Another Frightened Republican
The date was May 12, 2010 when Chris Matthews on Hardball first challenged any Republican to come on the air and disagree with Rush Limbaugh. Matthews reiterated (video below) the challenge two days later. Thirty-nine days after that- on the 43rd day since his gracious offer- Matthews interviewed U.S. Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Here is the transcript, from June 22, 2010:
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, as we reported, a federal judge blocked President Obama‘s six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.
Joining me right now is Congressman Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana.
Congressman, I have to ask you this. Here‘s Rush Limbaugh on the Joe Barton comment today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It was a shakedown, pure and simple. And somebody had the audacity to call it what it was, and now everybody is running for the hills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was yesterday, actually, but it‘s been 42 days now since we have been asking Republican members of Congress to stand up and say Rush Limbaugh doesn‘t speak for the Republican Party.
Congressman Scalise, here‘s your chance. Is it Rush Limbaugh or your leadership that is right on Joe Barton?
REP. STEVE SCALISE ®, LOUISIANA: Well, first of all, Joe Barton has apologized. I spoke with him the other day. And I accept his apology.
What frustrates me is that you still don‘t see the sense of urgency from this administration. And they have got the legal responsibility to direct the efforts on the ground. And they‘re just not doing it. That is what angers people back home in South Louisiana, where I just came back from over just earlier today.
MATTHEWS: Well, my job is to ask these questions. Do you think that Rush Limbaugh is right, it was a shakedown? Is he and Barton right? Or is the leadership right in saying it was wrong to apologize on the part of the Republican Party to BP?
SCALISE: Well, unfortunately, I didn‘t get the opportunity to listen to his show. I like his show. I think he offers a lot of good, interesting commentary.
But the bottom line is, when you look at what‘s not happening on the ground—and our local leaders will tell you, just the other day, we had vacuum barges that were sent back to the docks by the Coast Guard, and they gave absolutely no reason why those barges, which would have been sucking up oil, that would have prevented oil from getting into our marsh, were sent back to the docks.
It—spent over a day where the Coast Guard gave absolutely no explanation. And the federal government, still to this day, won‘t tell us who is in charge when problems go on the ground like they‘re doing just two, three days ago. I mean, this is inexcusable. We cannot afford these kinds of delays.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the big news that the federal government has asked BP to set aside a $20 billion escrow account? Some Republicans like Joe Barton have said that that‘s a shakedown, that that is wrong, it‘s a slush fund.
Rush Limbaugh agrees with that point of view. Your party leadership doesn‘t. Who speaks for you, your party leadership on that point or Rush Limbaugh on that point? Who is your leader?
SCALISE: Well, Chris, I speak for myself. And John Boehner is the Republican leader. But if you look at what‘s going on out there, we haven‘t been given any details on how this money is going to be spent. I sure hope it doesn‘t become some kind of a slush fund where Washington bureaucrats spend the money on things that aren‘t related to people on the ground.
My main concern is that the money gets into the hands of those people who are affected.
MATTHEWS: How is that, wait a minute. What is that—what is that attack you‘re making here? First of all, will you answer the question? Is Rush Limbaugh right here or wrong?
SCALISE: Well, again, I didn‘t listen to his comments earlier, Chris. But what I‘ve said is, I want real transparency and accountability with the money.
MATTHEWS: He called it a shakedown. Is it a shakedown?
SCALISE: I wasn‘t in the meetings, Chris. But, I mean, again, where is the money going to be spent?
MATTHEWS: Why are you guys—why is everybody in the Republican Party afraid of Limbaugh, a radio talk show host? When he says something totally contradictive to your party leadership, can‘t you say, “I‘m with the party leadership”?
SCALISE: Of course, I speak for myself. I told you who I speak for, and that‘s myself. Nobody else speaks for me. And ultimately, I‘m trying to solve problems on the ground and they‘re still not getting fixed.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Just to make it simple. Rush Limbaugh does not speak for you on the issue whether BP was shaken down or not?
SCALISE: No, he doesn‘t speak for me. I speak for myself.
