MSNBC host Chris Matthews put on a good show Friday night as a panelist on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, as anyone on a panel that consisted of George Pataki and Mark Cuban would. He helped Maher push back against Jeb Bush’s garbage assertion that brother Dubya “kept us safe,” and even took on Jorge Ramos‘ campaign to shift blame for the failure of immigration reform onto President Obama. Then, during the show’s “Overtime” segment, Matthews and Ramos got into it again, this time on the issue of the Iraq War, and the media’s coverage of it.
RAMOS: It was clearly a mistake. We made a huge mistake and as journalists, I think it is also part of our responsibility. We were silent we didn’t challenge…
MATTHEWS: No. That’s not true.
RAMOS: We didn’t challenge George W. Bush and we didn’t…
MATTHEWS: Keep that “we” to yourself.
RAMOS: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: No, keep that “we” to yourself. I opposed the war. The we doesn’t work here.
RAMOS: The fact is that as journalists…
MATTHEWS: No! No! No. No. (crosstalk) I opposed the war in every column I wrote and every time I was on television.
MAHER: I did too.
RAMOS: I’m sure you did.
MATTHEWS: You’re wrong.
MAHER: And Michael Moore got up at the Oscars.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean, you’re sure I did? Don’t be condescending. We were against the war.
RAMOS: But what I’m saying is that as journalists
MAHER: You don’t like this guy. (crosstalk)
RAMOS: As journalists we should have done much better…
MATTHEWS: We ?!?!
RAMOS: … challenging the Bush administration.
MATTHEWS: But we did challenge it.
Chris Matthews’ steely opposition to the Iraq War is a subject that comes up periodically, and is shot down periodically, as well. Matthews’ critics concede that he opposed the invasion and the war in print, but that in his much more influential television forum, it was a different story. That’s not exactly true, there are plenty of examples of Matthews expressing opposition to Iraq policy on TV, but they are greatly outweighed by his consistent bashing of the war’s critics, and tingly amazement at the Iraq War’s huge “successes.”
For example, he called then-President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech an “amazing display of leadership,” declaring that Bush had “won the war,” and “was an effective commander,” before going on this turgid riff about Bush’s flight costume with guest Pat Caddell:
MATTHEWS: The president there — look at this guy! We’re watching him. He looks like he flew the plane. He only flew it as a passenger, but he’s flown —
CADDELL: He looks like a fighter pilot.
MATTHEWS: He looks for real. What is it about the commander in chief role, the hat that he does wear, that makes him — I mean, he seems like — he didn’t fight in a war, but he looks like he does.
CADDELL: Yes. It’s a — I don’t know. You know, it’s an internal thing. I don’t know if you can put it into words. […] You can see it with him and the troops, the ease with which he talks to them. I was amazed by that, frankly, because as I said, I was originally appalled, particularly when I heard he was going in an F-18. But — on there — but the — but you know, that was —
MATTHEWS: Look at this guy!
He also had a discussion with guest G. Gordon Liddy that was literally about George W. Bush’s dick:
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this broadside against the USS Abraham Lincoln and its chief visitor last week?
LIDDY: Well, I — in the first place, I think it’s envy. I mean, after all, Al Gore had to go get some woman to tell him how to be a man. And here comes George Bush. You know, he’s in his flight suit, he’s striding across the deck, and he’s wearing his parachute harness, you know — and I’ve worn those because I parachute — and it makes the best of his manly characteristic. You go run those — run that stuff again of him walking across there with the parachute. He has just won every woman’s vote in the United States of America. You know, all those women who say size doesn’t count — they’re all liars. Check that out. I hope the Democrats keep ratting on him and all of this stuff so that they keep showing that tape.
MATTHEWS: You know, it’s funny. I shouldn’t talk about ratings. I don’t always pay attention to them, but last night was a riot because, at the very time [U.S. Rep.] Henry Waxman [D-CA] was on — and I do respect him on legislative issues — he was on blasting away, and these pictures were showing last night, and everybody’s tuning in to see these pictures again.
That episode alone is more than enough to cancel out several careers’ worth of opposition to the war, but not only didn’t it stop there, it also didn’t start there. Before the Iraq invasion, before the vote on the Iraq resolution, Matthews was already signaling how he would deal with the real critics of the war. In an interview with Phil Donahue, Matthews slammed his then-MSNBC host for “making fun” of those who supported the invasion, and chalked that support up to a “patriotic impulse”:
Donahue was fired for being too critical of the war, while Matthews went on to succeed as a cheerleader for Bush’s costume party, and for the Iraqi election that put Nouri al Maliki in power, which Matthews thought might land Dubya on Mount Rushmore:
The president deserves credit, if this gamble comes through — and it’s not clear yet. If his gamble that he can create a democracy in the middle of the Arab world and he does it, he belongs on Mount Rushmore.
… I felt like I was too towel-snappy with him. I felt he deserves a little — I mean, he deserves a lot of respect for this bet he’s making.
Matthews got some towel-snap welts, and Iraq got ISIS. Mount Rushmore is safe for the time being.
Every couple of years, Matthews makes some kind of claim like this, and liberals dig up all these quotes, but the funny thing is that it’s really hard to find video of a lot of them. TYT Network‘s Jimmy Dore did an epic two-part takedown of Matthews a few years ago, and even then, he had trouble finding the clips he needed. That “Mission Accomplished” gushfest is nowhere to be found, even if you have the direct link to it for MSNBC’s website. Neither is this moment, in which Matthews calls Democratic critic of the war “carpers and complainers”:
There is a pragmatic argument to be made for politicians and pundits who straddled the Iraq War bandwagon. People forget just how ugly things were back then, and you could make the argument that you can’t do anyone any good if you’re flushed down the memory toilet like Janeane Garofalo. Better to bend than to break, and so forth.
But if that’s your game, to play the easily-convinced skeptic when you want to join in the codpiece party, then you can’t get in some other guy’s face when he says you blew it.
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