Was My Blog Post Fodder for Meet The Press?

Well, I never did get a reaction from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews after I e-mailed my questions to one of his Hardball producers last week, but it seems pretty clear that he must have seen my blog post fact-checking the government shutdown claims in his new book.  

During Sunday’s Meet The Press on NBC, Matthews was pressed by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) who asked: 

REP. RAUL LABRADOR: Our first request was to completely def– de-fund the program. And we knew we were going to lose on that. Now we’re asking for a delay, which, again, I don’t think is an unreasonable thing to do. You know, your boss, Tip O’Neill, shut down the government 12 different times. And you didn’t call him a terrorist.  

Matthews eventually responded by saying the shutdowns only occurred 7 times.  The “7 shutdowns” was a number used in my blog post below, which only covers shutdowns during President Reagan and Tip O’Neill’s tenure.  Rep. Labrador is correct, when you total up all of the government shutdowns- there were 12 under Chris Matthews’ old boss.


Matthews tried to say that shutdowns under O’Neill were only a couple of days (so if the government shuts down for only one or two days, I guess it’s ok?).  However, if you look at the history again, two of the shutdowns under Tip O’Neill’s tenure lasted more than 10 days.  In fact, the shutdown in September 1978 lasted 18 days. 

Newsbusters.org pointed out how Matthews previously called Republicans terrorists for their efforts to defund Obamacare:

After Sunday’s Meet The Press, Newsbusters had this:  Tea Party Congressman Makes a Fool of Chris Matthews Over Shutdowns Under Former Boss Tip O’Neill

…politics when Democrats play it is just fine and dandy to shills such as Matthews and most of the liberal media.

Unfortunately when Republicans play the same game, they’re terrorists and extortionists.

The Washington Post’s Dylan Matthews also followed up with this:  Sorry, Chris Matthews: Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan were terrible at averting shutdowns

The government shut down seven times when O’Neill was speaker and Reagan was president. And they were real shutdowns, too, given that they occurred after Jimmy Carter’s attorney general, Benjamin Civiletti, issued opinions in 1980 and 1981 saying that funding gaps had to lead to at least partial shutdowns of government functions. Five quasi-shutdowns happened before those opinions under O’Neill’s watch, with Carter as president. And one more shutdown happened under Reagan and O’Neill’s successor as speaker, Jim Wright.


For those of you who have been catching the news about a potential government shutdown, you may be interested in knowing that the first government shutdown under the modern day budgeting process occurred during Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield’s (D-MT) tenure.

I’ll get to that in a second, but first- he’s had trouble with predicting the future (who wouldn’t), but did MSNBC’s Chris Matthews also get his history wrong when it comes to government shutdowns?

From Politico’s Playbook Thursday:

FIRST LOOK – D.C. MUST-READ – OUT TUESDAY from Simon & Schuster – “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked,” by CHRIS MATTHEWS : “The outsider and the insider: these two moved in a remarkable, if sometimes rough, tandem. They argued mightily, each man belting out his separate, deeply cherished political philosophy – but then they would, both together, bow to this country’s judgment. Decisions were made, action taken, outcomes achieved. They honored the voters, respected the other’s role. Each liked to beat the other guy, not sabotage him. During this period, government met its deadlines. Members of Congress listened and acted. Debates led to solutions. Shutdowns were averted. … Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill were definite political rivals. Just not always. …

“Today we have government by tantrum . Rather than true debate, we get the daily threat of filibuster. … Presidents make ‘recess’ appointments to end-run Senate consent. … I truly believe it doesn’t have to be this way. … The credit for [the Reagan-O’Neill] civility goes not to their off-duty socializing and shared Irish stories: it was their joint loyalty to American self-government. … They respected elections, accepted who had won, knew that duty came with office. It’s all true. I was there. …We need leaders able to balance large purpose with equally large awareness of the electorate, what message the voters have sent. In a worthy contest this goes for those who’ve won but especially for those who haven’t. The rules of fair play can’t be simply cast aside. You ask if such behavior is possible. I wrote this book to show that it is.”

Unless I am missing something- this Washington Post story showing the history of government shutdowns shows 7 total shutdowns under Reagan and Tip O’Neill.  This, despite Chris Matthews’ book excerpt saying how they “averted shutdowns”

So, Chris Matthews- meet Dylan Matthews with The Washington Post. You’re probably not related, but if you click here, you can read his full article detailing the history of government shutdowns. 

Dylan Matthews’ piece does mention that not all shutdowns are created equal.  However, he did tell me, in a phone call to his Washington Post newsroom office, that the shutdowns under the Carter years were more “legally ambiguous,” while under Reagan and Tip O’Neill it was very clear that a shutdown was taking place.  

*Note- I spoke with and e-mailed one of Matthews’ producers at Hardball. I will let you know what I hear back.

In the meantime, somehow this reminds me of The Daily Show’sthis is what he does for a living” clip all over again…

Now, for my fellow Montanans- onto the Mansfield connection.  From The Washington Post: (h/t Emilie Saunders) 

Shutdown #1: HEWdown

When did it take place? Sept. 30 to Oct. 11, 1976
How long did it last? 10 days
Who was president? Gerald Ford
Who controlled the Senate? Democrats, 62-38; Mike Mansfield was majority leader
Who controlled the House? Democrats, 291-144; Carl Albert was speaker
Why did it happen? The major budget conflict during this period came because Ford vetoed a funding bill for the Departments of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare (or HEW, today split into the Departments of Education and of Health and Human Services), arguing that it failed to restrain spending adequately.
What resolved it? Congress overrode Ford’s veto Oct. 1, so the spending bills took effect, but it wasn’t until over a week later that the partial shutdown ended, as it was only on Oct.11 that a continuing resolution ending funding gaps for other parts of government became law.

Sounds like Democrats proceeded with their plans despite the actual shutdown of the government….

If anyone has some historical insight on Sen. Mansfield’s role- please email me, or leave a comment below.  I know Montanans would be interested.  He is greatly respected on both sides of the aisle.

Chris Matthews Wrong on Gov Shutdown History?

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