Monday, November 23, 2009

Noncommital About Sarah

If Chris Matthews displays a marked preference for Republicans over Democrats- and he does- he still is, at times, the best poltical interviewer on television. The following is from the transcript of Hardball on November 29, 2009 (video) as they were discussing The Quitting Governor:

MATTHEWS: Is she qualified to be president?

BARBOUR: Well, constitutionally, she sure is.

I will tell you, now, Chris, she‘s a lot brighter than she gets credit for. I served as governor with her for several years. I mentioned earlier, when it came to energy policy, she is very well informed, very experienced.

I mean, she was in Alaska and I was in Mississippi, and I would just see her at meetings, but I never had anything but a very positive impression of her. Still do.

MATTHEWS: The latest “Washington”—The latest “Washington Post”/ABC poll has it that 60 percent of the people say that she‘s not qualified to be president.

Are you with the 60 percent or with the 38 percent who say she is?

BARBOUR: Well, I have been in the minority a lot in my life. You know, I was...


MATTHEWS: I mean, if I were polling you, if I were polling you on the phone right now, and I called you up on the phone, Governor, and I managed to get through to your mansion down there on—in Jackson, and I managed to get you on the phone, and I said, you‘re just a regular person. Is this woman qualified to be president or not? And you would have to be one of the people who would respond. Or you could hang up on me.

Are you going to hang up on me, Governor?


BARBOUR: I‘m not going to hang up on you. I was a Republican in Mississippi in 1968, Chris, so I‘m not unused—unaccustomed to being in the minority. I don‘t know anything that disqualifies her for being president. Do I think she is the best presidential candidate that we might have? Well, let‘s see who all runs. But right now, the good news is I don‘t have to make that decision. What I have to make a decision is how can I best help elect more Republican governors in 2010.

MATTHEWS: So you‘re going to dodge that one, right? You‘re not going to tell me whether she‘s qualified or not tonight on HARDBALL here. We ask questions like this, Governor. That‘s why we like having you on so we can ask you these questions. Is Governor Palin qualified to be president? And I won‘t ask it again. This is the last time.

BARBOUR: And the last time I answer it will be this, I don‘t know of anything that disqualifies her from being president. I think that‘s what I told you a while ago, and you wouldn‘t take that for an answer.

MATTHEWS: Well, I have to take it now.

Haley Barbour, for his own reason(s), doesn't want to be quoted acknowledging Sarah Palin is not qualified for the presidency or conceding that she is qualified. It's highly unlikely that Barbour reads The New Republic, but his strategy seems grounded in a cautionary tale in the article "Running Against Sarah" appearing fourteen months ago. One of the individuals Seyward Darby spoke to was Loren Leman, who had been a State Senator in Alaska but would only narrowly defeat in a primary the mayor of Wasilla. Leman said

she was savvy in creating “gotcha” moments. In a private conversation months before the primary for lieutenant governor, Leman said he told Palin she would be good for the job. (He was considering running for governor and broached the possibility of her running as his second-in-command.) After both Leman and Palin decided to run for the same position, Palin asked him in a public debate if he had ever said she would make a good lieutenant governor. “I’m sure it was all calculated out to get me to admit that I said it or to deny that I said it, which would catch me in a political fib,” Leman said. “She was going to come out of that exchange with a little plus, which she was looking for. She needed credibility.”

There is little chance that Barbour, a highly shrewd politician, was blindsided by any question posed about the qualifications of the former Republican vice-presidential nominee. And so Matthews got it right when he observed on the following day's episode of Hardball:

Smart guy, Haley Barbour. There‘s a reason why he didn‘t say she is qualified. And we are going to find that out someday.


Next: Not for the first time, Matthews gets it right- exactly- about abortion.

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