Pro-Obama, Even When Pro-Clinton

Chris Matthews must dread Wednesday mornings. The always amusing, rarely restrained Matthews is reinvigorating his career this election season by creating YouTube moments nearly every election night. His comments are so far-fetched and hyperbolic that they’re tailor-made for a morning-after viral video binge. Last night, he may have turned in his greatest performance yet. During MSNBC’s election night coverage, Matthews asked pro-Obama state Sen. Kirk Watson to name Obama’s legislative accomplishments , which made Watson stammer like a doofus.  

This was a seminal moment in the campaign for Matthews. Finally, here was proof that he wasn’t a total softie when it came to Obama. He’s been derided over and over again for his pro-Obama—and therefore anti-Clinton—bias. Matthews, the former Jimmy Carter speechwriter, has said Obama’s speeches both make him cry and send a thrill up his leg . And don’t forget when he said Hillary owed her political career to Bill’s blue-dress indiscretions in the White House (which he later apologized for ).

Surely, a journalist as connected and high-profile as Matthews has heard Clinton aides whispering in his ear to stop with the Obama-is-our-savior shtick. So when Matthews saw he had a frozen Watson in his sights, he realized it was his golden chance to look tough on Obama. Surprisingly, Matthews turned it into a moment of true journalism.  

“No, no, what has he accomplished, sir?” Matthews said to Watson. “You have to give me his accomplishments. You’ve supported him for president. You’re on national television: name his legislative accomplishments. Barack Obama. Sir.” Matthews’ line of questioning is fair, and his repeated insistence that Watson not wriggle his way out of answering the question is admirable. This was cable news as it’s supposed to be—riveting watchdog rather than mind-numbing lapdog.

Matthews shed light on one of Obama’s key weaknesses—that his supporters don’t actually know what he cares about. ( Which we’ve already discussed .) Clinton has already latched on to the line of attack, and John McCain is sure to follow, if needed. But if the Obama campaign uses this as inspiration to broadcast his policy positions more widely, then Obama could come out stronger in the end. If that happens, then Matthews may have ended up showing his pro-Obama bias, after all.