Chris Matthews


Keith Olbermann abruptly announced his departure from MSNBC tonight. Thus far, Olbermann and NBC executives are staying mum about why the host of MSNBC’s highest-rated program is leaving the cable channel, but I’m sure we’ll know the reason soon enough. (Of course, there is plenty of speculation, including the NBC Universal-Comcast merger made official earlier this week.)

Knowing Olbermann’s history of burning bridges with past employers, I’m willing to bet that he soon will start lobbing metaphorical bombs at NBC.

I used to watch Olbermann, mainly during the Bush administration when he seemed to be a voice of reason among television pundits. But over the years — not coincidentally as his popularity and ratings grew — Olbermann became increasingly full of himself, and it showed on his program. The last straw for me was his weekly “Fridays with Thurber” segment, which understandably began as a therapeutic homage to his late father, but soon grew into a months-long exercise in hubris. After all, did Olbermann really think anyone wasn’t changing the channel as soon as he started those segments?

As far as I’m concerned, Chris Matthews was (and still is) the only primetime host worth watching on MSNBC anymore. (Of course, I watch the cable news networks more for news and analysis than the hyperpartisan stuff they air during the evening hours.)

I’m curious what you think about Olbermann, his sudden departure from MSNBC, and the future of MSNBC’s primetime lineup. Please post your thoughts about any or all of those subjects.

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Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, the 2008 Libertarian Party nominee for president, weighed in today on the latest development in the Blagojevich-Burris saga. In his Atlanta Journal-Constitution column, Barr questioned Burris’s political savvy, considering the senator agreed to a live grilling by Chris Matthews on “Hardball”:

Still, the most incomprehensible aspect of this latest chapter in the Blagojevich-Burris soap opera is not the transcripts themselves, but the fact that Burris agreed to participate in a live phone interview with Chris Matthews on “Hardball” to discuss the surveillance tapes. Matthews, widely respected as one of television’s toughest and most well-prepared questioners, peppered Burris with questions about the clear meaning of the tapes, as Burris lamely attempted to explain them away. The fact that Burris agreed to participate in such a losing proposition as to try and best Matthews on live TV, raises a serious question about the senator’s capacity to remain in office. That his staff let him make such a foolish move raises similar questions about the competency of his staff.

Barr is right. Burris was foolish to “play Hardball,” and he isn’t cutting the mustard as a U.S. senator. But many of us in Illinois knew that would be the case before Burris even took office.

Burris should resign from the Senate. The Springfield State Journal-Register today urged Burris to do just that — resign and put an end to this whole sad episode. Unfortunately, we all know he won’t heed such advice. Burris is too much like his partner-in-crime, Rod Blagojevich, to resign before embarrassing Illinois further.

If there was a slim chance Roland Burris could escape Blagogate politically unscathed, a newly released FBI-wiretapped conversation between him and then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s fundraising brother, Robert Blagojevich, flushed it down the toilet of public opinion.

In the Nov. 13, 2008, wiretapped conversation, Burris told Robert Blagojevich he is interested in being appointed to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. Burris said it would look bad if he directly raised money for the governor’s re-election campaign, but later agreed to “personally do something” such as write a check to the Blagojevich campaign. Burris also suggested having his law partner, Tim Wright, host a fundraiser for the governor rather than do so himself.

However, during damage control today, Burris said he never intended to do any of those things. Burris wants us to believe he is innocent of anything improper because he never got around to doing what he discussed with Robert Blagojevich.

“I did not intend to hold a fundraiser for the governor’s brother,” Burris told Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” “We were seeking to placate the governor’s brother because, at that time, it was my intention not to alienate the governor’s brother. That’s all.”

So … Burris’s defense is that he lied to Robert Blagojevich. Seems the Illinois House impeachment committee, the U.S. Senate’s Democratic leaders, the media and, oh, all Illinois citizens weren’t the only people Burris told lies. Burris lied outright and lied through omission. But at least he’s consistent in his inconsistency.

Of course, Burris read aloud a prepared statement to reporters this morning (which you can find by clicking here) and then got cranky with them after they dared to question his truthfulness.

But it was Burris’s live interview on “Hardball” that really made the senator look bad. As MSNBC political analyst Jim Warren noted, Chris Matthews probably interrogated Burris harder than the U.S. Senate ethics committee did. I’m not sure why Burris agrees to do such interviews, considering he always comes across as a blustery buffoon who doesn’t have his story straight. (You can find the transcript of Matthews’ interview of Burris by clicking here.)

This latest development isn’t going to help Burris’s re-election chances, which weren’t very good to begin with.

“I’m not sure that his campaign fund of $845 is going to see much more money anytime soon,” Chicago Tribune political reporter Rick Pearson said on the WGN Midday News.

A rough election season is the least of Burris’s worries, though. He is being investigated for perjury during his testimony to the Illinois House impeachment committee.

“This is all part of a potential — potential — perjury charge against Burris,” Warren said on “Hardball.” “Does it rise to that level? I’m not sure.

“But what you have here is a guy who is being a 100 percent, unadulterated weasel.”

Chris Matthews disappointed me today. He had U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush as a guest on his MSNBC show, “Hardball,” to talk about whether racial politics are playing a role in the ongoing U.S. Senate saga involving Roland Burris. Ever since embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed Burris to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat, Rush has been saying people must accept Burris as a U.S. Senator because he is black and there otherwise aren’t any blacks in the Senate after Obama resigned his seat.

Matthews and Rush discussed this topic for 10 minutes and the “Hardball” host never asked Rush why race is such an important factor now when it apparently wasn’t as important to Rush five years ago when the congressman endorsed a white man, Blair Hull, instead of  Barack Obama in the 2004 Democratic Senate primary, when there weren’t any African-American senators. The reason why Rush didn’t endorse Obama at that time is because Obama unsuccessfully tried to unseat Rush several years earlier, and Rush was still miffed at Obama. I knew that from reading David Mendell’s excellent biography of the president-elect, Obama: From Promise to Power. Matthews may have known that, too, but that doesn’t excuse his lack of asking the question when TV talking heads often repeat recycled questions. (Listen to any Obama press conference for evidence of that.)

The only person I’ve noticed mention Rush’s endorsement of Hull is Chicago Tribune editorial board member Clarence Page in his newspaper column Sunday. It is disappointing that nobody else in the media has mentioned this, considering how much attention is being devoted to the Burris saga.

Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” reportedly is considering a run for the U.S. Senate.

According to The Patriot-News, a Pennsylvania newspaper,  Matthews met with Pennsylvania Democratic Party officials this week to talk about challenging incumbent Republican Senator Arlen Specter in 2010. Matthews, a Philadelphia native, was a speech writer for President Jimmy Carter and a top aide to former House Speaker Tip O’Neill.

Anyone who watches Matthews on TV knows he has a tendency to babble and interrupt his guests, which makes me think he would come in handy when the Democrats need somebody to deliver a filibuster. Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Democrats will even need to employ that obstructive tactic two years from now. Will the Democrats hold onto power in 2010 or will the Republicans take back some of the legislative seats they lost in the past few years? I suppose the answer to that question will rely heavily on whether the country’s economy improves by then and whether Barack Obama is perceived as having done a good job as president up to that point.