A seemingly befuddled Chris Matthews on Tuesday interviewed former Senator Arlen Specter, gleefully (and incorrectly) referring to the Democrat as a Republican. Downplaying the fact that Specter switched parties, Matthews bellowed, "Your party has become a right-wing party."
After mentioning the plight of Charlie Crist, who was defeated by Marco Rubio in a Republican senatorial primary, Matthews shrieked, "He lost the Senate race because he contacted [hugged] the President physically once. This is what is going on in your party." Again, the Republican Party is not Specter's party. Just getting warmed up, Matthews complained, "And so the party of Lincoln has became the party of Strom Thurmond, hasn't it?" [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
The forgetful Matthews apparently is unaware that Thurmond rose to prominence as a Democrat, that he spent 39 years as a Democrat.
Regarding Matthews' comment about Crist and his hug of President Bush, perhaps the MSNBC host has similarly lost track of the fact that liberals excoriated Joe Lieberman for "kissing" George W. Bush.
The never-subtle host railed against Rick Santorum's regret over supporting Arlen Specter: "And now we have inquisitions in the Republican Party...And that's all these guys do now. Anything that sounds moderate or reasonable."
Making the whole conversation more odd, Matthews did inform viewers at the beginning of the segment that Specter was no longer a Republican: "Arlen Specter was a member of that [moderate] wing for many years before switching parties in 2009." He then seemed to immediately forget.
A partial transcript of the March 20 segment, which aired at 5:30pm, follows:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: So, what does the strength of Rick Santorum's candidacy say about the state of Republican Party? What's become of the moderate wing of the GOP? Arlen Specter was a member of that wing for many years before switching parties in 2009. He served alongside Rick Santorum as a fellow senator from Pennsylvania for 12 years. Senator Specter, welcome to Hardball.
ARLEN SPECTER: Nice to be here.
MATTHEWS: Someday we could have been debating, but here we are discussing civilly. Let me ask you this: You were a classic moderate Republican, the kind I grew up with. Hugh Scott, John Heinz. They were all over the place, Jack Javits, Keating, all over New England. They're all gone, practically. Olympia Snowe just quit. Orrin Hatch is even being threatened as a liberal, as a moderate. Your party has become a right-wing party.
SPECTER: No doubt about it, the moderates have been exiled. You have someone with a 93 percent conservative rating like Bob Bennett. He is not- He is not pure enough. Mike Castle loses to a woman who has to declare herself to be a witch [sic]. And when Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voted against disclosure of these corporate and union expenditures, there's no moderate left on the Republican side of the United States Senate.
MATTHEWS: And so the party of Lincoln has became the party of Strom Thurmond, hasn't it? Is that too rough?
[On Santorum regretting his endorsement of Specter]
MATTHEWS: Welcome to the Star Chamber. And now we have inquisitions in the Republican Party. You have to recant like in a medieval church. You have to say, "I did not believe that. That wasn't my proud moment. That wasn't me." And that's all these guys do now. Anything that sounds moderate or reasonable. You know, Charlie Crist hugged the President and he lost his seat. He lost the Senate race because he contacted the President physically once. This is what is going on in your party.
MATTHEWS: Well, I'll say it now. You as a moderate Republican fit Pennsylvania like a glove for 30 years. There is such a thing as a state that likes having moderate Republicans like you and Tom Ridge and Jack Heinz and Hugh Scott and the northeast should represented by moderate Republicans.
SPECTER: Yeah, but the moderates left the Republican Party when the Clinton-Obama race came up in 2008, 200,000 moderate Republicans left.