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MSNBC's Howard Fineman Gushes Over Poor Obama: 'From Superman to Sisyphus'

After he conducted a fawning interview with Barack Obama on Thursday, Chris Matthews turned to his liberal journalist friends for adulation. Former Newsweek editor Howard Fineman fawned over Obama and, at the same time, sympathized with the President: "Now, he's gone from Superman to Sisyphus. He's talking about rolling a boulder up the hill."[MP3 audio here.]

What kind of metaphor is the journalist trying to make? Sisyphus had to roll a bolder up a hill as punishment for deception. Surely, that's not the liberal reporter's point. Speaking of the President, Fineman, who now is the editorial director for Huffington Post, lectured, "[Obama] has a much more mature view, but he has a moral view. I thought he made the moral case for ObamaCare."

Matthews clearly wanted praise for his Obama interview, querying, "What did we see in president the man, Barack Obama, who is a bit distant usually, what did we learn from him tonight about being president?"

Grio journalist Joy Reid enthused over the President's performance, touting the man as "somebody who really is, you know, in lead or in line with the way the Pope feels about social justice."

A partial transcript is below:

Hardball

12/5/13

7:49

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Each of you, I've just been chatting during the commercial break. It seems to me that you've heard things that I didn't even hear. I want to start with Howard, because you grabbed me. What did we see in president the man, Barack Obama, who is a bit distant usually, what did we learn from him tonight about being president?

HOWARD FINEMAN: First of all, I would like to say, Chris, and that you and the students here from A.U. got a once in a lifetime opportunity to see in person a president talking about what it's like to be president, while he's actually president. Now, he's gone from Superman to Sisyphus. He's talking about rolling a boulder up the hill. He has a much more mature view, but he a has moral view. I thought he made the moral case for Obamacare, for you folks to consider ObamaCare as a measure of community in America. That's what motivates Barack Obama. He knows it's tough --

MATTHEWS: And he lift it up.

FINEMAN: The last 15 minutes of this interview extraordinary were extraordinary. I've never seen anything like it, where a president kind of unburdened himself to you about why he's in the ball game. And I thought he made a very compelling case for his own decency, whatever the screw-ups were managerially, and they were real.

JOY REID: And, Chris, can I say, I felt like we saw two interviews with the President. In the first half of that interview, you saw a man who is incredibly frustrated by what I think he sees as the smallness of the debate in Washington, where we don't talk about the big things, the big sweeping issues that matter to the country, or we boil it down to sort of petty fights, frustrated incredibly with the Republicans and with the media. But in the second half of that interview, I saw the guy that I first met in 2004, when he was essentially an activist, attempting to use politics to move forward -- grand issues, really big themes.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: Somebody who really is, you know, in lead or in line with the way the Pope feels about social justice. This is a guy who fought for social justice and that second half, I think you saw him strip away from just the presidency, back to that guy, the guy who still has that --

MATTHEWS: David, just follow for Joy. Why did that happen? Is it the bad poll numbers that forced him back to being, "damn it, I'm going to defend who I am?" What got him here, what got him to where he was today?

DAVID CORN: He was very self-reflective, as I think he is prone to be, but perhaps more so now in public. Maybe -- and I don't know if this is a negative spin on this, maybe because he feels even more frustrated, he's trying to get not to the point where he's giving up, but he's trying to figure out what he can do.

He was very explanatory in this interview. Not a lot of fight. There's still a lot of fights to be had, even about saving Obamacare. But it was really stunning to me, he talked about persistence and the connection between a president and the public and that motivating persistence.

But that's different than fighting. So –

[Cross talk.]

FINEMAN: -- motivation, about why he would continue to fight. As I say, comparing politics to rolling a boulder up a hill is a little different from the way he began his life in politics, like with popping a champagne cork. This is tough stuff, but he showed his own motivation. He said, I remember every day --

MATTHEWS: He's also -- guys, he's been there before. I mean, I refer -- I didn't have to remind him of being in that car all alone, an African- American guy, heading out into the white suburbs and rural areas of Illinois where no black guy's never run for anything and certainly not won anything. He doesn't have a GPS in the car, he's got a map on the seat, passenger seat, I've got to discover Illinois --

REID: Yes.

MATTHEWS: -- so I can be elected senator, after being beaten in a south Chicago race.

CORN: And also, after losing (INAUDIBLE) the 2010 election. Remember that? That was a tremendous blow, and he sort of reassessed his presidency and how he could move forward and started emphasizing, some of what he talked about today, the difference in values between him and the Republicans. When he says, the government is us -- that's like the grand slogan here. Us because we come together to do the things that he talked about.

— Scott Whitlock is Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Scott Whitlock on Twitter.