Leave it to Chris Matthews to look at a typical, by the book,
recitation of talking points appearance by Republican Congresswoman
Michele Bachmann and describe it as a sign of conspiracy or lunacy. On
Monday's Hardball, after Matthews played clips of Bachmann on NBC's Meet
the Press, he wondered if she was trained by "a group in Virginia that teaches right wing people" to "use the most wild language" and repeat it or was she simply "behaving like a zombie?"
Matthews, who is prone to make cinematic comparisons, went on to say the conservative congresswoman's appearance reminded him of The Manchurian Candidate as he questioned Democratic Representative Loretta Sanchez: "Is there some kind of playing card...A queen of diamonds, like in The Manchurian Candidate, where you flash the queen of diamonds and this congresswoman colleague of yours goes into that trance like repetition of those words?"
(MP3 audio) 
The following Matthews outbursts were aired on the March 7 Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, she's head of the Tea Party caucus formally. She went on Meet the Press yesterday, in this building, and defended calling the Obama administration a "gangster government." That was her word, gangster. Is she speaking for the whole Tea Party or her party or right wingers or who?
MATTHEWS: You know I don't know whether this hyperbole like you sometimes get from the Middle East these days, or have always gotten from over there or the way people talk now. You can disagree and say "He's further left than I am," you can say, "He's bigger on government than I am," but what does it mean? Here she is defending her term here. Gangster! Like he's a criminal. He's running a criminal operation. What is she talking like this for and to whom? Let's listen.
(Clip of David Gregory interviewing Bachmann on March 6 Meet the Press)
MATTHEWS REPEATING BACHMANN CHARGE: Corrupt. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, this is a corrupt administration. I don't know where the indictments are? If it's corrupt let's see the indictments, let's move. If there's something criminal, let's hear about it. Throwing words around like gangster, what is she up to? Is this what appeals to people who simply want to hear bad things said about President Obama? Is that what it is? Any bad word is good enough for them?
MATTHEWS: Well let me bring Jonathan [Capehart] on here. Jonathan, You're a very smart guy and I think you know the Washington scene as well as I do. Or at least you're learning it - and I mean it - as a younger guy. And I gotta tell you something there's a group over in Virginia that teaches right wing people how to talk like this. Use the most wild language and always repeat over and over again and ignore the question. David Gregory was doing a masterful job of trying to get her to answer a question. She wasn't answering it. Here, here is the montage. He asked all kinds of questions and got the - I've accused her of behaving like a zombie, in the sense that you always just stay on this sort of hypnotic trance no matter what the question is. You come on television not to answer questions, not to engage in a dialogue but to speak this sort of rehearsed thing.
Now here is David Gregory repeatedly yesterday asking Congresswoman Bachmann about the possibility of a government shutdown - a good question. Whether she, herself, would vote to shut down the government - a good question - over the fight over Planned Parenthood] and the EPA - equally good policy questions. And whether Speaker Boehner has failed the Tea Party people, who want more action taken [on] budget cutting. The Congresswoman was determined to drive home one point. She kept saying there was a secret $105 billion hidden, as she put it, even though it's appropriated in the health care legislation of Barack Obama, last year. Let's watch this behavior pattern. Is it mental or is this method? Let's watch.
(Clip from Meet the Press)
MATTHEWS: Is there some kind of playing card, Congresswoman? A queen of diamonds, like in The Manchurian Candidate, where you flash the queen of diamonds and this congresswoman colleague of yours goes into that trance like repetition of those words? As if the words are scripted in front - she's even got a card. Is this, is this conditioned response? Look, I'm asking! Is this mental or method? Is she methodically behaving like this or is this the way her brain is working? I'm trying to figure out what's going on. People don't behave like this, Congresswoman. I know you well enough to know, that you know, what's going on around you. Is what's going on around you hypnotic behavior, trance-like behavior? Or is somebody actually saying, the way to go on Meet the Press - the number one show on television in terms of being able to make a point - is to not go and answer David Gregory's question but to go on in like a trance and behave like this?!...Everything is a secret. Everything is a repetition and it's - what's going on here? What is this new kind of conservative training here?
- Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here