Matthews on Ft. Hood Suspect Warning Signal: 'That's Not a Crime to Call al Qaeda, Is It?'

MSNBC's Chris Matthews has said some things that would make your scratch your head - like getting a thrill up his leg from a speech given by Barack Obama. However, this one will really make you wonder what he was thinking.

On his Nov. 9 broadcast of "Hardball," in an interview with Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Matthews compared the incident of Maj. Nidal M. Hasan at Ft. Hood to Sirhan Sirhan's 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

"You know, I have a hard time with this because people like Sirhan Sirhan, who is still serving time for killing Bobby Kennedy, didn't like what Bobby Kennedy had said on television," Matthews said. "Bobby Kennedy had made political statements saying we're going to sell arms, fighter planes directly to Israel, not under the table. We're going to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Those are the things that triggered his killing spree. He killed one person - Bobby Kennedy, horrifically. But did he become a different religious person because he committed the crime? And when did this happen?" [Audio: Part I here (925 KB), Part II here (1.18 MB)]

But the struggle Matthews was having - that given Reuters had reported Hasan had tried to contact al Qaeda, was that reason enough to intervene on the activities of Hasan (emphasis added).

"See - we have a problem," Matthews said. "How do we know when someone like Hasan is going to make his move and do we know he's an Islamist until he's made his move? He makes a phone call or whatever, according to Reuters right now. Apparently he tried to contact al Qaeda. Is that the point at which you say, ‘This guy is dangerous?' That's not a crime to call up al Qaeda, is it? Is it? I mean, where do you stop the guy?"

And this was obviously a philosophical struggle for the "Hardball" host, as he reiterated he confusion.

"Well, this guy, according to all the testament, admittedly it has not been admitted into court. We cannot call him the shooter until we have a trial. That's the way we work here, you know, that's how it works in America, certainly not in the news business. You can't call somebody a murderer until you get a conviction in court. And the question here is when can you identify a problem? That's what we have to deal with. And you say it's an ideological point - you can find the problem. But then we get into the business of checking out on people's thinking. And that's the problem.

Incredibly, this wasn't just a one-time lapse for Matthews. He reiterated his question, if contacting al Qaeda, an institution classified as a terrorist organization by several international governments and organizations, was crime (emphasis added).

"When does a person become a danger, when they have a certain thought system? Or when they go out and buying semi-automatic pistols, or when they start phoning up al Qaeda, saying how can I join the gang? I mean, where do you stop a person? This is criminology, maybe not ideology, but or even religion. But how do we weed out a guy - it seems to me, all of the warning signs, I mean, we have seen them all now. It's like looking at pictures of Muhammad Ata hanging around convenience stores and going to ATM machines. We got all kinds of information on this guy after it's too late."

Amazingly, Matthews even compared himself to Hasan - suggesting his actions were just criticism of the United States invasion of Iraq, with just one subtle difference.

"But this guy was running around shooting his mouth off saying how he hated this country's wars with - look, you can listen to me on television and hear me saying I didn't like the war with Iraq. You know, I don't agree with the war on Iraq and a lot of Americans didn't like the war with Iraq. They didn't start shooting people about it."