On Thursday night's "Hardball," Chris Matthews played several clips from documentarian John Zeigler's interview with Sarah Palin, in which the former GOP VP candidate criticized Katie Couric and the press as a whole for bias against her but his guest, Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter, dismissed Palin's charges as "So lame," and called her "a Nixonian Nanook of the North."
The following exchanges were aired on the January 8, edition of "Hardball":
First up, after Matthews aired a clip of Palin criticizing the McCain campaign for forcing her to conduct continuing interviews with Couric, Alter called the Alaskan governor: "So lame."
CHRIS MATTHEWS: There ought to be a law against politicians blaming their handlers. What do you think Jonathan?
JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK: Yeah this was just so lame, Chris. I mean why didn't it go well the first day? It wasn't because Katie Couric was asking awful questions. Her questions were very straight, no spin on the ball. The problem was Sarah Palin couldn't answer the questions in a way that showed the knowledge that is required to be Vice President and quite possibly President. So if she had decided not to go back for the rest of the interview she would have been conceding that she simply wasn't qualified to be Vice President if she couldn't answer Katie's questions.
Then after a clip of Palin wondering if Caroline Kennedy would get better coverage in her quest for the New York Senate seat because of a "class issue," Alter insulted Palin as acting like a "Nixonian Nanook of the North."
ALTER: Chris you wrote the book on Kennedy and Nixon. You know this is Sarah Palin acting kind of like a Nixonian Nanook of the North. She's trying to play that class argument against the Kennedys. That goes back a long way. It's had some success in American politics. But you know this, at this point it's kind of comparing apples and oranges. She was on the threshold of becoming Vice President and possibly President. Caroline Kennedy hasn't even been, you know, chosen yet for the U.S. Senate, as one of 100. So you know the standards in covering them aren't quite comparable. Not to mention the fact that Caroline's had a pretty tough press so far. She has hardly been handled by kid gloves in the last couple weeks.
MATTHEWS: You're right.
Finally right before the close of the show, Alter denied Palin's claim of liberal bias that she would've positive coverage if she was on the Democratic ticket:
MATTHEWS: Jon, Jon would she have gotten better treatment had she been on the "D" ticket instead of the "R" ticket?
ALTER: Well first of all, first of all Chris she never would've been on the Democratic ticket. I mean John McCain said that the first requirement for his pick was that, that person be qualified to step in at a moment's notice and deal with terrorism and all the big international issues. So he violated his own standards. That was also Barack Obama's standard for who he would put on the ticket and he chose somebody with, with the requisite experience. But if she had been – the, the subtext of this is that somehow the Democratic candidates are treated better by the press. Ask Bill Clinton the way he was treated, you know, by the press. I mean it's just not true.
MATTHEWS: Okay, ask Jimmy Carter.
ALTER: Jimmy Carter! Yeah.
MATTHEWS: Anyway. Ask Jimmy Carter, he got a terrible press.