On Monday’s 5PM EST version of “Hardball,” host Chris Matthews and MSNBC correspondent David Shuster made a number of factual misrepresentations and suppositions involving Valerie Plame/Wilson and the Bush administration (video link to follow). The most absurd part of this segment was Shuster’s suggestion that the current stalemate with Iran over its nuclear ambitions was exacerbated by the release of Wilson’s name to the press: “Intelligence sources say Valerie Wilson was part of an operation three years ago tracking the proliferation of nuclear weapons material into Iran. And the sources allege that when Mrs. Wilson`s cover was blown, the administration`s ability to track Iran`s nuclear ambitions was damaged as well.”
Of course, neither the names nor the positions of such sources were revealed by Shuster in this report. Also, there were absolutely no details given to support this wild assertion as to specifically what Plame was working on at the time, or what information concerning Iran ended up being missed by the Administration as a result of her departure from the CIA.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only problem with this report. In his preview of the segment, Matthews said:
It seems to me that those that are in such an uproar over the leak of Valerie Plame's name and claim that it had a negative impact on our national security would be hesitant, to say the least, about disclosing further information about Plame--especially information that pertains to what she was working on while at the CIA. But apparently, if that particular information is potentially damaging for the Bush administration, it's a different story. Here's what David Shuster reported on tonight's Hardball:
MSNBC has learned new information about the damage caused by the White House leaks. Intelligence sources say Valerie Wilson was part of an operation three years ago tracking the proliferation of nuclear weapons material into Iran. And the sources allege that when Mrs. Wilson's cover was blown, the administration's ability to track Iran's nuclear ambitions was damaged as well.
On last night's Hardball David Gregory seemed to be pushing Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld out the door. Not once but twice Gregory suggested to two separate guests the best way for the administration to get back on track is to can the Vice President and Secretary of Defense: "Susan Molinari, can the President get any traction if he does not dismiss his Vice President or the Secretary of Defense? If he doesn’t do something that large?" Then later to Newsweek's Jon Meacham: "But didn’t reducing Karl’s role speak to the bigger issue for Josh Bolten, which is can he really make any kind of splash? Can he get anybody to notice if big figures, the biggest of the figures, be it the Vice President or the Secretary of Defense are not dismissed?" And before the show ended even Margaret Carlson got into the act: "He’d have to change the big jobs. Secretary Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney even, although I know that’s hard to do."
Much as this column is quick to point out the prevalent liberal bias of the MSM, fairness compels us to acknowledge those occasions, rare as they might be, when the MSM plays it down the middle.
NBC's handling of the recent spike in gasoline prices could be shaping up to be one of those flying-pig moments of 'fair & balanced' coverage. At the very least, there are indications that the conventional wisdom within NBC News is that the Bush administration is not to blame for the high prices, and/or that there is little government can do to stem the price rise.
As noted here earlier today, Katie Couric and David Gregory both expressed skepticism on this morning's Today show as to the government's ability to do much in the circumstances. Gregory was back at it this evening, guest-hosting for Chris Matthews on 'Hardball.'
Advice to any Republican loyalists planning to watch a replay of this evening's Hardball: hide the sharp objects, put the firearms under lock and key, flush any potentially poisonous potions. With lovely-but-lethal Norah O'Donnell sitting in for Chris Matthews, this might have been the most unrelenting gloom-a-thon since Watergate. Riffing off the latest polls showing W at 33%, it was one guest after another - from Bob Shrum to Kate O'Beirne to a panel of "hotshots" - painting a decidedly unrosy scenario. And just when things couldn't get any more dread, a former Clinton administration official popped in to predict millions might die from bird flu thanks to government inattention "in recent years."
Something wild happens on Hardball whenever Chris Matthews ventures outdoors. It was during an outdoor panel when Zell Miller challenged Chris to a duel and last night outside the MSNBC studios Matthews called the current White House communications team: "Vicious, almost canine," and so sweaty that, "They wouldn't pass lie detector tests, they've got such a sweat problem."
