There are a few little flaws in Conor Friedersdorf's righteous chastisement of "Hardball"'s host:
[Chris Matthews] expressed outrage that [Cory] Booker "chose sides" with private equity rather than Obama. He spoke as if he thinks politicians owe greater loyalty to fellow insiders and establishment norms of behavior than to the American people, even if it means misleading the public about their beliefs on the matter at issue....
[Matthews] ought to celebrate all truth-telling, even when it does involve "betraying" partisan loyalties.
I, too, criticized Matthews's Monday performance, although my criticism differed from Friedersdorf's in substance; it centered instead on Matthews's rather generous contribution to cable news's cyclical hysteria. One "Hardball" segment on Booker's exceptionally unorthodox boosterism was only proper, but Matthews's wallowing in the mayor's unsubtle knifing of the president could not be contained in one hour; he felt compelled to add another segment to another live hour. This, I thought, was a bit much. In short, Matthews overdramatized the political consequences of Booker's "MTP" appearance.
But, what the hell. We live in the real world of cable-news obsessions, and Chris Matthews lives in cable's real world of ratings. It seems, however, that Mr. Friedersdorf has checked out of the real world.
I, for one, would not for a minute dare to argue with Friedersdorf's somewhat saccharine pronouncement that politicians owe "greater loyalty ... to the American people" than to "fellow insiders and establishment norms of behavior." Oh my, how gauche that would be, indeed. But here's what Friedersdorf seems to have missed in Cory Booker's virtuous presentation: the greatest loyalty that Booker displayed was that only to himself. He sees himself as much more than Newark's mayor someday, and to achieve his goals he needs cash, and that cash will come--by hook, crook, or even betrayal of both the president and (some would say) "the American people"--from Wall Street bagmen.
But hey, that's the real world, too. When self-advancement is involved, betrayal is the mother's bile of politics. Yet was Matthews really wrong in asking--or insisting--that the president's supporters, when on-air, actually support the president? In terms of authentic political honor, would Booker not have possessed more if he had subordinated his interests to the president's? And did Booker's conflation of the private equity and Jeremiah Wright attacks not corrupt his self-interested betrayal from the get-go? Finally, was it not Booker himself who was "misleading the public about [his] beliefs"--that is, his motives?
Should not Booker, too, "celebrate all truth-telling"?