The Corner

Chris Matthews’ Memory Problem

Steve Hayward has a good post at that other site about Chris Matthews’ gauzy nostalgia for the days when Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan got along so swimmingly. Steve notes it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows:

 

Matthews seems to forget or gloss over the fact that the “tone” of public discourse in the 1980s was just as bad as today.  For example, here’s a public comment from O’Neill about Reagan that seems not to be in Matthews’s archive:

“The evil is in the White House at the present time.  And that evil is a man who has no care and no concern for the working class of America and the future generations of America, and who likes to ride a horse. He’s cold.  He’s mean. He’s got ice water for blood.”

That’s just a warm up. Democratic Congressman William Clay of Missouri charged that Reagan was “trying to replace the Bill of Rights with fascist precepts lifted verbatim from Mein Kampf.”  Who can forget the desperate Jimmy Carter charging that Reagan was engaging in “stirrings of hate” in the 1980s campaign.  Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad drew a panel depicting Reagan plotting a fascist putsch in a darkened Munich beer hall.   Harry Stein (nowadays a conservative convert) wrote in Esquire that the voters who supported Reagan were like the “good Germans” in “Hitler’s Germany.”  In The Nation, Alan Wolfe wrote: “[T]he United States has embarked on a course so deeply reactionary, so negative and mean-spirited, so chauvinistic and self-deceptive that our times may soon rival the McCarthy era.”

Of course, Matthews’ memory is not what it once was.

Recall, how he recently claimed that Rush Limbaugh’s use of the word “regime” was unprecedented in American politics. “I’ve never seen language like this in the American press,” Matthews huffed. “We know that word, ‘regime.’ It was used by George Bush, ‘regime change.’ You go to war with regimes. Regimes are tyrannies. They’re juntas. They’re military coups. The use of the word ‘regime’ in American political parlance is unacceptable, and someone should tell [Limbaugh] to stop using it.”

 

As Byron York noted (and has been widely discussed around here) references to the “Bush regime” were routine when Bush was president. Indeed, Matthews himself used the term. (For the record, I don’t like the use of the word “regime” to describe administrations, and that’s been my position for years).

Meanwhile, I learned from Twitter last night that Chris Matthews now claims that the phrase “take back America” is novel,  ominous, perhaps even racist.  Perhaps an intern can print this out for him.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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