Matthews posed the following question to Pat Buchanan at around 5:43pm on last night's Hardball:
Matthews: "Are they gonna bring in some nice people to work at the White House or more mad dogs? The next press secretary, will it be a good, nice fellow to deal with like Tony Snow or Tony Blankley or will it be one of these vicious, almost canine people they have working for them right now, who will do anything to advance their cause?"
On last night's Hardball, Newsweek's Evan Thomas stated that he believed the primary reason for the war in Iraq was to "teach Arabs a lesson" after 9/11. Again, what liberal media? Thomas was on with Christopher Hitchens but because it was the end of the segment, Hitchens didn't have time to respond to this ridiculous comment--although, at the end of the clip, you can hear Hitchens mentioning the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act (you know, the one that made regime change official U.S. policy).
This week marks the ninth anniversary of Hardball with Chris Matthews. To celebrate, Matthews has several political figures say something good about Hardball at the of end of almost every segment. On this segment, former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe praises Hardball while knocking FOX News and CNN. He says FOX has the "right-wing nutcase" [sic], while Hardball is the "number one" place to go to get "the facts straight" and "right":
MCAULIFFE: Happy Anniversary to Hardball, the greatest show on television. Beats FOX, they have right-wing nutcase and CNN. Hardball is number one, you want to get the facts straight, you want to get them right, watch Chris Matthews on Hardball.
Watching Chris Matthews and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) on Tuesday’s “Hardball,” it was impossible to differentiate between the political talk show host and the Democrat senator searching for mid-term votes for her party. In fact, at times, it seemed that the host was the Democrat senator, as Matthews appeared to be beseeching his guest to censure President Bush regarding terrorist surveillance.
Matthews began the segment (hat tip to Expose the Left): “Let me ask you this, Senator, are you going to follow through with this? Are you going to try to get him censured?” As Boxer answered, Matthews could regularly be heard in the background saying “Right” to the senator’s statements as if he was one hundred percent in agreement with everything one of the most liberal members of Congress was saying.
For example, when Boxer said, “Now we see how hard the president himself tried to hurt Ambassador Joe Wilson, who told the truth about Saddam Hussein and the nuclear weapons program. He told the truth that it wasn`t happening,” Matthews said, “Right.” Boxer continued, “And yet in fact, this president wanted to release information that even he knew, and the administration knew, was suspect.” Matthews again interjected, “Right.”
Matthews then went into full cheerleader mode sans miniskirt and pompoms:
As the Meredith Vieira incident shows us, network anchors and talk show hosts can display their biases off the air by where they go and speak...or march. At the tail end of "Hardball" Thursday night, MRC's Geoff Dickens found MSNBC host Chris Matthews promoted Rosie O'Donnell and her new HBO documentary on her gay-family cruises. But the real eye-opening part for media watchdogs was Matthews admitting he spoke at an event for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-left lobbying group, in Philadelphia. (Sure enough, here's a picture, with the Matthews mane in a frostier phase. And wow! See another media speaker, NPR "Fresh Air" hostess Terry Gross, whose show originates from Philly.) Matthews explained:
That didn't take long! Back in the MSM's Watergate heyday, it took a while for a steady drumbeat of revelations, stories and allegations to gather sufficient momentum. The pace has apparently quickened in the modern liberal-media world. On this morning's Today show, speaking of the allegation that President Bush authorized the disclosure of information by Scooter Libby, Matt Lauer asked Chris Matthews: "scale of 1 to 10, [where] 10 is a deal-ender, where does this fall?"
Matthews didn't hesitate: "heading to 10."
Even Lauer seemed taken aback: "Really, that big?"
For good measure, Matthews later analogized VP Cheney to Henry II having put out a hit leading to the murder of a dissenter in his administration.
