The Obama Watch

Not in ‘Our House’ You Don’t

Just whose White House is it, Mr. Matthews?

By 6.21.12

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Liberals are often unwittingly honest about how they see America. These revelations can be as illuminating to the rest of us, as they are unintended by the liberals making them. We just have to listen a little, to learn a lot.

Late last week, liberal commentator Chris Matthews of MSNBC was playing apologist for attempts to blame the current economy on the past presidency. Seeking to justify a "blame Bush" approach, Matthews said: "If you bought a house and you discovered it had termites and you found out the electricity didn't work, and every time you plugged the toaster in, you got a short, and by the way, there was a fire because of the bad electrical system. And everything was wrong with that house. Wouldn't you blame the guy you bought the house from?... That's what we're doing!"

There are several problems, and several unintended insights, with Matthews' unguarded moment.

First, "the house" to which Matthews refers is presumably America's economy. If so, Obama did not buy "the house," as Matthews asserts. He did not even rent "the house." Writing in Federalist Paper #69, Hamilton described the founders' vision of America's government: "…[A] government, the whole power of which would be in the hands of the elective and periodical servants of the people…"

The President, and every other civil servant, just works at "the house" Chris Matthews is so eager to give him. And even then, they are only "periodical servants" -- i.e., they work there temporarily. While Chris is so eager to turn the keys over to the President and government, the American people still own "the house." At least that was the original intent, and how most of us still see it. 

Second, following along with Matthews' biased assertion that the house "had termites and you found out the electricity didn't work, and every time you plugged the toaster in, you got a short, and by the way, there was a fire because of the bad electrical system," didn't Obama seek and get the job to fix "the house's" problems? He was not drafted into some thankless assignment. 

As those outside of MSNBC might recall, he spent a considerable amount of time and a considerable sum of money -- roughly three times more than the other "bidder," John McCain -- to get the job. Now he has it… temporarily and at the pleasure of the real homeowners. 

As homeowners, isn't there a point in time where -- regardless of who caused the problems -- you have a right to expect that the person you brought in to fix "the house" -- the person who said he could fix "the house," the person who labored long and hard to land the job to fix "the house" -- actually fixed it? Isn't that part of any work contract -- that "the house" actually gets fixed? 

At some point, even assuming the homeowners accept that the problems were someone else's fault, don't they start to look in the Yellow Pages for another termite exterminator and another electrician, if the problems are still there? Even the most patient homeowner's tolerance starts to wear a little thin after a reasonable period of time -- such as after almost four years, for example?

The implicit part of what Matthews said is as damning as his explicit assertions. 

For one thing, Matthews apparently agrees that "the house" is in pretty bad shape. Still. You don't need his kind of histrionic hyperbole to explain success. The Administration isn't likely to be thanking him for that observation anytime soon. 

Of course, none of this matters if Presidents actually "own" the house, as Matthews asserts. Apparently, it's theirs to do with as they please for the time in which they are there. We tenants can just shut up, until new homeowners move in. 

Matthews has inadvertently revealed his reverse view of what the government's relationship to its citizens should be. When most of us say "the president owns the economy," we mean it figuratively -- that it's a political liability. Matthews seems to mean it literally -- that it's a government asset -- and is quite comfortable with that ownership.

Admittedly, liberals just see things differently than the rest of us do. Rarely, though, do they admit so clearly just how differently they see them. Thanks nonetheless Chris, for explaining more than you meant to. And for helping the rest of us understand what the liberal vision of government is. If it's alright with you, we'll just keep the keys to "the house."

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About the Author

J.T. Young served in the Department of Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a Congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000.