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Chris Matthews: braying donkey or impassioned truth-teller?

Note to self: don't immerse yourself in politics on this site because it's a no-win exercise. You'll either be dismissed as a right-wing nut or commie pinko by dug-in partisans from both sides.

But I've crumpled up that memo and thrown it away because the spectacle of Chris Matthews again is too irresistible to ignore.

Most politicos know by now that Matthews bull-dozed his way through GOP national chairman Reince Priebus Monday on MSNBC's Morning Joe. In no uncertain terms, he kept telling Priebus that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is wantonly playing the race card on the issues of both President Obama's birthplace and his stance on welfare reform. And he, Chris Matthews, is damned tired of it.

The hosts of Morning Joe -- Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski -- didn't try to hide their embarrassment. Guest Tom Brokaw looked a little queasy, too. Matthews kept going, of course. Any valid points he may have made as usual were drowned out by the sound of his own bellicose voice. The kind of voice that thrills him no end. The kind of voice that police should play on an endless loop whenever they need a holed-up bad guy to surrender without any further resistance.

Matthews' comportment on Morning Joe resumed on his Monday edition of Hardball. And that's when he met his match in -- of all people -- Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich, as big a media baiter as Matthews is a grandstander, made a very telling point when MSNBC's Great White Father kept insisting that Romney's welfare reform riffs were thinly disguised attacks against America's black people.

"Why do you assume food stamps refer to blacks?" Gingrich asked him. "What kind of racist thinking do you have?" He also told Matthews that most food stamp recipients in fact are white.

Matthews first resurrected Ronald Reagan's 1976 campaign comments on "welfare queens." Then came his big finish: "You've got that diabolic(sic) smile of yours," he informed Gingrich. "And I know you think you're winning. But everybody out there who's black or white knows exactly the game that's being played here."


A number of websites openly supporting the re-election of President Obama decry the stereotyping of blacks as welfare cheats or welfare "queens." In fact they cite census bureau statistics to the contrary that say whites comprise the majority of food stamp recipients.

So if you're an African-American, shouldn't Matthews' contention be seen as insulting? Is he championing blacks, as he so grandly proclaims? Or is he dumping blacks into the same old hopper while at the same time railing against Republicans for race-baiting?

Matthews is no dummy. Just ask him. But he's also a consummate blowhard, self-aggrandizer and serial chauvinist who was depicted as such in a devastating 2008 cover story in The New York Times Magazine.

So my problem with Matthews again is the messenger. Namely him. He lectures, he bullies, he interrupts -- all in the interests of the greater glory of Chris Matthews. Sometimes he cuts through the B.S. But he's your worst enemy as an advocate because he keeps doing it so artlessly.

Those who think I've got a political ax to grind should know that I think roughly the same of Sean Hannity. Or Ed Schultz. Or the idiots on Fox and Friends. Increasingly thanks to Fox News Channel and MSNBC, we're becoming a country divided to the point of no return. But in the view of the people who run these networks, this is a "good business plan." Pure and simple.

There are ways to ask sharp, pointed questions. Matthews asks not. He mostly filibusters and makes an ass of himself. And then he cites those who say they love his courage and how he practices "real journalism" while others shy away from confrontation.

Ted Koppel practiced real journalism during the glory days of Nightline. Chris Matthews is no more than a gaudy neon "Live Nude Girls" sign in comparison.