non-stop hilarity.
Fund reacted defensively: "Al, for somebody who wants to talk about policy, you want to make it personal. I'm sorry."
Franken: "Maybe you're not in on the joke, John...your pal thing. That was a joke. You just didn't get it.
Fund: "Sometimes you're on and sometimes you're off, Al. You know that."
Franken, over Matthews laughing: "I'm always on. You barely ever are."
Then, after Franken held forth on how brilliant "the President" (well, former Preisdent Bill Clinton) had been at a dinner, discussing the difference between an ideology and a philosophy, Matthews uncorked his toast to Franken's genius: "Please come back, Al. You've been doing a lot of homework, and I think you got a 'head of the class.' Very well done. I'm not sarcastic. It’s great. Thank you, Al, for coming on."
Franken: "Okay,John, say hi to your buddies."
Fund: "Say hi to Bill."
Franken: "He’s a great buddy. You’ve got your corrupt buddies."
Matthews wheezed with laughter.