Pigs fly, hell freezes: I agree with Chris Matthews
posted at 10:48 am on August 31, 2012 by Libby Sternberg
MSNBC’s “Hardball” host, Chris Matthews, came to the defense of school choice policies this week, arguing with his fellow commentators Ed Schultz and Al Sharpton on the subject. Real Clear Politics has posted the video, which has already shown up on the Hot Air home page. But here’s the Cliff Notes version:
The moment occurred after former Florida Governor Jeb Bush spoke at the Republican National Convention Thursday night. When cameras shifted back to the MSNBC panel, Matthews began praising Jeb Bush and what he’s done for education in the Sunshine State, calling it an “amazing challenge.” Granted, Matthews had to throw in a jab at Jeb’s sibling, George W., saying that Jeb is “not like his brother; he’s humble,” but then the liberal talk show host went on to admit that how liberals deal with the teachers union is “a problem.”
CHRIS MATTHEWS: It’s (education) the one thing the two parties could agree on in principle. How we deal with the teachers union is a problem. Especially a problem for the Democratic party. I live in Washington, DC. I have to say, Randi Weingarten has not done a great job for our city. We’ve lost the best superintendent we ever had in education and the school teachers have to explain that.
Matthews was probably referring to former DC Superintendent Michelle Rhee, a passionate education reformer and voucher advocate, who resigned as DC education chief after a new mayor was elected in 2010. Randi Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, a sister union to the NEA.
After Matthews’s surprising support of school choice and reforms embraced by Republicans, his colleague Ed Schultz began talking about GOP cuts to education, especially teachers’ pay and benefits. But Matthews responded to him the same way he responds to conservatives with whom he disagrees: with dogged persistence.
ED SCHULTZ: Attacking teachers is the philosophy of how to make things better in America when it comes to the Republicans.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Ed, nobody attacked teachers. No one attacked teachers…Who attacked teachers? Who did that? Jeb Bush, if you listened, just came out for higher pay for teachers.
Then, the Rev. Al Sharpton chimed in to decry “those who want to privatize education for personal gain but who are not concerned about the students…some who have taken it way over the line to privatization and union busting…” Still, Matthews would have none of that cliched opposition to school choice and vouchers.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: There are a lot of people out there who live in tough neighborhoods, mothers especially, who will jump at any chance for an opportunity scholarship, any chance for a better education for their children…
And then Matthews offered the best argument for school choice and how to improve schools while improving the lives of poor children:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: The way you do that is through opportunity and competition, not by stifling the hopes of kids in terrible neighborhoods.
Sharpton then tried talking about the kids left behind, saying that it’s only a “certain pool” of students who get to choose:
AL SHARPTON: That is saying we’re going to take some tokens and not deal with the real education problem.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I don’t think you’d call a kid who applied for a scholarship a token. I’d call that a merit, a kid who won a merit, an opportunity for better education.
Matthews would not back down from his position, even though no other liberal on the panel agreed with him. He concluded with these strong words:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I’m not with the teachers union on this. I have to say, this is one time I break with labor, Ed, and with you. I’m sorry.
Say what you will about Matthews on other issues, he stuck with principle on this, even when his colleagues were clearly, strongly aligned against him.