Mathews on Obama: 'Thank you, now watch how smart I am.'
ALEX WITT, HOST: You say, “Nations die or thrive on the ability and judgment of their leaders to stir them at perilous times.” Does Barack Obama have that ability to pass the proper judgment, to properly analyze and to stir this nation?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, he has great analytical ability. Clearly has made the right judgments in his executive leadership. He has moved us very effectively in self-defense in fighting terrorism. I'm not sure he's able to move the country. He had that ability as a candidate, and then the day he was inaugurated, with the Mall filled with people, African-Americans and everyone else, he sent us all home. It was the worst mistake of his presidency. The day he got inaugurated, he sent us all home and said, “Thank you, now watch how smart I am.” That's the worst kind of a notion of the presidency.
The presidency's not about being smart. Most of our great presidents have not been that brilliant. Kennedy wasn’t brilliant. Roosevelt certainly wasn’t brilliant. Truman wasn’t. But what they did was they lead the American people. They lead us. This is so simple. If I could say one thing to Barack Obama, “Stop showing us how smart you are and lead us. Ask us to do something. Pull us behind you. Enlist us in the service of our country. Ask us to do something." There is no Peace Corps. There is no Special Forces. There is no 50 mile hikes. There’s no moon program. There’s nothing to root for.
What are we trying to do in this administration? Why does he want a second term? Would he tell us? What's he going to do in the second term? More of this? Is this it? Is this as good as it gets? Where are we going? Are we going to do something the second term? He has yet to tell us. He has not said one thing about what he would do in the second term. He never tells us what he is going to do with reforming our healthcare systems, Medicare, Medicaid, how is going to reform Social Security. Is he going to deal with long-term debt? How? Is he going to reform the tax system? How? Just tell us. Why are we in this fight with him? Just tell us, Commander, give us our orders and tell us where we’re going, give us the mission. And he hasn't done it.
And I think it's the people around him, too many people around, they’re little kids with propellers on their heads. They're all virtual. Politics, this social networking, I get these e-mails, you probably get them. I'm tired of getting them. Stop giving them to me. I want to meet people. Their idea of running a campaign is a virtual universe of sending e-mails around to people. No it's not. It's meetings with people, it’s forging alliances. It's White House meetings and dinner parties that go on till midnight, and he should be sitting late at night now with senators and members of Congress and governors working together on how they're going to win this political fight that's coming.
I don't have a sense that he's ever had a meeting. I hear stories that you will not believe. Not a single phone call since the last election.
WITT: Tell me one.
MATTHEWS: They don't call. He never calls. That's the, that’s the message. Members of Congress, I keep asking, “When did you hear from him last?”
MATTHEWS: He doesn't like their company.
WITT: You've just…
MATTHEWS: That's a problem, by the way.
WITT: You're just giving a bunch of contradictions in terms of the differences between Jack Kennedy and Barack Obama. Are there comparisons?
WITT: Right, differences…
MATTHEWS: Well, they’re both young, they’re both very well-educated, they’re both idealistic, they’re both incredibly well spoken, articulate, whatever the word is. They have a great sense of poetry. They know how to say the right things about our country. Obama is wonderfully skilled at evoking what America’s all about. I think he's great at it. He thrills me when he does it. In fact, that's one of the reasons I was inspired by him. He talked about our country. He evokes our country from his background. But once having won the office he seemed to think that that was the end of it in terms of his connection to the American people.
Don't you feel, I think everybody feels an absence of communication from the time he's been elected. And it's not about not being left-wing enough or too left. That's not his problem. It's connection. And Mrs. Obama, she's an amazing asset. And what has she done? Obesity? How about connecting with the American people about being Americans? I don't think she's, I don't think she's happy. I don't think they like being in the White House. The American people can tell that. They don't seem thrilled at the fact the American people have selected them as our first family. I don't sense the gratitude, the happiness level, the thrill of being president. Bill Clinton loved being president every minute and you knew it.
WITT: You did get that sense.
MATTHEWS: And that's what the American people liked. They like knowing their President's happy.