Chris Matthews received his long-desired wish on Thursday, an exclusive interview with Barack Obama. The Hardball anchor didn't exactly live up to the title of his show, wondering about Republican efforts to "make it difficult for minorities to vote" and questioning who was better, Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden?
Talking to the President at American University, Matthews read a question from a viewer via Twitter: "What can we do to stop the GOP, the Republicans, from rigging the states, rigging the votes, state by state, to disenfranchise voters and destroy our democracy?" The host added, "Thirty six states right now led by Republican legislatures have been trying to make it difficult for minority people to vote, especially in big cities and older people. Everybody knows the game." [MP3 audio here.] Tossing a softball to Obama, he queried, "What's your reaction?"
At one point, the MSNBC host playfully teased the President, joking, "I have to ask you a little question you may not like to answer." He continued, "It's an essay question. The qualities required of a president. Vice President Joe Biden, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, compare and contrast."
Smiling at the cozy question, Obama laughed and then responded, "Not a chance I'm going there."
In areas where Matthews wasn't totally sycophantic, he still fell far short of any reasonable definition of playing "hardball." On the subject of ObamaCare, he gently wondered:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: You have a great audience here of-- college age-- people and some graduate students and faculty. There's some resistance out there among young people-- We've seen it in the polls-- to, to enrolling in the-- in the exchanges and to get involved in taking responsibility for their health care. What's your argument why they should do that?
On the issue of faith in government, the anchor sympathized with the President: "I know we had Watergate. We had the Vietnam War, of course, all that together. But what's gonna stop and arrest that decline in faith of you doing the right thing, you being honest, I mean, anybody who's president?"
Except for a brief mention, Matthews ignored the IRS scandal. He also skipped over Benghazi.
On Wednesday, the host compared his anticipation for the interview to "Christmas eve excitement."
Despite his clear affinity for the President, Matthews did manage a question on privacy: "A lot of young people point to the privacy requirements. They don't like being part of anything that's collecting information. Health care, is this gonna be one of the detriments to people wanting to sign up. They want to keep their privacy?"
After the interview, the host brought on liberal journalists David Corn, Howard Fineman and Joy Reid to gush over the exclusive. Fineman both enthused and sympathized, "I would like to say, Chris, that you and the students here from AU 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."
For the top 10 most sycophantic Matthews quotes ever on Obama, go here.
A partial transcript of the December 5 Hardball is below:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about something else. This is a Twitter question we got from C. Wilhelm's his name. He said, "What can we do to stop the GOP, the Republicans, from rigging the states, rigging the votes, state by state, to disenfranchise voters and destroy our democracy?" Thirty six states right now led by Republican legislatures have been trying to make it difficult for minority people to vote, especially in big cities and older people. Everybody knows the game. Republicans often admit the game to deny people the vote. How can-- well, what's your reaction?
MATTHEWS: Well, we're almost done. I have to ask you a little question you may not like to answer.
MATTHEWS: This could be tough.
OBAMA: All right.
MATTHEWS: It's an essay question. The qualities required of a president. Vice President Joe Biden, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, compare and contrast.
OBAMA: Not a chance am I going there. [Laughter] The-- here-- here's what I'll say. Both Hillary and Joe-- would make outstanding presidents-- and possess the qualities that are needed-- to be-- outstanding presidents. They-- I think Joe Biden will go down in history as one of the best vice presidents-- ever. And he has been with me, at my side, in every tough decision that I've made from-- going' after Bin Laden to-- dealing with the health care issues to, you name it, he's been there.