In a contentious segment on “Hardball” tonight, host Chris Matthews accused Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and his conservative allies of “taking off your uniforms,” pretending they’re not Republicans, and running against President Bush. “I’m not going to let anyone get away with that kind of foolery,” Matthews said. He asked Cantor at least five times whether he supported the job Bush is doing — and all five times Cantor refused to answer.
Noting that a “normal president” would be more visible during such a crisis, Matthews compared Bush’s response to the current financial turmoil to his handling of Hurricane Katrina:
MATTHEWS: I’m just asking you where’s the President of the United States tonight? You got Paulson out there. Where’s the President? He’s pulling one of these Katrinas again. Where is he? The country’s worried like hell when you lose this amount of value in the wealth of this country in a matter of days. You’d think the President would come on television and explain the situation to the American people. I’m just asking where he is. That’s all I’m asking.
CANTOR: Chris, you’ll have to ask — I don’t know where he is. I assume he’s in the White House.
Matthews was visibly frustrated, telling Cantor, “You have to take responsibility, sir, for the policies of this Administration that have gotten us into this mess. You can’t walk away and say, Oh we had nothing to do with this, can you? Say it if you want to. It’s your right.”
Matthews noted Cantor’s refusal to even mention the President: “You haven’t used the word Republican tonight, your party didn’t use it in the acceptance speech,” he said. “John McCain never said the word Republican, he never said the word Bush. You’re trying to take off your uniforms and run from the field of political battle and claim you’re not Republicans.” The GOP steered clear from both Bush and Cheney at their convention last month, mentioning Bush only once and never mentioning Cheney.