Chris Matthews: GOP debt ceiling stand is like apartheid-era South Africa

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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South Africa and apartheid, Custer’s Last Stand — those are not exactly great moments in world history. But Chris Matthews says that today’s Tea Party-influenced Republican Party fits in the same category.

On his Monday MSNBC program, Matthews asked the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman why he thought the GOP was taking a tough stand on the debt ceiling negotiations. (h/t Ian Schwartz, Real Clear Politics video)

“What’s going on here as I see it is a kind of slow-motion secession,” Fineman said. “This is an ending of the social compact. This is two, three generations worth of agreement about Social Security, about Medicare, about the role of the federal government.”

“The Tea Party people are saying, ‘We want to secede from that society. And the way to do it is to draw the line on spending and taxes, to starve the federal government so that it loses power, so that we aren’t part of the social compact anymore.’ And that’s the real argument that’s going on, and the Congress as an institution is incapable of dealing with that kind of fundamental argument, which given the entitlement age and welfare state age, which is why you have the super committees and super-duper committees and the smaller and smaller ring of people attempting to decide something,” Fineman said.

That evokes images of South Africa during apartheid, Matthews said.

“This sounds like — I spent two years in southern Africa — [it] sounds like what the whites talked about doing,” Matthews said. “Eventually going into some circle, like Custer’s Last Stand against the United States.”

Fineman didn’t go along with the apartheid analogy, but he did say the pushback has materialized because some of the current plans on the table in Congress don’t go far enough in the Tea Party’s view.

“I wouldn’t put a racial tone on it, but I would say that the Congress is not dealing with the fundamental question here,” Fineman said. “They refuse to do it. And they’re not dealing with it now, because both bills, both plans — both the Boehner plan and the Reid plan don’t deal with either entitlements or taxes.”