MSNBC’s Hardball host Chris Matthews is still solidly in President Obama’s camp, but he has become increasingly frustrated in recent weeks with the Obama campaign’s repeated missteps. Last Friday night was a recent expression of Matthews’ frustration, as he questioned guests Nia–Malika Henderson of The Washington Post and Joan Walsh of Salon.
Matthews asked Henderson why Obama is talking so much about his jobs bill even though it would have little impact on the overall economy, and why so little about what Matthews thinks were the President’s more successful programs, like the stimulus, the auto bailout and health care.
Matthews: The economy is 15 trillion dollars in this country. It’s suffered from a low growth rate this year of less than 2%. He thinks he can goose that up with a jobs bill that’s 140 billion? That’s less than like a half percent of our economy. If he got every nickel of this, he’d be moving the economy by a little less than half a percent. Why does he go for something so small bore that even if the Republicans said, “Go ahead, take it!” it wouldn’t make much of a difference? And they’re never going to say, “Take it” ever. Let me go to over to Nia with us. Do you have any way to analyze this thinking, this small bore thinking?
Henderson: I think the problem is, if he goes big, he’s going to be easily framed as a big-spending liberal.
Matthews: Well he is. What’s wrong with that? He is a liberal. And they need to spend big.
Henderson: And they’re going to talk about the stimulus bill, the 800 billion dollar stimulus bill, and say—
Matthews: You can’t help who you are. They’re going to go after the stimulus right away.
Henderson: That didn’t quite work. And I think that’s what he’s—but I also think he has never been the big full loaf guy. He’s always been the half loaf. You’re saying he’s more—
Matthews: Half a loaf? Less than one half of one percent. Okay, here’s my problem. There is a stimulus bill that’s on the record. There is a health care bill that’s on the record. There is an auto rescue plan that’s on the record. The question now is whether you sell it and believe in it and move on.
The problem is that everything Matthews mentioned — the stimulus, health care and the auto rescue, as he calls it — have mostly negative connotations attached to them these days, particularly the stimulus and health care. By promoting these “accomplishments,” Obama might help himself some with liberal voters, but he could hurt himself with the independent voters he will need to win re-election.
As for the jobs bill, Matthews may be right about the effect on the economy, especially since it focuses more on public sector rather than private sector employment. But Obama has spent so much time and energy on this proposal that he can ill afford to just drop it this close to an election. His tactic of blaming the Republicans for blocking it doesn’t appear to have resonated very much with voters.
Matthews still clings to the liberal idea that the economy will get a boost from more government spending. But we have had three plus years of that and all we have to show for it are the largest deficits in our history, a more than $15 trillion national debt, millions of people unemployed, underemployed or withdrawn from the job market, and the prospect of a double dip recession, to name but a few.
That’s the true record of Obama’s economic policy and even Matthews can’t spin his way out of that one.