Chris Matthews is so obsessed with Rush Limbaugh's influence within the Republican Party, that he repeatedly dared, on Wednesday night's "Hardball," GOP strategist Todd Harris to speak ill of the radio talk show host as he mockingly challenged: "Would you live in a country where he wrote the Constitution?...Would you live in a country where he wrote our rights?...Say something nasty about Rush Limbaugh!"
After playing a clip of a "Saturday Night Live," skit – in which two Republicans argue over who is smarter, Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh -- Matthews asked his guest panelists Harris and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, to evaluate how powerful Limbaugh was within the GOP in the following exchange, as it was aired, on the February 18, edition of "Hardball":
CHRIS MATTHEWS: That joke, which was, "That we wouldn't want to speak anything unfavorably of Rush Limbaugh, our god-
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thou shall not speak ill of Rush Limbaugh.
MATTHEWS: -the oracle of thieves, you know, the great oracle of Delphi," rather. Is he that big in your world? I mean really do you look up to him as the smartest person in America?
HARRIS: I don't know.
MATTHEWS: You personally, Todd Harris?
HARRIS: No, I don't think he's-, no.
MATTHEWS: You don't? Do your confers?
HARRIS: I'm sorry.
MATTHEWS: Do your confers? Your colleagues on the Republican side look up to him as a great thought person?
HARRIS: Yes a lot of people do. A lot of people-
MATTHEWS: A deep thinker?
HARRIS: Yeah and sure, sure.
HARRIS: And, and he, look, he is the intellectual lightning bolt of a lot of people on, on the conservative side and a motivator. And he, and he directly can turn out people to the polls and because of that he's very powerful.
MATTHEWS: Would you live in a country where he wrote the Constitution?
HARRIS: I don't know. No, I-
MATTHEWS: Would you live in such a country?
HARRIS: No I'm happy to live in this country. But, but-
MATTHEWS: Would you live in a country where he wrote our rights? Listed our rights? Where he listed our rights. Would you live, would you live in that country?
HARRIS: No because, no because I want to make this point he is no more powerful or influential within the Republican Party than the labor unions, MoveOn, SEIU on, on, on the Democratic side.
MATTHEWS: Oh here we go. "Oh so's your old man." This is "so's your old man." I would expect more of you Todd than "So's your old man," kind of arguments. In other words, "You guys have idiots too on the other side." Andy Stern and Rush Limbaugh. About the same? Yeah.
MATTHEWS: Is he a sacred cow?
MATTHEWS: Yeah. In other words you dare not speak evil of him if you're a Republican?
HARRIS: I think if you're an elected Republican it makes your life very difficult-
HARRIS -if you speak ill of Rush Limbaugh. Yeah Limbaugh, he has a lot of support.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Or if you are a commentator on "Hardball." But-
MATTHEWS: But you're not afraid to take him on are you?
HARRIS: Oh yeah. No I'm gonna go-
MATTHEWS: Say something, say something wrong, say something nasty about Rush Limbaugh!
HARRIS: I could probably beat him in arm-wrestling.
MATTHEWS: Okay you chicken.