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Matthews: Neo-Cons Took Cruise to Alaska to Find Empty Headed Palin

Provoked by charges made in Game Change that Sarah Palin had to be tutored in basic foreign policy facts, Chris Matthews, on Tuesday's Hardball, took shot after shot at the former vice presidential candidate's intelligence as he wondered, "Is it possible that her head was really that empty?...Has she ever taken an SAT afternoon exam?" and mocked "Don't put her on Jeopardy!"

Matthews invited on Game Change co-authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin to chat about various nuggets from the book but it was their stories about Palin that got the MSNBC host revved up, as he painted an absurd picture of neo-cons taking a "cruise" to Alaska where they found Palin "standing at the docks with an empty head saying, 'I'm willing to say what you want me to say.'"

MATTHEWS: Okay Heilemann you and you and Mark have got to answer this profound question. How does the neo-conservative right, the hawkish right, find such success in finding these empty vessels like her? Like W.? Like, like Quayle? They find these empty vessels who know nothing about the world! Nothing about foreign policy! Who immediately begin to spout the neo-con line. I read her book it's full of that crap. Where, where, where do they find these people? They went on a cruise up there! What [Bill] Kristol and Fred Barnes went on some cruise to Alaska and they found her standing at the docks with an empty head saying, "I'm willing to say what you want me to say." Answer me please Mark. You're a smart guy. How do we put these marriages from Hell together? Empty heads, right wing philosophy fills empty head.

Matthews repeatedly prodded the authors to relay anecdotes from the book that put Palin in a poor light, after which the Hardball host added his own snide observations.

MATTHEWS: How did this latest acquisition of Roger Ailes at Fox discover that Joe Biden's last name was O'Biden? Mark Halperin? How did she get into her head, O'Biden? It'll be hard to be a commentator if you don't get the surnames right. But she's got to stop calling 'em, now that people think she's crazy. Go ahead. O'Biden. Where did it come from?

MARK HALPERIN: Well, well you know during her debate prep she was under a lot of pressure. We report in Game Change she was under so much pressure that she fell into this blue funk became, in the view of some advisers around her catatonic and non-responsive. But one of the things, one of the things that was happening to her. She, she-

MATTHEWS WHILE CHUCKLING: No problem there.

HALPERIN: -you know, well-

MATTHEWS: Let's make her Vice President of the United States - catatonic and non-responsive. Perfect to run the country!

After a brief discussion about Harry Reid, Matthews couldn't resist taking one last shot at Palin before closing the segment:

MATTHEWS: Hell of a book! I loved reading every page of it. Everybody who loves politics, who watches this show should read this book....Mark Halperin, John Heilemann I have great respect for your work. Great work here. The game, the name of the game is Game Change and may you knock Going Rogue off of the top of the bestseller list!

The following teasers and segment were aired on the January 12 edition of Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS DURING SHOW OPEN: How is it possible that Sarah Palin had to be tutored about World War I, about World War II, even about why there are two Koreas? Is it possible that her head was really that empty?

...

MATTHEWS: We're gonna talk about his Sarah Palin. It's unbelievable how little this woman knows! It's unbelievable that she ran for Vice President and was unfamiliar with World War I, World War II, Korea, the whole ball game! What information did she have? Has she ever taken an SAT afternoon exam? The one where they ask you what you know. Don't put her on Jeopardy! More on Game Change when we come back. You're watching Hardball on MSNBC.

...

Palin segment with Heilemann and Halperin:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: John McCain he's defending his choice now because he has too, historically. I mean George Herbert Walker Bush has to defend Dan Quayle. Once you make the choice you're stuck. But it seems to me she doesn't know anything going into this campaign. Did they really have to tell her what the Korean Peninsula looks like and why there is a North and South Korea? Did they have to explain that to her?

JOHN HEILEMANN, GAME CHANGE CO-AUTHOR: Well I think there was-, Chris when they chose Sarah Palin McCain's people made an assumption. They, they chose her very hastily, we know that now. She was not vetted virtually at all. I mean we say in the book that she got less vetting than an Assistant Secretary of Agriculture would have gotten. John McCain, she was a virtual stranger to him. But they all assume she would be of at least average intelligence and of average grasp for a governor of national and, and international issues. It turned out that she was way, way below the mean. And the truth was, in Minneapolis, we, we have scenes in Game Change where she's being tutored. Steve Schmidt goes to her foreign policy tutors and says, "You have a lot of work to do. She doesn't know anything!" And they lay a map out in front of her on the table, in the suite in St. Paul, and start like a Risk board. And they start going through, literally, giving her like a high school survey course. "This is the first World War and then it lead to the second World War and then we had the Cold War." They go through all of that. As she goes up to Alaska on September 11th to do her first national interview with Charlie Gibson, the two days before she, she does not understand really and can't really explain the difference between North and South Korea. She's still regularly saying that Saddam Hussein caused 9/11. The next, the next day on September 11th her son is about to ship off to Iraq, she can't really explain who America is fighting in Iraq. She doesn't know what the Federal Reserve board does. This, that was the level of ignorance we're talking about.

