1 month, 3 weeks ago by Eric Boehm, Watchdog.org
Chris Matthews just wrote a book about his time as a congressional staffer during the 1980s, so you’d think he would have a better memory of how things worked back then.
But the blowhard host of MSNBC’s Hardball has seemingly forgotten about the government shutdowns that he was a part of while working for then-Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. Back then, Republicanscontrolled the White House and the U.S. Senate, while O’Neill and his fellow Democrats played the role of loyal opposition while controlling a majority of the U.S. House.
Those days must look like something out of an alternate universe today — strangely familiar and yet not quite right. Just substitute O’Neill for John Boehner, and you get the idea.
But to Matthews, those were the glory days of compromise “when government worked,” according to the subtitle of his new book.
That, despite the eight government shutdowns that happened between 1981 and 1988 when Reagan and O’Neill couldn’t come to an agreement on budgetary issues.
Surely, if there are any talking heads on cable news who can understand the role Republicans are playing this week, it’s Matthews. Right?
OK, maybe not.
“It’s like in a kidnapping; you grab the baby and ask for the money. In this case, they grabbed the money and asked for the baby,” Matthews said during a Sunday appearance on Meet The Press.
It was an extended metaphor in which the Republicans apparently were attempting to use the government shutdown (the money) to get a one-year delay on Obamacare (the president’s baby, in Matthews’ telling).
“I knew I had to keep my records,” he said.
Those records must not have included the shutdowns.
And his theory for why the current shutdown happened? Because President Barack Obama has not instilled enough fear in Republicans from conservative districts — unlike Reagan, who he praises for embracing the concept of “better to be feared than loved.”
It’s an interesting theory, again, only if we forget about the eight shutdowns that happened during those glorious days when “Tip and The Gipper” ran the show.
A few days ago, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, called Matthews out — on his own show, no less — about the intellectual dishonesty being peddled by the host.
“You know, your boss, Tip O’Neill, shut down the government 12 different times. And you didn’t call him a terrorist.”
Matthews claimed to remember only one such shutdown, then later recalled others but said they were different because “These were always issues of a couple of days. And they were always resolved, and they were over numbers”
In other words, it was different then.
And to be fair to Matthews, it was a different then. Those shutdowns didn’t come with all the hysteria (on both sides) about who would get more of the blame and how it would affect the next election. They also didn’t come in the middle of separate, but simultaneous, battles over the nation’s debt ceiling and a massive new entitlement program.
But the main difference is that, back then, a Republican was in the White House and the Democrats were the ones playing defense.