For Chris Matthews, every day is a good day to attack President Obama’s critics as racists, but the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was an especially opportune time. During MSNBC’s live coverage of the festivities on Wednesday morning, Matthews unleashed a tirade against the president’s opponents, saying that racists were at least honest about their beliefs in the early 1900s.
Matthews began by sizing up the country as he saw it: “This country is divided right now, heavily divided, sharply divided between the noes out there, the ones who reject an African American president, have rejected him from the day he was elected, the day they heard he might be elected.” [MP3 audio here .]
The other half of the country, said Matthews, was disillusioned, wondering why things weren’t better under Obama. He relayed their supposed mood: “We have an African-American president but things aren’t happening. It’s almost dull with not things happening.”
After anchor Thomas Roberts asked Matthews about Barack Obama’s significance vis-a-vis Martin Luther King’s dream, the Hardball host went into ranting mode. He drew on a historical example of racism: “At least back in 1939 when Marian Anderson had to sing here, ‘My Country 'Tis of Thee’ rather than at the Constitution Hall, because – they said the reason was she was black. At least they were honest back then.”
Matthews then ran through a list of opposition and snarled, “They never say their problem with Obama is that he’s black... At least in the old days they were honest about it. Today, they’re not.”
If conservatives oppose Obama because he’s black, then surely they would also loathe Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, Tim Scott, Allen West, and Artur Davis, among others. But they don’t. Racism may still color some Americans’ views of the president, but most of Obama’s opposition smacks more of ideology than race, notwithstanding Chris Matthews’ lunatic ravings.
Below is a transcript of the segment:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well you know, Thomas, this is going to be a hot day. It's not that hot. It's sweltering today but not as bad as it could get here in Washington. It's drizzling right now, may clear up. But I expect there’s going to be heated rhetoric today. This country is divided right now, heavily divided, sharply divided between the no’s out there, the ones who reject an African American president, have rejected him from the day he was elected, the day they heard he might be elected. And the other half of the country rather disillusioned, rather disenchanted, almost pouting with disillusionment right now. And gee whiz, but why can’t this be greater? Why is this not better right now? We have an African-American president but things aren’t happening. It’s almost dull with not things happening. I think that combination of frustration and rejection are going to clash today. And I think the heat of the rhetoric today is going to be much sharper even than it was 50 years ago.
THOMAS ROBERTS: We do have an interesting statement coming from former president George W. Bush, releasing a statement and as we’re looking there, the Martin family there under that umbrella as they all assemble. “Our country” – this is from President Bush – “Our country has come a long way since that bright afternoon 50 years ago, yet our journey to justice is not complete. Just to the east of the Lincoln Memorial, where President Obama will speak on Wednesday, stands the Martin Luther King Memorial. There on the National Mall our president, whose story reflects the promise of America, will help us honor the man who inspired millions to redeem that promise.” And President Bush refers to the promise of America, Chris, that is reflected in President Obama. When we think about that, how significant does that weigh on this presidency that basically Barack Obama really personifies, comes to life as the dream of MLK?
MATTHEWS: Well, good for George W. Bush. I thought it was a nice statement. I'm not going to question that. But to say this. At least back in 1939 when Marian Anderson had to sing here, ‘My Country 'Tis of Thee’ rather than at the Constitution Hall, because – they said the reason was she was black. At least they were honest back then. Today in American politics you have people like Donald Trump who hangs around with Mitt Romney talking about the president being an illegal immigrant. Basically of being a con artist on the street corner. You’ve got people talking about nullification of the law of the land. You got people talking impeachment like Coburn. You got Tom – Ted Cruz out there. They never say their problem with Obama is that he’s black, but look at the pattern. The pattern is rejection of his legitimacy at the first point, saying he’s not really here legally. It’s rejection of the law he had passed, the landmark bill passed in 2010. It's an attempt to impeach him on no grounds. At least the Daughters of the American Revolution knew what they were saying and they said it out loud. He’s black, she's black, she can't sing here. These guys today use all the techniques of nullification and talking about illegitimacy and accusing the president of being a crook basically for even being president, because he’s here illegally. And then they talk about impeaching him on grounds they can't even come up with. At least in the old days they were honest about it. Today, they’re not. And that's how rough it's going to be today, I think.
-- Paul Bremmer is an intern with the Media Research Center.