MATTHEWS: Okay Heilemann you and you and Mark have got to answer this profound question. How does the neo-conservative right, the hawkish right, find such success in finding these empty vessels like her? Like W.? Like, like Quayle? They find these empty vessels who know nothing about the world! Nothing about foreign policy! Who immediately begin to spout the neo-con line. I read her book it's full of that crap. Where, where, where do they find these people? They went on a cruise up there! What [Bill] Kristol and Fred Barnes went on some cruise to Alaska and they found her standing at the docks with an empty head saying, "I'm willing to say what you want me to say." Answer me please Mark. You're a smart guy. How do we put these marriages from Hell together? Empty heads, right wing philosophy fills empty head.

MARK HALPERIN, GAME CHANGE CO-AUTHOR: Chris I'm gonna have to answer you by primarily saying I, I understand why you are confused. I see in Sarah Palin leadership qualities. And you know the country saw them and we talk about them in Game Change where, which have now projected forward where she has a following. She sold a lot of books. She continues to sell a lot of books.

MATTHEWS: Right.

HALPERIN: She has grassroots support. But the fascination that is, that some neo-conservatives have for her. It's not clear to me where it stems from. Because she didn't have an agenda, a neo-conservative agenda in Alaska.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

HALPERIN: And she hasn't really been a leader of formulating ideas. So I'm as confused as you are as to what the affinity is based on.

MATTHEWS: Well you know what it's based on? It's the Yogi Berra line, "We're lost but we're making good time." That's my favorite Yogi Berra-ism. And that's, she's making good time but she's lost. Here's Palin talking about Barack Obama on the trail on October 5th of 2008. Let's listen.

(Begin clip of Sarah Palin)

SARAH PALIN: This is not a man who sees America as you and I do. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. I'm afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist.

(End clip)

MATTHEWS: Unbelievable! You know when she makes the snarky attacks she does this rising of her voice to C above high C. Have you noticed that John Heilemann? How she does that? When she gets into her sarcastic mode? She's really good at it. I mean if that's what you mean by leadership Mark, she's got it. If that's leadership it's frightening. Your thoughts, what did you discover about her ability to lead without knowing?

HEILEMANN: Well it's, I'm not clear that there was anything that she demonstrated in terms of leadership of the 2008 campaign. And I would say that, that clip that you just showed Chris was right after the vice presidential debate. She had just survived her debate with Joe Biden. She came out with a, with a new head of steam. She thought that she was renewed. She had overcome the last hurdle, the last obstacle. And that was literally the moment when she started going rogue. And you know for, for the McCain people their view at that point was that she had more or less blown all the opportunities they saw for her in terms of helping with the women's vote, the independent vote. All she was at that point was a magnet for the base and a huge headache. They, they hoped that she would kind of fade into the background for the last month. They could ship her off to, to states where she might help with the base. But she wouldn't go away. And she consumed enormous amounts of, of energy and time on the part of the McCain staff. And, and in the end they ended up worried that she was, in the end, unfit to be Vice President.

MATTHEWS: How did this latest acquisition of Roger Ailes at Fox discover that Joe Biden's last name was O'Biden? Mark Halperin? How did she get into her head, O'Biden? It'll be hard to be a commentator if you don't get the surnames right. But she's got to stop calling 'em, now that people think she's crazy. Go ahead. O'Biden. Where did it come from?

HALPERIN: Well, well you know during her debate prep she was under a lot of pressure. We report in Game Change she was under so much pressure that she fell into this blue funk became, in the view of some advisers around her catatonic and non-responsive. But one of the things, one of the things that was happening to her. She, she-

MATTHEWS WHILE CHUCKLING: No problem there.

HALPERIN: -you know, well-

MATTHEWS: Let's make her Vice President of the United States - catatonic and non-responsive. Perfect to run the country!

HALPERIN: One of the things that happened was she kept calling Joe Biden in these debate rehearsals O'Biden. Our sources were mixed. Some thought it was like Obama O'Biden. Some thought it might have been an Irish thing. And in either case they knew she was gonna be held to a very tough standard. If she went into that debate and she said Saddam Hussein had caused 9/11, if she had said O'Biden it would have been a problem. So they had to come up with some way that she could avoid that problem.

-Geoffrey Dickens is the senior news analyst at the Media Research Center.