Last night in his post-State of the Union speech analysis on MSNBC, Chris Matthews went off on one of his digressions meant to give us the big picture, the larger context. Unfortunately, it came out cluelessly weird, or worse:

It’s obvious that Matthews was trying to praise President Obama’s words, but telling your audience that “for an hour, I forgot he was black” is… well, where to begin?:

• It probably means when Chris Matthews looks at the President, the first thing he thinks of is, “Hey, that guy’s black.”

• Matthews dug himself in deeper by saying that the President reached beyond “the old tribalism, the old ethnicity” in appealing to his audience. Now, we know he meant something like, Obama wanted to speak to as wide a segment of the American people as possible, but using tribalism and ethnicity right after saying “I forgot he was black tonight for an hour” is evidence of a subconscious swimming in dangerously murky waters.

• “[Obama] is post-racial, by all appearances…” Whaaat? Is there any filtering mechanism between brain and tongue here?

• This is ridiculous and funny, but it’s also pretty infuriating. Matthews’ paternalistic praise of Obama as having “coming a long way in the past year” — could he be more condescending?

The sad thing is, Matthews is certainly no racist. Quite the opposite: As a baby-boomer, Kennedy-revering Boston liberal, Matthews must feel that the election of a black President was undoubtedly one of the fulfillments of a political dream he’s had for decades, and he meant all this as a series of high compliments.

It’s just that the entire, vexed history of race in America fried and scrambled his brain, for at least these few minutes.

What do you think?

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