SCALISE: But ultimately, I‘m going to continue fighting to try to make sure that the money gets into the hands of those people who are affected, and many of them still have not gotten help. But ultimately, that our leaders get the help they need on the ground, to get the oil out of our marsh. And they‘re not going a good enough job at that right now.
MATTHEWS: What don‘t you like about the decisions of an escrow account? You‘re accusing the administration of taking the money and putting it into some sort of political patronage fund. What makes you believe that the administration will decide where that money goes? Where did you get that idea?
SCALISE: Well, Chris, first, I‘ve never made that accusation. What I‘ve said is—
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re saying it.
SCALISE: I‘ve asked to find out where that money is going to go, how it‘s going to be spent. I think even the guy running the fund over the weekend wouldn‘t really tell anybody how it‘s going to be set up. So, ultimately, when you‘re talking about $20 billion that‘s supposed to go for people in the Gulf Coast who are affected by this oil spill, I think we all want to make sure that it‘s spent helping those people whose way of life right now is destroyed.
I don‘t think people want to see that wasted on government bureaucracy here in Washington. It needs to get to the hands of people on the ground.
MATTHEWS: Well, whose—who said 1 cent of it is going to a bureaucracy in Washington? Who says that? Where do you get that idea from that you‘re concerned about?
SCALISE: I‘ve never said—well, I never said I‘ve got the idea.
I said I want to make sure that doesn‘t happen because no one will tell us.
MATTHEWS: Well, what makes you think it would happen? Why are you going after a straw man—a red herring here?
SCALISE: -- because it‘s happened before.
MATTHEWS: Where has it happened before?
SCALISE: -- to Social Security trust fund—
MATTHEWS: Oh, here we go. This is—
SCALISE: -- everyday on things that have nothing to do with Social Security. I want to make sure that fund gets in the hands of people who deserve it. And no one told us what that money is going to be used for yet. I think we deserved that answer.
MATTHEWS: In other words, you are using—this is just—this is just pure, pure partisan politics, what you‘re doing here.
SCALISE: You know, Chris, I don‘t know why you‘re not concerned where the $20 billion is going to go.
MATTHEWS: Because you‘re attacking something that‘s never happened. It‘s never happened with this. You think BP is going to make some checks out, to what, welfare recipients, or are they going to make checks out to people who have legal claims against them?
SCALISE: Do you know? Because right now, we‘re not seeing the stuff getting down—
MATTHEWS: Because the only way they‘re going to spend a nickel is if their own fiduciary responsibility allows them to make payments which could only be the people with legal claims against them.
SCALISE: So, you‘re telling me that BP is going to run this fund?
Who‘s going to run the fund, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Apparently, it‘s going to be run—
SCALISE: I don‘t know if you know that. I sure don‘t. I‘d like to know. I think the people on the Gulf Coast have a right to know.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, you‘re accusation—
MATTHEWS: OK. Right. Well, that‘s fair enough. It‘s just—it‘s just pure politics. Thank you, Congressman Steve Scalise for joining us now.
Matthews at his worst can be very bad. Matthews at his best, however, can be extraordinary, as he was here. Seven times (as italicized) the host gave the Louisianan an opportunity to repudiate the de facto leader of the Republican Party, or at least say that he didn't completely agree with him. Scalise could manage only a lame (but slick) "No, he doesn't speak for me. I speak for myself." This apparently satisfied Limbaugh, who on June 23 devoted a segment to the Matthews-Scalise confrontation and, tingle up his leg, pronounced himself a Scalise fan:
go, go, go Steve Scalise. The easy thing would be, under that onslaught -- I mean you got spittle and everything else coming out of Matthews' mouth there. He's foaming! The easy thing would be to say, "Uh, yeah, Limbaugh is a little off the beaten path," and Matthews would have been thrilled! I mean, that would have made his last six weeks! This is what he's been looking for. Scalise wouldn't give it to him and it ruined his whole show.
This response proved Chris Matthews' point. No one, but no one in the GOP questions Chairman Rush Limbaugh- and lives not to apologize for it.
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