Mika Brzezinski: "Because he's an awkward joker?"
Joe Scarborough: "Because he misfired badly on the joke?"
But Matthews didn't have time for alternative explanations. Besides, he had already yelled at Joe and Mika, so the issue was obviously resolved. Chris quickly moved on to Romney's ads describing the Obama administration's change to welfare requirements as another example of racism.
Matthews said that Romney's (factually correct) claim that Barack Obama is weakening the work requirement for welfare was "playing that card," fuming at the RNC chair, "and you are playing that little ethnic card there." Priebus, like most people who haven't spent much time around Matthews, could only laugh awkwardly.
Matthews raged: "You can -- you play your games and giggle about it, but the fact is your side is playing that card. You start talking about work requirements, you know what game you're playing and everybody knows what game you're playing. It's a race card."
Asked by Scarborough if he really believed that the welfare ad was racist, Matthews said: "Of course it is. Welfare? Food stamps?"
On "Hardball" that night, Matthews continued his welfare rant: The Romney ad was "ethnically charged" and a "dog whistle." (The phrase "dog whistle" is a dog whistle for imaginary sightings of racism.)
For the clincher, Matthews added: "Did you catch Romney following it up by saying this was Obama's effort to excite and shore up his base, passing out welfare checks? His base."
As everyone but Chris knows, the "base" Romney referred to consists not of individuals collecting welfare, but those distributing it, i.e.: union-dues-paying government workers. Democrats' problem with welfare reform always was that if it worked, we would need fewer of these well-pensioned public employees, a fact repeatedly acknowledged by liberals themselves.
When welfare reform was first proposed in 1994:
-- Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute said the reforms would sever Democratic ties to the liberal "base," which he described as: "Congress, the interest groups that cluster around them, the bureaucracies that work closely with them, the social service providers and experts and think tank types."
-- Robert Kuttner of the uber-liberal American Prospect magazine wrote that welfare reform would hurt Bill Clinton with "the Democratic base."
-- Liberal journalist Jeff Greenfield of ABC News said that Clinton's becoming a third-way, New Democrat would risk "alienating a liberal base."
I'm sorry, gentlemen, but it is my sad duty to inform you: You're all racists.
The next night on "Hardball," Matthews made his most dramatic announcement yet! It seems the mention of "Chicago" in relation to the president is also a racist dog whistle.
Matthews: "They keep saying Chicago, by the way, you noticed?"?
Guest John Heilemann, like an orderly in a mental institution trapped alone with a patient, played along, responding, "Well, there's a lot of black people in Chicago" -- while frantically jabbing at the alarm button.
For the love of Pete, can't we all acknowledge that a reference to "Chicago" in this context manifestly refers to corrupt, big-city, machine politics and 1920s gangsterism --- not race? No one thinks Al Capone was an African-American.
My advice to Chris is: Pace yourself. It's a long way to Election Day. If you get too crazy, too soon, you'll have nothing left for the fourth quarter.