Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC’s “Hardball” has been in politics for decades, as an operative and then a talking head. He worked for President Jimmy Carter when the hapless man from Georgia was trounced by Ronald Reagan.
Matthews was an aid to Speaker Tip O’Neil when Reagan did battle with him for the future of the American republic. He is the author of several books and has seen quite a few of the ebb and flow of American politics.
So one has to imagine how Matthews, seeing Sen Bernie Sanders romp through the Nevada Caucuses, winning a smashing victory, came to conclude that Bernie’s win was like an important campaign during World War II.
Real Clear Politics explains that as Matthews was talking to Brian Williams, the disgraced former NBC anchorman, he compared Bernie’s Nevada victory to the Nazi invasion of France.
As it turned out, the comparison was unfortunate, though some have pointed out that liberals always compare politicians they don’t like to Nazis. But Bernie was the first man of the left to have been given that label.
While some of the Bernie Bros have the same kind of violent tendencies that the Brownshirts exhibited in the 1930s and something like Medicare for All, as Jonah Goldberg pointed out in “Liberal Fascism,” was part of the Nazi platform, somewhere down from genocide and world war, Matthews was seen as being overwrought. The calls for him to apologize or even resign came fast and furious, even within Matthews’ own network.
The Daily Beast reports that Anand Giridharadas, an MSNBC analyst, was triggered by Matthews’ observation.
“Why is Chris Matthews on this air talking about the victory [of] Bernie Sanders, who had kin murdered in the Holocaust, analogizing it to the Nazi conquest of France?”
IfNotNow, a left-wing Jewish group, was even more direct about Matthews’ analogy, according to Newsweek.
“The second time in as many weeks that an MSNBC commentator has used Nazi comparisons when talking about @BernieSanders, a Jewish candidate with a family that was murdered in the Holocaust. We demand an apology from @HardballChris — and we’re still waiting for @chucktodd’s apology.”
Social media rang with calls for Matthews to resign or otherwise be removed from his network position.
Matthews’s reaction to Sanders’s establishment as a front runner for the Democratic nomination for president could be seen as curious if one did not know of his political history. But Matthews, while a conventional liberal, has been known to stray from leftwing doctrine from time to time.
He criticized then-President Bill Clinton’s behavior during the impeachment crisis of the late 1990s. Matthews thus gained a temporary reputation of a liberal capable of turning on his own side. He even got a guest host gig on the Rush Limbaugh Show and claims he voted for George W. Bush in 2000.
Still, Matthews seems to have violated Godwin’s Law, which states that the first person in an argument to bring up Hitler or the Nazis has lost the argument. The theory is that the Nazis were so uniquely murderous that no one else in modern politics comes close. Stalin and Mao might be considered exceptions to that rule.
Ironically, Sanders himself provided an analogy that might have fitted better, in a “60 Minutes” interview that took place after the Nevada Caucuses. Fox News quotes the presidential candidate.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”
In other words, everyone Castro sent to the firing squad, imprisoned, or obliged to flee to Miami, at least could read. It is the rough equivalent of a 1930s apologist for fascism claiming that at least the trains run on time.
It’s this sort of thing that makes conventional liberals like Chris Matthews nervous to distraction. Sanders can write off Florida from the very start. Most pundits suggest that the attack ads write themselves.
So, Matthews might have said that Bernie Sanders was like Fidel Castro coming down from the Sierra Maestra and would have been a little closer to the bullseye. He would certainly be more immune to criticism.