Chris Matthews on Wednesday went to embarrassing lengths as he struggled
to explain away a gaffe by the Vice President, offering tortured,
confusing logic to defend Joe Biden's "chains" comments. According to
the Hardball host, Biden's remarks to a largely black audience
that Republicans will "put y'all back in chains" were "historical" and
not "negative" or racist like when the GOP does it.
Matthews, who on Tuesday foamed that Paul Ryan  could be "worse" than Dan Quayle and "more trouble" than Democratic debacle Thomas Eagleton, defended, "...Biden, maybe he is trying too hard to get the support of black people, but he's not using negative slurs in doing it."
Matthews lectured, the Vice President's comment is different than the "code" from the GOP "about food stamps and welfare and welfare queens and all." He added, "It seems to me that [GOP comments on race are] a negative reference to slavery and to black folk." [MP3 audio here .]
Desperately trying to explain away Biden's gaffe, Matthews concluded, "He is making a historic reference. He may not have been right to do, but it certainly wasn't malignant like the other stuff we get."
The closest the liberal anchor could get to criticism is to admit that Biden "can get a little over the top sometimes."
It's interesting to note that Matthews did concede the point that Biden was, indeed, talking about slavery.
Former Newsweek editor Howard Fineman appeared on the show and allowed, "I think Joe Biden was trying to be charming Joe Biden and he made a mistake there, clearly."
However, he insisted that the "Romney campaign's motive" in highlighting the gaffe wasn't innocent. He sneered, "If they can stir up comments about race in the campaign, they're only too happy to do so."
A transcript of Matthews' August 15 comments can be found below:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: You know, Cynthia, you're a student of this as well as Howard and I. We talk about the language used in politics all the time. But, you know, we have a rich history in this regard from Andrew Jackson all the way up to Harry Truman, certainly and more recently, of populist language, most famous speech we grew up-- all of news high school reciting was the cross of gold speech. "You shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold." Now, that was over the issue of tight money and loose money and the silver standard and the gold standard. And using even references like that were considered fair play.
Now the use of the word by Biden the other day-- and can get a little over the top in his language-- was chains. Now, obviously it was a reference to slavery, historically. But I think of all of the code they have used on the other side about food stamps and welfare and welfare queens and all. It seems to me that's a negative reference to slavery and to black folk. Whereas Biden, maybe he is trying too hard to get the support of black people, but he's not using negative slurs in doing it. He is making a historic reference. He may not have been right to do, but it certainly wasn't malignant like the other stuff we get. That's my view.