Michael began by schooling the Beltway Idiot Punditocracy on key definitional terms, pushing back against their twisted, right-leaning political worldview: "I don't know that I agree with the definition of terms here. Let me say this, President Obama should actually move to the center, because he's not there now. The center of American public opinion right now is the vast majority of Americans want to tax the rich. Every poll shows that. The vast majority of Americans want these wars to end ASAP. The vast majority of Americans want strong environmental laws. And you go down the whole list of things, that's the center position."
GAME, SET — MATCH to Mr. Moore!
From Chris's perspective, his planned choreography of the wimpy center (actually the center-right) went downhill from there. Chris got snippy when Clarence Page, columnist for the conservative Chicago Tribune, unsettled him by going off-script — Chris's script. Chris (irritably): "I thought you were going to make the moderate argument, the Mark Penn argument, the Eddie Rendell argument, should go down the middle ..."
Then Chris gets downright snippy and confrontational when his guests go off-script, and lets us in on, maybe this wasn't supposed to be an open, free-wheeling discussion after all:PAGE: That is the middle.
MATTHEWS (Irritably): Progressives — OK. Here we go with the definitions.
WALSH: That is the middle.
MATTHEWS (Über-irritably): We can play this game all night.
WALSH: I know.
MATTHEWS: If the progressive side was such a popular side in this country, why do they have to keep changing their title, their name? If liberalism sold, we'd still be calling it liberalism. This country has a built-in resentment against big government.
PAGE: That's not the real America, Chris. That's not the real America part about populist, liberal, conservative. People of real America care about the issues; rebuilding roads and bridges. Whether you're left, rightor middle or whatever, it doesn't matter. They want to see the jobs. They want to see the work being done. They want to see Obama out there fighting for their side. They want to feel like he is an ally, and not too aloof.
Um, Chris ... FYI, it may be your show but the audience isn't stupid and neither are your guests. You lost it here trying to fit a square peg into a round hole to push your bankrupt Beltway Media political fallacies. You present us (and your guests) with a false choice, go to "war" with the right or "make friends with Republicans across the aisle." Huh? That's yesterday's news, pal. The ONLY thing on the table now is the President's jobs bill, which he is pushing hard with support from a phalanx of progressives while it's your remaining so-called MOR Blue Dogs who are balking. What Clarence is saying, CLEARLY, is the President should get his jobs bill done, and if he fails the American people will know he tried and he can run on it blaming Republicans BY NAME.MATTHEWS: I thought Clarence was going to go on tonight — and that's what I thought you said you were going to do (Oops ...) — and back the Bill Clinton approach, not the populist approach. I'm going back to Clarence. What is your position, sir?
WALSH: No, but you know what?
MATTHEWS: I need to know. You first. (Condescendingly) I know where — I know where you are, Joan. Where are you, Clarence?
WALSH: So compromise with Boehner. Forget about it. The other thing I want to say —
MATTHEWS: (Inaudible; blowing Joan away). I got to divide the time. I'm sorry. Clarence, should he be seen trying to make friends with Republicans across the aisle, having beer lunches and all that other crap? Or should he be going to war with the right?
PAGE: He should be seen — he should be seen as getting something done or trying to get something done. And if he fails, at least he'll be able to say he fought hard.
MATTHEWS: OK, there we got your position, trying to cut a deal with Republicans.
Incidentally, THIS BLOG, not some of our friends at MSNBC now taking credit for it, was first out of the gate (as we are with most of our cutting-edge political analysis) in pleading with President Obama to "take numbers and name names." So far, he's called out John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor, the top Republican leadership in Congress. So much for the "expertise" and "wisdom" of the Idiot Punditocracy.
And Chris, you and Joan may go way back, but even old friendships can be strained by the kind of rudeness you showed Joan. She deserves an apology. A real one. Best quote of the program from one of my favorite historians, Douglas Brinkley:
"Obama has to not just work about his reelection, but he`s fighting for the history of the Democratic tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, and to abandon it by a kind of mealy-mouthed middle course would be a mistake. There is no grand bargain. This is war in 2012, and Obama has to win."