See all of Slate's inauguration coverage.
MSNBC is the "it" network for the Obama masses? That's news to me. Olbermann approached his colleague like a teetotaler trying to talk down a drunk, offering the opinion that people might be smiling about the shared experience of the Obama inauguration. But Matthews wasn't having it.
Matthews: No, this is the network of the 21st century, MSNBC. And I think we're open to it. And that's why this crowd knows us. And I think—
Olbermann: He's Chris Matthews, and he approved that message.
Matthews: We're not crotchety about change, stuffy.
Matthews' galvanic mind twitched again as President George W. Bush became visible and the crowd booed.
"Don't do this," Matthews said to nobody and everybody at the same time.
"Surprised we are hearing … booing," said Maddow, attempting to put the noise in context. "And that is a surprise."
"Don't boo. Bad form. Bad form here," Matthews repeated, as if he's the political sphere's Miss Manners.
Matthews finally packed himself up for delivery to his own show, Hardball, where there's nobody with Olbermannian authority to block—or explain—his fast-food observations. It's not easy filling TV's dead air, as Matthews proves every time he sits down with a microphone. From last night's Hardball transcript:
The scene we're watching today would have been very different had McCain won, had Hillary Clinton won. …
You know, every president that gets elected is a solution to the mistakes of the guy he succeeds. …
I gave Val Kilmer a ride home last night. I met—let's go through the names of who I met, John Cusack. I love—I always wanted to meet him. He said he always wanted to meet me. That's kind of cool. And Ed Harris. And Robert De Niro, I met him last night. …
[Sen. Edward Kennedy] didn't get that hat from Ireland, I'll tell you that. That is one hell of a hat he had on today. He reminds me of Don Corleone going around with the bug spray in the vines of the movie. He looks—I say that with the greatest adoration. …
Who's running the country? Barack Obama. Who ain't running the country? George W. Bush. Something of a change in one day, wouldn't you say? …
And so the hot-buttered Matthews nuggets continued to ricochet through the evening, denting television ether with their inanity and slopping a trough for the consumption of the nation's undiscerning viewers.
Am I the only one happy that he's not running for Senate in Pennsylvania? Share your favorite Matthews nugget via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)