Chris Matthews is still getting a thrill up his leg, and even further, when he hears Barack Obama speak, as the MSNBCer, on Monday's Hardball, announced to the world "I get the same thrill up my leg, all over me," whenever he listens to Obama's 2004 Democratic convention speech. Matthews also revealed he is really sensitive about how his "thrill" moments are described, as he took offense when a guest inaccurately labeled it a "tingle" as Matthews shot back: "It wasn't a tingle, up my leg, that's what right wing fascists say. I got a thrill up my leg. Okay? You're reading the right wing blogs. Start tuning your station." [audio available here]
Matthews, however, is quite aware that the rest of the country doesn't share the same all over body thrill he does as he asked his guests, Roger Simon of the Politico and Jim Kessler of Third Way, "Can President Obama stir us again and help his party keep power this November?"
The following is the full segment as it was aired on the September 7 Hardball:
BARACK OBAMA: I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story. That I owe a debt to all of those who came before me and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Wow, that was America's introduction to Barack Obama in 2004 in his acknowledgment that only in America was his story possible inspired us. And as he battled through the 2008 primaries he retold that story, and it was electric.
OBAMA: My own story tells me that in the United States of America there's never been anything false about hope, at least not if you're willing to work for it. Not if you're willing to struggle for it, not if you're willing to fight for it. I should not be here today. I should not be here today. I was not born into money or status. I was born to a teenage mom in Hawaii. My father left us when I was two. But my family gave me love. They give me an education. And most of all they gave me hope. Hope, hope that in America, no dream is beyond our grasp. If we reach for it and fight for it and work for it.
MATTHEWS: I get the same thrill up my leg all over me, every time I hear those words. I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen that's me. He's talking about my country and nobody does it better. Can President Obama stir us again and help his party keep power this November? Jim Kessler is co-founder and vice president of Third Way, a progressive think tank. Roger Simon, our buddy is chief political columnist for Politico. Gentlemen, with a little bit of sentiment, Roger, try here.
ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: I'm sentimental.
MATTHEWS: Try to stick with me. It seems to me, that what's thrilled me, and I admitted it so many times, is when he talked about America. He wasn't saying "I'm going to do this because I'm a big shot and I'm a brain." He said, you know, "I was lucky and also I was fortunate to live in this country and, and we can do things on our own without a lot of help from government and big stuff. On our own we can do things. That's what your piece is about, isn't it? He doesn't talk like that any more.
JIM KESSLER, THIRD WAY: Right. I think it's hard to talk like that when you're in the middle of a lot of legislative battles, but if you look back 10.8 percent unemployment, 6.3 percent inflation, decline in GDP, doubling of the deficit over the previous years and presidential approval ratings south of 40 percent, Ronald Reagan, November of 1982, at the exact moment of the midterm elections he held all 54 Republican Senate seats, they lost a couple dozen House seats, which is basically par for the course. It shows you can have an economic environment as bad or worse as what the Democrats and Barack Obama are facing-
KESSLER: If, you have to own one thing. You have to own optimism. And that's what, that's what President Reagan was selling to the American people. A destination, a vision about success and where America was going.
MATTHEWS: Was that a confidence in themselves or in his program?
KESSLER: I think it was confidence in himself, as a leader, because there was doubts about Reaganomics. Reaganomics hadn't worked for one moment, at that point, but they understood the destination where he wanted to take this country. And they said, "You know what we're gonna hitch a ride with this guy. I'm not sure about the program but I know where he wants to take this country" and, you know, he, he, ya hitched a wagon to him. And people stuck, stuck with him.
MATTHEWS: Somebody is giving him other advice here. He's getting somewhere else because this, they're talking, "They're treating me like a dog." This whining almo-, not whining. That's a knock. But, you know, he's talking like he's being put down. He's not being put down. He's being criticized.
SIMON: No, he's the President of the United States. He can't portray himself as a victim. One other thing that the Republicans had going for them in '94 is that the Democrats were fat and sassy and lazy and didn't see it coming. Also they had a movement leader in Newt Gingrich, and his Contract With America which was more symbolic than real. But people said, "Oh here it is in writing. This is a good deal."
MATTHEWS: Yeah, but only about one-fifth of people knew about that so-called contract. Let me ask you about Jim's point, about the basic speech he used to give about America. No one questioned Barack Obama's Americanism when he was running as a candidate. They didn't talk about his religion. They knew he had an exotic name, Barack Obama. But that was so much like a lot of our names, they're accidents of our parents or grandparents. It wasn't who we are. Now the Republicans have tagged him with that, it's his identity. He is Barack Hussein Obama. That's who he is, it's an identity because he doesn't seem to wow us with his love of country like he used to, that's my thought.
SIMON: Well I think he's suffering under the belief that he's got to something for an encore. You can't go back to the past. And you saw on the podium the past placard. "Change you can believe in."
SIMON: "Change we can believe in. Well now people have the right to say, "Where is the change? Where is it? It didn't happen."
MATTHEWS: Well it's a year-and-a-half.
SIMON: People are impatient.
SIMON: They want to see something.
MATTHEWS: But why did they put up with Reagan for a year-and-a-half of nothing but 11 unemployment, 11 percent unemployment?
SIMON: Reagan, as Barack Obama is, though in different ways, a very magnetic personable figure that people liked and trusted. Barack Obama, as I said, is the same. By Election Day he cannot improve the unemployment figures. But, by Election Day, he can goose up the Democrats. He can make them confident.
MATTHEWS: Yeah okay. Here's the question. Let's watch Reagan for a second and then I'm gonna ask you Jim, can a Democrat be turned on the way a Republican can? I know I can. Somewhere in the middle, slightly left but I'm there and I can get it turned on by America as anybody on the right. But maybe, I'm gonna ask you whether Democrats really want to be positive. Here he is, Reagan being positive, maybe talking to the choir. Here he is in January of 1982. Let's look.
RONALD REAGAN: Don't let anybody tell you America's best days are behind her, that the american spirit has been vanquished. We've seen the triumph, too often in our lives, to stop believing in it now.
MATTHEWS: Can a Democrat talk like that?
KESSLER: Yes. I mean, look, you talked about that tingle up your leg. I mean you know...
MATTHEWS: It wasn't a tingle, up my leg, that's what right wing fascists say. I got a thrill up my leg. Okay? You're reading the right wing blogs. Start tuning your station.
KESSLER: My, my apologies.
MATTHEWS: No it's not enough, because you're reading the wrong stuff. But go ahead, I was just kidding. I can take it. I'm sorry.