Hardballers Take Pot Shots At Bush Over Cambodia Comparison

On Wednesday night's "Hardball" both substitute host Mike Barnicle and MSNBC's David Shuster took pot shots at the President over his stated concern about Iraq becoming a Cambodian-like massacre if the U.S. leaves too early. Substitute hosting for Chris Matthews, Barnicle blurted: "Do you think the President has ever read a book about Vietnam?" while Shuster sneered: "The mere mention of Vietnam and arguing for more sacrifice in Iraq is fraught with potential political peril. After all, President Bush didn't serve in Vietnam and Vice President Cheney received multiple deferments, telling reporters, a few years ago, that in the 1960s he had other priorities than military service.

The following is Shuster's full report, followed by Barnicle's belittling of Bush as they took place on the August 22nd 5pm edition of "Hardball":

David Shuster: "35 years after America was torn apart by the 58,000 U.S. troops killed in the Vietnam War, today President Bush reopened the wounds. He argued to veterans in Kansas City that the United States got out of Vietnam too soon."

George W. Bush: "One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens."

Shuster: "The President's speech, designed to bolster his argument for staying in Iraq was remarkable politically and because of the President's take on history."

Bush: "I think many argue that if we pulled out there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people."

Shuster: "And just a few sentences later."

Bush: "In Cambodia the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution."

Shuster: "But it's a fact that the murderous rule in Cambodia began well before the U.S. withdrew from Southeast Asia and many historians argue that the United States made the violence worse by going into Cambodia and Vietnam in the first place."

Bush: "There's another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam."

Shuster: "The President then said the pull-out from Southeast Asia emboldened America's enemies. But he wasn't talking about our enemies at the time, including communists and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Instead President Bush spoke of Osama Bin Laden, who mentioned Vietnam a few years ago while declaring America would be weak in fighting al-Qaeda."

Bush: "Some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price for American credibility but the terrorists see it differently."

Shuster: "Bin Laden, however, is running al-Qaeda from somewhere along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, not from inside Iraq. Furthermore the President's argument today, is at odds with his view of the Iraq war a view years ago. A year into the war, as the insurgency was growing and the U.S. death toll was rising."

Reporter to Bush: "How do you answer the Vietnam comparison?"

Bush from April 23, 2004: "Yeah, I think the analogy is false. I also, happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops and sends a wrong message to the enemy."

Shuster: "In just four weeks President Bush will deliver his report to Congress on the progress the administration sees in Iraq. And with Iraq making no political progress, the Bush administration is increasingly touting security efforts. But President Bush is on the defensive and under enormous pressure and today, while trying to show support for embattled Iraqi leader Nouri Al-Maliki, the President delivered a mixed message in the same sentence."

Bush: "Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man, with a difficult job and I support him. And it's not up to the politicians in Washington D.C. to say whether he will remain in his position."

Shuster: "However Democrats were most concerned and angry today about the President's invocation of Vietnam. Senator John Kerry called it quote, ‘As irresponsible as it is ignorant of the realities of both wars. Half the soldiers whose names are on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after the politicians knew our strategy would not work. The lesson is to change the strategy not just change the rhetoric.' White House officials expected the criticism today and were so convinced that invoking Vietnam would help make their case about Iraq that they mailed out excerpts of the President's speech last night. Still, the mere mention of Vietnam and arguing for more sacrifice in Iraq is fraught with potential political peril. After all, President Bush didn't serve in Vietnam and Vice President Cheney received multiple deferments, telling reporters, a few years ago, that in the 1960s he had other priorities than military service. I'm David Shuster for Hardball in Washington."

...

[On screen headline: "Vietnam: The Sequel?"]

Mike Barnicle: "First up, Vietnam: Apocalypse Today, the sequel. In a speech to the VFW today, President Bush compared the U.S. war in Iraq to a previous controversial U.S. war fought in Southeast Asia - Vietnam. You might remember that, boys and girls. Drawing a comparison between the two wars, Bush is arguing that an early pull-out from Iraq will create agony for millions of innocent people, just like the millions who suffered when United States forces pulled out of Vietnam in 1975. So the question is, is Iraq Vietnam all over again and what does the President have to gain by opening old wounds? And I'd add a third question there, and we'll start with Joan Walsh. Do you think the President has ever read a book about Vietnam?"

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.