For a brief, shining moment Tuesday, MSNBC’s Chris “Thrill Up My Leg” Matthews took off his Democratic shill hat and expressed a well-reasoned critique of President Obama.
Appearing on Morning Joe, Matthews said, “He had the speaking skill way ahead of schedule, the inspiration ability, the charisma…What he has never developed is a love - and that’s the right word for it - of politics, and love of other politicians, to love to sit around and play cards with them, to try to get to know them” (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Obama’s problem, I’ll tell you Obama’s shortcoming, and it’s quite bipartisan in assessment, it’s exactly what you would say I think. Usually politicians take a while to develop a public speaking manner to where they are really good at it. It took Churchill a long time - he had a stutter and all kinds of problems, as Joe and you guys know - and he developed a great speaking pattern. And Jack Kennedy was never a good speaker till around 1960 when he was gangbusters. He really developed a public persona. All that time, in those fifteen years in Kennedy’s case and Roosevelt and all those people, they were developing the back room skills, the one-on-one skills, how you make friends, how you become class president, how you establish the loyalty of people one-on-one.
The key political asset is the ability to sit in a room with four or five other people and have them accept your leadership. You know that, Nicole, on either side of the party. That’s how it works. Obama doesn’t have that. He had the speaking skill way ahead of schedule, the inspiration ability, the charisma if you will, way ahead of schedule. What he has never developed is a love -and that’s the right word for it - of politics, and love of other politicians, to love to sit around and play cards with them, to try to get to know them, their nuances, how to get to them, their hooks, their triggers, their buttons, get to know them and figure out how you can work with some of them, even be with tough customers like Eric Cantor and Larry McCarthy and Boehner, and get to know the Tea Party sentiment. Try to figure out what is it you can give them.
That's a great start, but Matthews could have gone much further with his analysis.
The reality is that Obama doesn't know how or even care to govern.
He wants to give great speeches and then have Democratic leaders in the House and Senate carry out his wishes.
Unfortunately, that's not the way it works.
Great presidents regardless of the makeup of Congress are typically very good at getting much of their agenda passed because they spend time building relationships on Capitol Hill.
This was certainly Lyndon Johnson's strength as well as Ronald Reagan's.
But Obama has never been interested in that. He's always believed his words behind a podium were enough to get what he wanted enacted.
Unfortunately, the media haven't been a help here, for they've largely supported his play always quick to blame Republicans for gridlock.
Maybe if the press would have been critical of Obama's political ineptness early on, he would have been forced to learn how things work in Washington.
But as long as the media were going to give him a pass and point the finger at his opponents, what was his real incentive to improve?
With this in mind, Matthews' words are appreciated, but coming after years of praise for the current White House resident, they're too little too late.
People like him helped create Obama. That any of them now realize he's not cut out for the job is little solace.