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Response to PCIntern (Reply #17)

Wed Apr 15, 2020, 10:26 PM

19. I looked it up, he did gush over Bush then, but the thrill up his leg statement was about Obama

Still Tingling: The 10th Anniversary of Chris Matthews’s ‘Thrill' Up the Leg


As tough as journalists are on Donald Trump, it’s hard to believe they ever loved a president as much as Barack Obama. Somehow, it’s now been a full decade since Chris Matthews announced his famous “thrill” up the leg. Provoked by Obama’s speeches during the 2008 Democratic primaries, the MSNBC host prompted ten years of mockery for the fawning comment.

What isn’t known by many is the back story behind the sycophantic remark, the comment’s little-known prequel and just how irritated Matthews gets when called on the remark. At 10:13pm on February 12, 2008, after Obama won primaries in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C., the Hardball host reacted this way:

now in the interest of fairness, he was an absolute asshole over Bush, for sure

Mission Accomplished: A look back at the media's fawning coverage of Bush's premature declaration of victory in Iraq



Chief among the cheerleaders was MSNBC's Chris Matthews. On the May 1, 2003, edition of Hardball, Matthews was joined in his effusive praise of Bush by right-wing pundit Ann Coulter and “Democrat” Pat Caddell. Former U.S. Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-CA) also appeared on the program.:

MATTHEWS: What's the importance of the president's amazing display of leadership tonight?


MATTHEWS: What do you make of the actual visual that people will see on TV and probably, as you know, as well as I, will remember a lot longer than words spoken tonight? And that's the president looking very much like a jet, you know, a high-flying jet star. A guy who is a jet pilot. Has been in the past when he was younger, obviously. What does that image mean to the American people, a guy who can actually get into a supersonic plane and actually fly in an unpressurized cabin like an actual jet pilot?


MATTHEWS: Do you think this role, and I want to talk politically [...], the president deserves everything he's doing tonight in terms of his leadership. He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics. Do you think he is defining the office of the presidency, at least for this time, as basically that of commander in chief? That [...] if you're going to run against him, you'd better be ready to take [that] away from him.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Bob Dornan, you were a congressman all those years. Here's a president who's really nonverbal. He's like Eisenhower. He looks great in a military uniform. He looks great in that cowboy costume he wears when he goes West. I remember him standing at that fence with Colin Powell. Was [that] the best picture in the 2000 campaign?


MATTHEWS: Ann Coulter, you're the first to speak tonight on the buzz. The president's performance tonight, redolent of the best of Reagan -- what do you think?

COULTER: It's stunning. It's amazing. I think it's huge. I mean, he's landing on a boat at 150 miles per hour. It's tremendous. It's hard to imagine any Democrat being able to do that. And it doesn't matter if Democrats try to ridicule it. It's stunning, and it speaks for itself.

MATTHEWS: Pat Caddell, the president's performance tonight on television, his arrival on ship?

CADDELL: Well, first of all, Chris, the -- I think that -- you know, I was -- when I first heard about it, I was kind of annoyed. It sounded like the kind of PR stunt that Bill Clinton would pull. But and then I saw it. And you know, there's a real -- there's a real affection between him and the troops.


MATTHEWS: The president there -- look at this guy! We're watching him. He looks like he flew the plane. He only flew it as a passenger, but he's flown --

CADDELL: He looks like a fighter pilot.

MATTHEWS: He looks for real. What is it about the commander in chief role, the hat that he does wear, that makes him -- I mean, he seems like -- he didn't fight in a war, but he looks like he does.

CADDELL: Yes. It's a -- I don't know. You know, it's an internal thing. I don't know if you can put it into words. [...] You can see it with him and the troops, the ease with which he talks to them. I was amazed by that, frankly, because as I said, I was originally appalled, particularly when I heard he was going in an F-18. But -- on there -- but the -- but you know, that was --

MATTHEWS: Look at this guy!

CADDELL: -- was hard not to be moved by their reaction to him and his reaction to them and --

MATTHEWS: You know, Ann --

CADDELL: -- you know, they -- it's a quality. It's an innate quality. It's a real quality.

MATTHEWS: I know. I think you're right.

Later that day, on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Matthews said:

MATTHEWS: We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like [former President Bill] Clinton or even like [former Democratic presidential candidates Michael] Dukakis or [Walter] Mondale, all those guys, [George] McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits. We don't want an indoor prime minister type, or the Danes or the Dutch or the Italians, or a [Russian Federation President Vladimir] Putin. Can you imagine Putin getting elected here? We want a guy as president.

On the May 7, 2003, edition of Hardball, Matthews asked former Nixon administration official G. Gordon Liddy what he thought of the response to Bush's landing on the Abraham Lincoln. Looking at the footage, Liddy commented that Bush's flight suit made “the best of his manly characteristic.” From the May 7 Hardball:

MATTHEWS: What do you make of this broadside against the USS Abraham Lincoln and its chief visitor last week?

LIDDY: Well, I -- in the first place, I think it's envy. I mean, after all, Al Gore had to go get some woman to tell him how to be a man. And here comes George Bush. You know, he's in his flight suit, he's striding across the deck, and he's wearing his parachute harness, you know -- and I've worn those because I parachute -- and it makes the best of his manly characteristic. You go run those -- run that stuff again of him walking across there with the parachute. He has just won every woman's vote in the United States of America. You know, all those women who say size doesn't count -- they're all liars. Check that out. I hope the Democrats keep ratting on him and all of this stuff so that they keep showing that tape.

MATTHEWS: You know, it's funny. I shouldn't talk about ratings. I don't always pay attention to them, but last night was a riot because, at the very time [U.S. Rep.] Henry Waxman [D-CA] was on -- and I do respect him on legislative issues -- he was on blasting away, and these pictures were showing last night, and everybody's tuning in to see these pictures again.




That episode alone is more than enough to cancel out several careers’ worth of opposition to the war, but not only didn’t it stop there, it also didn’t start there. Before the Iraq invasion, before the vote on the Iraq resolution, Matthews was already signaling how he would deal with the real critics of the war. In an interview with Phil Donahue, Matthews slammed his then-MSNBC host for “making fun” of those who supported the invasion, and chalked that support up to a “patriotic impulse”:

Donahue was fired for being too critical of the war, while Matthews went on to succeed as a cheerleader for Bush’s costume party, and for the Iraqi election that put Nouri al Maliki in power, which Matthews thought might land Dubya on Mount Rushmore:

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LineLineLineLineLineReply I looked it up, he did gush over Bush then, but the thrill up his leg statement was about Obama
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