Matthews mischaracterized Obama’s position on ethics reform as, “I’m not dealing with you anymore in a bipartisan fashion.” He claimed that “people will learn a lot from this about…the way in which Obama treated you.” Finally, he asked McCain, “Do you think that Obama is behaving like a House member here rather than a Senator?” Watch it:
Full transcript below:
MATTHEWS: It seems to me looking at the exchange of letters between yourself and Senator Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois, that you initially put together a bipartisan effort, and then he withdrew from the deal and then told you in no uncertain terms, “I’m not dealing with you anymore in a bipartisan fashion. I’m going to go off and do this as a Democrat.”
MCCAIN: Well, I had a conversation with Senator Obama, and he said that was not his intention. But the way I read the letter, after I heard from the press that it was on its way, that indeed that that was the case, including touting Senator Reid’s [ethics reform] proposal, which has no Republican sponsors and will not. And we all know that we have to work together, and so I responded, and Senator Obama and I had a conversation, and we agreed to move on.
MATTHEWS: Do you stand by your letter back to Senator Obama?
MATTHEWS: Well, let’s take a look at it, because I think the people will learn a lot from this about — I know you’re being nice now — but the way in which Obama treated you. The first line of the letter: “I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere.” You’re basically saying what here?
MCCAIN: I’m saying that I believe that his efforts were sincere at the time. The letter that I received contradicted that, at least my reading of it, and I don’t know how you read it any other way, and so therefore I — that’s exactly what I said. It was a little straight talk, Chris. [Laughter]
MATTHEWS: Well, more here: “I concluded your professed concern for the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions.” You’re saying to the guy, I thought you were a gentleman and a civil servant, and now you’re obviously not. [Laughter]
MCCAIN: Well, I thought it was pretty well written, didn’t you? [Laughter]
MATTHEWS: I think it was tough. Let me ask you, I know I love to do — you know, Senator, I have to do this now. Ken Mehlman, the chairman of your party, has gone after Hillary Clinton for being angry, as if there’s something wrong with it. This is a letter of a very sophisticated, angry senator. What’s wrong with being angry?
MCCAIN: I’m not angry.
MATTHEWS: This letter is brilliantly angry.
MCCAIN: I wasn’t angry when I wrote it. Look, I wrote the letter because I was very disappointed in the letter that I received from Senator Obama, and was told to me by the press. Look, this is a pressing issue. We have to move forward in a bipartisan fashion. You know and I know that the only way you resolve one of these issues is in a bipartisan fashion, so that’s why I felt strongly about it. In the room were Senator Collins, the Chairperson of the Oversight Committee, and Senator Lieberman, and we had all agreed to move forward with her committee as quickly as possible. And there was reference in the letter to a task force, that frankly we had committed to moving forward with the committee process.
MATTHEWS: You know, I worked on the Hill for many years. I used to notice there was a big difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate was bipartisan by its nature, it was people who found common ground where they could and didn’t waste a lot of time. The House of Representatives was mainly about taking party positions and seeing who won. Do you think that Obama is behaving like a House member here rather than a Senator?
MCCAIN: I hope not. I hope that he made a mistake and we can move forward.