Today the prize goes to MSNBC political analyst and host of Hardball, Chris Matthews. The first time Chris's bizarre and unsubstantiated theory that President Obama was driven to legislate from the left by obstructionist Republicans came up in his interview of former President Carter. (See my post "With Eight Days to Go, Matthews Scapegoats The Left: Stay Classy, Chris”.) Then, Chris asked President Carter this loaded question: “Is the left always going to be a thorn in the side of a center-left or moderate Democratic president?”
We're not sure if Matthews shared this absurd theory with his colleagues during election night coverage, but he's back at it today. Interviewing Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado, Chris doubled down (to coin the political season's most overused buzzword) on his fanciful notions:
“The Republican strategy of the last two years has been to force Obama over to the left, so that he can only pass leftwing legislation, or center-left legislation, without the grace of a bipartisan support. They won. They made him into a lefty.”It's interesting that Chris repeated the mildly pejorative adjectives “leftwing” and “lefty.” Is Chris Matthews predisposed against the left, for some reason? On substance Mr. Matthews, you're “entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts,” as your colleague Lawrence O'Donnell likes to say, by way of former NY Senator Pat Moynihan.
The criticism that President Obama was driven to the left by an obstructionist Republican Congress is, to put it mildly, a misrepresentation of the facts. The consensus among political observers, from Jonathan Alter to Paul Krugman, is not that President Obama's legislation was “leftwing;” but that it was pragmatic or conservative enough to pass muster with Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, and Blanche Lincoln. Moreover, it wasn't mainly a “leftwing” argument Republicans used to attack it, but the “sweetheart deals” such as the so-called “cornhusker kickback” with other concessions to various special interests. Paul Krugman said:
“If Democrats do as badly as expected in next week’s elections, pundits [Matthews] will rush to interpret the results as a referendum on ideology. President Obama moved too far to the left, most will say, even though his actual program — a health care plan very similar to past Republican proposals, a fiscal stimulus that consisted mainly of tax cuts, help for the unemployed and aid to hard-pressed states — was more conservative than his election platform.”Indeed, the fact President Obama needed 60 votes, including those of Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Max Baucus, and Mark Pryor (shall I go on?) hardly sustains Chris's idiotic theory that President Obama turned into a “lefty”(toad?) right along with all these centrist and right-of-center senators. Moreover, progressives and liberals, while accepting the half-loaf, hardly considered Mr. Obama's legislative achievements “leftwing.” And yet we have to put up with this kind of nonsense from Mr. Matthews.
Enough is enough. If Chris has specific evidence to back up his assertion, present it. Gather a panel that might comprise Krugman, Alter, Maddow, Olbermann, O'Donnell, Big Eddie, and run the anti-left mantra by them. And if Chris's theme is that healthcare was a major component of the President's so-called “leftwing legislation,” it was Mr. Obama himself who made the decision to prioritize it, over the objections of his closest advisers. So arguably, President Obama's “lefty” image to the extent it exists is by his own choice. In fact, Mr. Obama confessed that if passing healthcare reform makes him a one-term president, it will have been worth it. Just ask Jonathan Alter.
STOP scapegoating the left with “falsie” facts, Chris. And without further ado: