A rather extraordinary conclusion was reached by members of the panel on Sunday’s “The Chris Matthews Show” – the economy is strong. What makes this so earth shattering? Well, because the host prior to the elections – which, by the way, were only about seven weeks ago – regularly talked about how badly the economy was doing, and didn’t challenge those espousing similarly bearish viewpoints.
Yet, now that the elections are over, it’s okay for Democrat pols like Matthews to admit that which was clearly verboten prior to November 7. And, in this instance, not only did the host speak bullishly for a change, so did Dan Rather and Norah O’Donnell.
Matthews opened the show asking his guests what the best news for President Bush was in 2006. Rather amazingly answered: “The Dow and the economy. I’m not saying it will last, but the longer it lasts, the better it is for him, and I think it was the highlight of the year.”
The Dow and the economy were the highlight of the year? Really? Wouldn’t it have been nice if you folks recognized this before Election Day? Yet, Rather wasn’t the only one having such an astounding epiphany, as Norah O’Donnell agreed:
Well it is interesting what Dan says because the White House tries so hard to point out how great the economy is but they get no credit.
Matthews: Why not?
O’Donnell: Because they recognize that Iraq is the ball and chain and it depresses the president’s approval ratings.
This suggests that the constant drumbeat of Iraq negativity overshadowed any positive economic news, doesn't it? However, you wouldn’t have heard folks like this speaking so positively about the economy prior to November 7, which means that there wasn’t much bullishness reported that could have conceivably been upstaged.
The following exchange between Matthews and Rather wouldn’t have occurred back then either...at least, not on the air, anyway:
Matthews: Dan it is not hard to figure what’s the worst for the president this year?
Rather: Well, Iraq and the prospect of a wider war in the Middle East I think is clearly the worst for him. It has not been one of his banner years. Having pointed out though that the economy is better than he gets credit for.
Matthews: It’s so strong, I mean…
It's so strong, Chris? That certainly wasn't what you said on this program only two Sundays before the elections as reported by NewsBusters:
Many of us cheer as the bell rings 12,000 on Wall Street. But we know there are millions for whom that bell doesn’t toll. In a new Wall Street Journal poll, a huge majority of Americans say the stock market’s new heights have had no effect on them. Eighty percent of the workforce finds their paycheck barely keeping up with inflation. These are the economic strugglers out there who worry not that they can’t get ahead, but that they can’t hold on. You see their despair in what the Democrats are promising voters this year: an uptick in the minimum wage; a promise to leave Social Security alone; a new Medicare drugs deal, and; government protection of pensions.
You feel it in Democratic promises to use subpoena power: to probe no-bid government contracts to Halliburton, the giant corporation once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney; to punish the oil companies for price-gauging; to probe the secret meetings with the energy executives, and; to freeze Congress’s own pay until it raises the minimum wage. It’s a far cry from the optimistic sixties when Jack Kennedy told us, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” These days the working women, who are their family’s economic lifelines, feel like they’re treading water.
The Democrats are saying “We’re not all in this together. The bells ringing on Wall Street might be clanging for those at the top, but hardly for everyone.” The midterm election results will tell us if most voters agree.
So, Chris, why were Americans economically “treading water” on October 22, but on December 24, in your own words, the economy is “so strong”? How does that happen, Mr. Matthews? Furthermore, how did you allow the following discussion on your November 6 “Hardball” program the day before Election Day:
RON MOTT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Now, one other thing to point out to you, Chris, people here in Ohio are really, really concerned about the economy. The war, of course is on everyone`s mind. The economy is especially hard here in Ohio. More than 200,000 jobs lost over the years. Seventy-three percent of registered voters who were polled believe that the economy is fair or poor. And so that`s why they are looking to go out in force tomorrow to essentially make their voice known that they don`t like the way Ohio is headed in terms of the economy.
Chris, back to you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you Ron Mott in Columbus, Ohio.
Let`s turn back to our panel, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson, MSNBC`s political analyst Pat Buchanan and HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum.
We talk a lot about the war. I think, Iraq, we all agree, the number one issue. But inside the country, in its industrial core, there is a hollowing out going on.
Pat, this is your key concern in the world. What`s happened to America`s ability to build things for itself, rely on itself, have blue collar jobs for people when they come out of high school. That`s dying.
BUCHANAN: De-industrialization of Ohio, same thing happening in Michigan. This is what`s killing the Republican party in those two states. It`s what`s driving away the Reagan Democrats. Sherrod Brown is running hard on the trade issues, these unfair trade deals that send our jobs abroad. They`re not taking care of our workers. This is what is shearing off the Reagan Democrats from the Republican party.
