Matthews Sees 'Irresponsible' Huckabee 'Talking Like Jihadists'

On Friday's Hardball, during the show's regular "Big Number" segment, Chris Matthews went after Mike Huckabee for quipping during Thursday's FNC presidential debate that those who attack the American military should be prepared to see the "gates of hell," as the MSNBC host asked if we're all "learning to talk like jihadists now," and contended that Huckabee's comments earn him a "10" on the "irresponsibility scale." Notably, Huckabee's remark was very popular with "Republican-leaning" focus group participants as shown by pollster Frank Luntz Thursday night during FNC's post-debate coverage, as the former Arkansas governor's words scored around 90 percent in terms of approval. (Transcript follows)

With the words "What the Huck?" displayed on screen, Matthews introduced a clip of Huckabee's statement as part of "the contest to see who can pound his chest the hardest." After playing the former governor's words, Matthews shook his head while smirking and responded: "So let me get this straight: This man with no foreign policy experience thinks the best way to engage the world is by threatening the potential enemy with the 'gates of hell.' Are we all learning to talk like jihadists now?"

The MSNBC host went on to label the comment as the "height of irresponsibility" as he referred to an "irresponsibility scale." Matthews: "On an irreponsibility scale, from 1 to 10, Huckabee's threat is a 10, the height of irresponsibility."

By contrast, after Thursday's debate, Luntz appeared on FNC with a focus group of what he described as "Republican-leaning voters," and, referring to Huckabee's words as "one of the best lines of the evening," and the reaction as "one of the most positive responses that we've tested," Luntz recounted that the focus group participants scored the line very highly.

Below is a complete transcript of Matthews's comments from the Friday January 11 Hardball on MSNBC, followed by the relevant portion of FNC's post-debate coverage from Thursday January 10:

From the Friday January 11 Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: In the contest to see who can pound his chest the hardest, today Mike Huckabee is the victor. Take a look.

MIKE HUCKABEE: I think we need to make it very clear -- not just to the Iranians, but to anybody -- that if you think you're going to engage the United States military, be prepared not simply to have a battle, be prepared  first to put your sights on the American vessel, and then be prepared that the next thing you see will be the gates of hell, for that is exactly what you will see after that.

MATTHEWS: So let me get this straight: This man with no foreign policy experience thinks the best way to engage the world is by threatening the potential enemy with the "gates of hell." Are we all learning to talk like jihadists now? On an irreponsibility scale, from 1 to 10, Huckabee's threat is a 10, the height of irresponsibility. Tonight's big number. Well, that's what it is, tonight's big number.

From the Thursday January 10 post-debate coverage on FNC:

FRANK LUNTZ: We sat down with 28 Republican-leaning voters, and we asked them to react on a second-by-second basis to the entire debate. There were two clips in particular that scored incredibly well, and I want to show our viewers them. First there was Mike Huckabee, and what's interesting is that foreign policy in this debate matters to South Carolina voters, and it matters a lot. Remember that the lines start at 50. The higher that you see the lines go, the more favorable the reaction. Watch how high the conservative, the orange line, and the blue moderate line, watch how high they climb when Mike Huckabee delivers one of the best lines of the evening about what should be done in Iran. Let's take a look.

MIKE HUCKABEE: I think we need to make it very clear -- not just to the Iranians, but to anybody -- that if you think you're going to engage the United States military, be prepared not simply to have a battle, be prepared  first to put your sights on the American vessel, and then be prepared that the next thing you see will be the gates of hell, for that is exactly what you will see after that.

[applause]

LUNTZ: Absolutely, absolutely amazing. One of the most positive responses that we've tested.
...

LUNTZ: But Mike Huckabee wasn't the only one who delivered a very positive response. Fred Thompson also had his humorous line when talking about Iran and Iraq. Let's take a look at how effective Fred Thompson was in the language of foreign policy.

FRED THOMPSON: I think I agree with the governor on that. You can't take the judgement like that out of the hands of the officers on the ground there. I think one more step, you know, and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they're looking forward to seeing.

[applause]