On MSNBC’s “Hardball” Wednesday evening, Chris Matthews discussed the theatrics of the presidential debate with James Lipton, longtime host of “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” Lipton offered some unremarkable observations — he called Mitt Romney “the boss who tells lame jokes and waits for everybody to laugh or else” — but what made the segment remarkable was Matthews’ reaction to a portion of the debate in which Romney in essence silenced President Obama, telling him he would have a chance to speak later.
Matthews played a video clip of the exchange, in which Romney accused Obama of cutting the number of oil and gas permits awarded on federal lands:
ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by?
OBAMA: I’m happy to answer the question.
ROMNEY: All right. And it is — I don’t think anyone really believes that you’re a person who’s going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal. [Gestures.] You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.
OBAMA: Well –
ROMNEY: And the answer is I don’t believe people think that`s the case because –
ROMNEY: — that wasn’t the question.
ROMNEY: That was a statement.
After the clip ended, Matthews seemed appalled. “I don’t think [Romney] understands the Constitution of the United States,” Matthews said. “He’s the president of the United States. You don’t say, ‘You’ll get your chance.’”
Now, it’s entirely possible for one to think Romney was rude to Obama during that moment in the debate. A president is of course entitled to some deference, and some people undoubtedly thought Romney was insufficiently deferential. Others thought Romney’s behavior was entirely acceptable. But just for the record, there is nothing in the Constitution barring one from saying “You’ll get your chance” to the President of the United States — no matter what his supporters on MSNBC say.