Chris Matthews must have watched the season finale of The Newsroom on HBO on Sunday night. He certainly did a grand Will McAvoy imitation on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Monday, sharply cuffing Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus over Mitt Romney's use of negative campaigning.
Republicans have consistently employed insinuating arguments and phrases -- gutting welfare reform, food-stamp president, birth certificate -- to persuade voters that America's first black president doesn't share their values, Matthews said. When Priebus tried to laugh it off, Matthews refused to let him off the hook, and accused him and his fellow Republicans of playing a race card.
"That cheap shot about `I don't have a problem with my birth certificate' was awful," Matthews said. "And it's an embarrassment to your party to play that card. This stuff about getting rid of the work requirement for welfare is dishonest.... You can play your games and giggle about it, but the fact is your side is playing that car .... Everybody knows what game you play.... It's a race card."
"You got your monologue in," Priebus said. "Any moment of levity is frowned upon by guys like you so you can push your brand." But when the Republican Party chairman went on to compare Obama's fiscal policies to European socialism, Matthews came right back at him.
The notion that classical Keynesian economic remedies are somehow new and alien to Americans is "insane," Matthews said. "You're doing it again now.... You're playing that card again."
Former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw tut-tutted. Hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski squirmed.
"I'm not getting into a shouting match," Priebus said.
"Because you're losing" the argument, Matthews responded.
"Garbage, garbage," Priebus said dismissively.
"It's your garbage," Matthews concluded.
Making the rounds of morning TV shows, Priebus displayed some unusually sharp rhetoric toward Obama, rolling out a new GOP attack line. “We need to prosecute the president on what he promised and what he delivered,” he said on CBS’s This Morning.
Jonathan Miller contributed