Hardball with Chris Matthews, 2/18/13, 7:00 PM ET

Matthews: Keeping an eye on the Clinton-Obama scorecard

Few stories in American history are as good as political rivalries. Chris Matthews looks at the rivalry between President Obama and President Clinton, and if...

Keeping an eye on the Clinton-Obama scorecard

Updated

Let me finish tonight with this.

There are few stories in American history as good as the “rivalries.” Kennedy vs. Nixon. I wrote a book about that one, the two Cold Warriors who managed so much to shape it.

Jefferson vs. Adams. Talk about a great one. The Jeffersonian vs. the Hamiltonian, the battler for small national government vs. the battler for a strong one.

Bush senior vs. Bush junior. The older Bush stood aloof from the neo-cons, the warhawks, especially in the Mideast. And was hated for it. The younger Bush was beloved by the neo-cons because he did just what they told him. The older Bush raised taxes to cut the deficit and therefore brought on a period of solid economic growth. The younger Bush cut taxes without reason and ushered in a financial disaster. The older Bush kept his distance from the religious right; the younger stood with it as if he were born to it.

Could we be watching an even better, fiercer rivalry between president’s today? It’s not personal, just historical.

If Obama turns into a big success, can he out pace Bill Clinton in the history books? Can he be truly be “transformational,” the word he used in saying what Clinton was not?

That is the question. And don’t think the two of them aren’t keeping a close watch on the scorecard.

Explore:

Keeping an eye on the Clinton-Obama scorecard

Updated