Hardball with Chris Matthews, 3/27/13, 5:58 PM ET

Matthews: Those who are guilty are wise to choose a jury over a judge

Chris Matthews shares his thoughts on the politicians who find themselves wrapped up in scandal.

Those who are guilty are wise to choose a jury over a judge

Updated

Let me finish tonight with this.

We see in our politics today why those who are guilty in a matter are wise to choose a jury over a judge. A judge rules on the law and the facts. Juries rule on the all kinds of bases: compassion, forgiveness, group loyalties, attitude toward authority, toward human frailty. Juries are unpredictable for the very reason no one, outside the jury room, knows the basis of its decision.

Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about his behavior with a young woman. The public, the national jury, judged the proposed punishment—removal from office—disproportionate. A censure would have been in tune with the times. Were the public to rule on his conduct today, he wouldn’t get that.

As in a courtroom drama, it depends, too, where you draw your jury. A congressman from Massachusetts has sex with an male intern and continues to be re-elected. A colleague of a different party from Indiana is run out of office for having with a female intern. It depends who’s calling the shots.

So a senator from Louisiana gets involved with prostitutes and gets re-elected. A colleague from Nevada gets involved with the wife of a staffer and he knows he has to quit. What are the rules here?

Mark Sanford is probably headed back to the House. Do people forgive a guy for falling in love? Anthony Wiener makes a fool of himself sending pictures of himself to women he met on-line. Can he get back into politics? Again, what are the rules? Are New Yorkers open to considering him? He’s taking a poll—guess he’ll find out.

How about this for a standard: do you want this person making decisions when you’re not watching?

Those who are guilty are wise to choose a jury over a judge

Updated