MATTHEWS: And what could change in that in the next couple of years?
MATTHEWS: Because we have a free trade policy.
BUCHANAN: No, you`re not going to have a free trade policy. That has gone down the tubes. The president`s not going to get fast track authority this year. He`s not going to the free trade deal with Peru. He`s not going to get the Doha round. It is all over for free trade in this Congress.
MATTHEWS: The American consumer, do you think, will put up were going back to the store that has one kind of pants, one kind of jacket, one suit that doesn`t fit, you got to get work weeks to get it fit, are they hooked on the emporia you go into today where you can pick on any pair of pants you want. I`m telling you, the consumers got it made in this country if you got the money, because there`s so much in these stores. Because of trade.
MITCHELL: I don`t think it`s the consumer that is real political fact here. The political fact, the reason why people don`t feel good about this economy, is that you`ve 4.4 percent unemployment, yet the wage increases have not been up universally.
MITCHELL: Only 20 percent of Americans have felt any benefit from this economy.
MATTHEWS: Well, will tightening up the borders and killing trade help the unemployment rate?
BUCHANAN: You don`t kill trade.
MATTHEWS: You`re saying it will.
BUCHANAN: I -- go ahead.
ROBINSON: Well, no -- I was going to say, I think there is a consumer constituency. I think people like to shop at Wal-Mart. I think they like to be able to, you know, buy a station wagon full of stuff for $8.95 at Wal-Mart. And I think it`s -- I don`t know if you can go back from that to a different...
MATTHEWS: People today can go into Gap and buy a pair of pants that fit and take them home with them...
BUCHANAN: The real wages of a working man in this country have not gone up since 1973.
MATTHEWS: How come this fight`s only going on here at this table here and in the Midwest. Why are the coastal areas...
MATTHEWS: Where`s it going on?
SHRUM: I think it`s going on all across the country. I saw, for example, in 2004, in Minnesota, the jobs that have been lost have been replaced by jobs that paid on average $9,000 a year less. I thought the Bush administration lost their mind last Friday when they started saying the unemployment rate is down.
MATTHEWS: What about the Mall of America, Bob? You go to the Mall of America, it`s the most amazing...
SHRUM: But you know, as Henry Ford understood, people have to make the money to spend the money.
BUCHANAN: Chris, look at what is happened in Nussle`s district in Iowa. It is gone for the Republicans. Braley is running on this issue. "Wall Street journal" put it at a huge piece on it.
MATTHEWS: OK. If we`re talking like this now -- you are, with this visceral reaction at the end of a recovery. These people have missed the boat this time, and I think the voter may be feeling that they know the rich are doing well. They see it doing well, they see this recovery advancing on and on. They say, wait a minute, these things don`t last long. We may have missed the boat again. Is that going to drive voters to vote Democrat?
SHRUM: Yes, it is. And to use a word you don`t like, structurally, these economies actually don`t have anywhere to go right now. The industrial heartland has not seen the development of alternative industries that can give these people jobs that pay decent wages.
MATTHEWS: So all the money is moving to northern Virginia and northern California, is that what`s going on?
MATTHEWS: And Massachusetts.
SHRUM: A lot of it is Massachusetts.
BUCHANAN: Chris, we`ve lost high tech jobs. They`re moving to China. We`ve lost manufacturing jobs, three million. You know what the jobs coming in are? They are health services. That`s not exportable.
MATTHEWS: So it`s -- are we going to see the impact of this economic anger in Missouri maybe, in Ohio definitely, in Pennsylvania definitely. Where else?
SHRUM: Well, Michigan. Michigan is unbelievable.
MATTHEWS: Why is Jennifer Granholm hanging in there?
SHRUM: Because they don`t blame Jennifer Granholm, they blame George Bush.
BUCHANAN: They were blaming her, that`s why she was in trouble.
MATTHEWS: She`s up double digits.
What about Rod Blagojevich up in Illinois. He`s surviving, too. Why are they blaming the president for bad economic times and not the Democratic governors?
BUCHANAN: Well, they always do.
MITCHELL: The national economy...
SHRUM: Always blame the president.
ROBINSON: Well, it`s that number one, the policies that are at issue here, like trade, for example, are directly traceable to Bush. So he does have some responsibility.
MATTHEWS: We`ll be back to talk later with you guys about the irregularities in the campaign tomorrow, the structural problems facing the Republicans, and the dynamics which will reveal themselves later tomorrow night.
That was the Monday before Election Day, folks. Yet, on December 24, the economy is “so strong,” "great," and the “highlight” of 2006. How unbelievably disgraceful!