Highlighting the 10th anniversary of Barack Obama’s famous speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, Chris Matthews devoted a segment to discussing whether Barack Obama had lived up to the hope and promise he showed a decade earlier. The Hardball host had to work in a little bit of self-promotion, playing a clip of himself predicting Obama to be the first black president following that speech. The cable anchor, however, ignored his famous admission that the Democrat provoked a "chill" up his leg.
Matthews blamed the poor economy in part for derailing the president’s hopes of a united America. He also noted that America began to perceive Obama as a leftist, which worked to undermine the idea that he was a president who could bring people together: “All of a sudden they realized he was a man of the left on things. He was a Keynesian, he believed in a big stimulus program. He really wanted a health care program and he did it. I think that probably shocked the center.” [MP3 audio here; video below]
Later on in the segment, Matthews expressed frustration that the Republican Party has worked to impede the President and his policy goals. Unsurprisingly for Matthews, he had to bring race into the issue as well: “They didn't want him [to be] president, some of it’s ethnic, I really believe that. Some of it is just ideological. But they didn’t want this guy to be successful. They want him to be an asterisk.”
Regular Hardball guest and former of Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown echoed that sentiment, asserting, “The question of race is still paramount in the minds of a number of people holding public office. And Barack Obama represents the rejection that they would like to impose upon people of color.”
In playing that post-convention reaction from that 2004 Obama speech, Matthews conveniently left out the moment when he described his excitement in more personal terms: "I have to tell ya, a little chill in my, in my legs now.” This should not be confused with Matthews’s reaction to an Obama speech in 2008, where he fawned, “I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often."
The MSNBC anchor is very sensitive about the "thrill" remark. In 2012, he lashed out at a C-SPAN host who dared to bring it up: "I hope you feel satisfied that you raised the most obvious question that is raised by every horse’s ass right-winger I ever bump into."
In the segment, Monday, the Hardball host accomplished little more than reminding America that his love for the President has now reached its ten year anniversary.
The relevant portion of the transcript is below.
July 28, 2014
7:48 p.m. Eastern
CHRIS MATTHEWS, host: We're back. It's been ten years since Barack Obama's famous keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention up in Boston. It was hard to miss the promise the young state senator showed that night not only because of the talent he possessed but because of what he represented to so many. Back then he was largely an unknown political – politician rather, running for a seat in the United States Senate out in Illinois. But his speech that night took the country by surprise, sending a rising star on a trajectory that would lead just four years later to the White House. His message was aspirational, it cut through the partisan applause lines that had become all too familiar in the 2004 election cycle. Here is my reaction that night.
MATTHEWS (clip): I have seen the first black president there. I know – the reason I say that is because I think the immigrant experience combined with the African background combined with the incredible education combined with his beautiful speech. Now not every politician gets helped with a speech. But that speech was a piece of work.
MATTHEWS: Yeah. Let me go to Joe on this. Joe, I don't know whether people – it was the economy, I think that rocked this country to its heels. The rich, the poor, the middle just can't believe what happened to us in '08, '09 and '10. It just kept getting worse for a while there, almost double digits. And also I think the fact they liked him as the first African-American president, as the nonpartisan guy he was in that speech. All of a sudden they realized he was a man of the left on things. He was a Keynesian, he believed in a big stimulus program. He really wanted a health care program and he did it. I think that probably shocked the center. My god, this guy's a liberal, they weren't ready for it. That's my thinking.
JOE CONASON, Salon: Well, that’s – I guess that's partly true, though. Chris, you have to consider they he gave them a Republican health care program. He gave them the Heritage Foundation, you know, health insurance program. The one that –
MATTHEWS: You and I know that. But it was sold by the enemy as the worst socialism in the world. You know that.
CONASON: Right. I understand that. You know, what he tried to do I think was consistent with the speech. The stimulus program was more than the Republicans liked. It was less than we actually needed. I think the President tried very hard to find Republicans who would support him on a lot of these issues, and he couldn't because the Republican Party has changed quite a bit since he gave that speech, Chris. You know, when he was in the Senate, a couple of years – a year or so after that speech was delivered, he was mentored by Dick Lugar, Republican from Indiana who has since been driven out by the Tea Party Republicans. You know, the Republicans that he was thinking about when he gave the speech saying there's no red America, there's no blue America, there's the red, white, and blue America, is not a Republican Party anymore. Now it's a Republican Party that wants to talk about impeaching this president.
MATTHEWS: Let's go to the other side, Joe Conason. And that’s that the other side made a decision early on, I'm going to get this at the end of the show, to screw this guy. They didn't want him president, some of it’s ethnic, I really believe that, some of it is just ideological. But they didn’t want this guy to be successful. They want him to be an asterisk. They didn't like him from the beginning. Mitch McConnell plotted that from election night on. These guys wanted to make his presidency not exist somehow. Is it their fault or the lack of schmooze? Did he have to be more Willie Brown, more Lyndon Johnson? Mix it up. Try to give me a cut at this that really is nonpartisan. What do you think is the lacking here?
JOE CONASON: More Lyndon Johnson would have been good. You know, Presidents don't have the kind of power that Lyndon Johnson had anymore. A tougher approach to the Republicans might have worked better. I think he does, as Mayor Brown said, he starts from the ideal. What reason should get you, you know, how you can put forward an argument, how you can get to the point where you want to be, and without realizing what you just said which is that they were not interested in that. They wanted to destroy him from the beginning, and if you're facing an adversary like that, you know, there are certain tactics and strategies that you have to adopt in order to fight them.
WILLIE BROWN: Chris, there's almost –
MATTHEWS: 25 seconds, mayor. Is it worse now politics than even he imagined ten years ago?
CONASON: Oh, I think much worse.
MATTHEWS: Mayor Brown?
BROWN: Well, Chris, I think there's one factor, though, that most of us don't like to address. The question of race is still paramount in the minds of a number of people holding public office. And Barack Obama represents the rejection that they would like to impose upon people of color. And they have the opportunity to do that and they disguise it as lots of other things.