Chris Matthews: Press Corps Too Soft On Bush, Reagan; GOP Worse Than Watergate

October 14th, 2005 12:13 PM

On last night's Hardball Chris Matthews claimed his colleagues at the current White House Press Corps weren't tough enough, declared current Republican problems worse than Watergate and thought Reagan, "got away with a lot."

The following is the relevant portion of Matthews interview with Craig Crawford on his new book:

Chris Matthews: "Welcome back to Hardball. Are politicians partly responsibility for America`s distrust of the media? Congressional Quarterly columnist Craig Crawford thinks so. He argues in his new book Attacking the Messengers: That [sic] Politicians Have Deflected Criticisms of Themselves by Convincing Americans to Blame the Media. Welcome."

Craig Crawford, Congressional Quarterly: "Hi."

Matthews: "Who has succeeded with this new device of blaming the messenger?"

Crawford: "The last presidents we`ve had, I think Bill Clinton and George Bush both were very effective at attacking the messenger. The point of what I`m talking about here is they get the public distracted from something they don`t want to talk about. We most recently saw Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, saying don`t play the blame game 15 times in a briefing with David Gregory going after him on the hurricane fallout. That was an example of trying to turn the focus on the media how they`re asking questions. You remember, when I was a kid growing up, my parents they would see a politician not answer a question on a show like this and they`d say, ‘he didn`t answer that question.’ More often now, what we hear from people is, ‘oh, that was a rude question. What an insensitive reporter. I can`t believe how rude those reporters are.’"

Matthews: "But we used to have tough, tough questioning of presidents. I mean, Jimmy Carter, I can tell you, I worked there. We had people, you know, like Lesley Stahl, hosing the guy every night. I`ve talked to her on this program."

Crawford: "You bet."

Matthews: "There`s nobody out there who has a reputation out there among White House correspondents for really going at, like there used to be. Like Sam Donaldson, where every night they went on and go after Nixon, go after Reagan, well, Reagan got away with a lot. But going after Carter, really nailing him. That kind of ferocity I think this thing may be working."


Matthews: "Big question. We have a lot of problems right now in this country in the old judicial situation. You have got Rove under fire, Libby under fire in the White House, you`ve got DeLay under fire, you`ve got, who’s the other guy, who am I missing? Have Frist under fire. Every, every top figure, it seems, in our government, in the Congress, in the White House, is facing a prosecution now. I mean, I`ve been around through other periods, Watergate included, I`ve never seen so many people facing prosecution."

Crawford: "And I think the public is starting to think there`s some smoke to the fire."

Matthews: "They do, the latest poll today shows they think that Frist and DeLay were both probably guilty of something rather than just being falsely accused."