MSNBC’s flimsy editorial standards are a matter of legend, so it’s probably pointless to point out that no reputable “news” network would continue to employ Chris Matthews after he exploded into a spittle-flecked tirade about Republican “racism” on Morning Joe. It’s time to call it a career, Chris.
The set-up is that Matthews is deeply upset by Mitt Romney’s birth certificate joke at a rally in Michigan on Friday. After reminiscing about the local hospital where he was born, Romney said, “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”
The audience laughed and applauded. MSNBC went nuts, apparently making an editorial decision to treat this remark as coded racism. Political analyst Michael Eric Dyson hyperventilated that Romney’s jibe was “some of the basest, most despicable bigotry we can imagine,” which suggests either his imagination or self-control is painfully limited.
But Dyson is a model of Vulcan logic and restraint compared to Matthews, who seems to have been literally driven mad by Romney’s comment. As Matthews’ rant – and MSNBC host Toure’s hideously offensive use of a racist epithet last week – demonstrate, Obama supporters are growing increasingly frantic about the growing public perception of the President as aloof, detached, and hostile to the traditional American understanding of the relationship between citizens and their government. It really bothers them that Obama’s fabled “likability” is draining away, and he seems downright weird to exasperated voters, thanks to comments like “the private sector is doing fine” and “you didn’t build that.”
These forces boiled over behind the troubled brow of Chris Matthews during an encounter with RNC chairman Reince Priebus – an encounter that ended with Matthews snarling “You’re garbage!” at Priebus.
It is possible to criticize Romney’s birth certificate crack as being in poor taste – while noting that the Obama campaign also makes fun of the birth certificate controversy, and actually encouraged fans to send in their own “birther” jokes – without descending into the fever swamps of “code words” and “racist dog whistles.” This is another example of Democrats overplaying their hand, in a manner that will only alienate Americans weary of being told that Obama is above both criticism and jest because of his race.
A more modest pushback against something like Romney’s joke, delivered with a dash of dry wit, would work far better for the Democrats than full-court hysteria… which only makes people roll their eyes, and adds to the perception of Obama and his devoted supporters as painfully thin-skinned. As a general rule, Americans do not like being told they aren’t “allowed” to make jokes about something.
As for Matthews, he’s obviously emotionally and mentally incapable of covering the Presidential race any further. He’s not just a biased journalist or strongly opinionated commentator – he’s an obstacle for even a partisan operation like MSNBC to cover the news at all. His continued presence makes it unlikely that important guests will be willing to conduct interviews with the network. It will speak volumes about the ongoing degeneration of MSNBC, and NBC News, if Matthews is allowed to survive this on-air nervous breakdown.