The graphic claims 'Kerry Plays Hardball', but it was all slow-pitch softball this evening for the junior senator from Massachusetts. After feeding Kerry a number of leading questions letting him tee off on the way Pres. Bush allegedly misled the country into war, talk turned to exit strategies.
Matthews: "Senator, you have a plan, pretty hard, about how we can deal with getting out of Iraq."
Kerry: "Well, it's time to get tough, Chris."
Now there's a courageous politician for you - one willing to admit he's tough.
Kerry repeated a stock formulation he's been using this week: "The policy is broken. When you go down to the Vietnam War Memorial, you take a look at it, you see that almost half the names that are on that wall were added after our leaders knew that the policy wasn't working. That's immoral, and I believe it's immoral today for us to pursue a policy where our kids are dying, losing their limbs, going to Walter Reed . . . because Iraqi politicians won't compromise."
Is there something in the water at NBC/MSNBC? Laughing gas in the ventilation system, perhaps? Earlier today, I posted the photo below, showing Matt Lauer dissolving in laughter on this morning's Today show. It happened when Katie made her momentous announcement that she was leaving for CBS. Matt pretended to take it totally in stride, making to move right on, intoning "also coming up in this half-hour" in his best canned host-voice before bursting out.
This evening, it was Chris Matthews' turn to double over in laughter. Now granted, Matthews had a better excuse - his guest was the daffy Howard Dean. Matthews managed to keep a straight face when Dean first claimed that the Democrats "want to bring this country back together again so everybody is respected," and then proceeded to lash out at every Republican within arm's reach.
On last night's Hardball MSNBC's David Shuster's piece on Tom DeLays sounded as if it was approved by the DNC Communications Department before it hit the airwaves. Okay seriously now, other than the snippets from the President, what in the following report doesn't sound like it's straight from a DNC press release?:
David Shuster: "He is the scalp that Democrats have long been sharpening their knives for. And today a Democratic Party spokesman called Tom DeLay’s announcement, quote, ‘Just the latest piece of evidence the Republican Party is a party in disarray, out of ideas and out of energy.’ At the White House, President Bush put on a good face."
[George W. Bush: "My own judgment is that our party will continue to succeed because we’re the party of ideas."]
Mickey Kaus over at Slate's Kausfiles blog noticed a remark Gloria Borger said to Chris Matthews on the economy. Apparently the media will beat the drumbeat of economic bad news until Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House.
When Gloria Borger announced on Chris Matthews that Treasury Secretary John Snow would be replaced after November because "the Republicans don't want to go through confirmation hearings and relitigate the economy before the [election]," you knew Snow would be gone by July. ... Yes, it would truly be awful for Republicans if in the days before the election the papers were filled with articles about their stewardship of the economy, their one remaining success story! It might push the news from Iraq off the front page! ... Does Gloria Borger really think the economy is the Republicans' weak spot? ... P.S.: When did Borger become Johnny Apple? [A long time ago--ed. Good point]
Be the death literal or figurative, in recent days Democrats and their MSM claque have demonstrated a ghoulish penchant for dancing on the graves of their political opponents. As documented here, on the very day of his death last week, MSNBC's Alison Stewart, subbing for Keith Olbermann on Countdown, took nasty parting shots at Caspar Weinberger. Stewart disparaged as both a budget "slasher" and a big spender the man who, as Ronald Reagan's Defense Secretary, contributed mightily to winning the Cold War.
Today, it was Tom DeLay's retirement announcement that brought out the worst in the left. Bob Shrum was Chris Matthews' guest on Hardball, and so avidly did Shrum exult in DeLay's predicament that former GOP Rep. Susan Molinari was plainly repulsed. But far from taking Shrum to task for his unseemly asperity, Matthews commended him.
NBC and MSNBC have a penchant for gulling viewers into believing they are presenting balanced panels by pairing a partisan Democrat with Pat Buchanan. The sleight-of-hand recently reached an apex when the Today show mislabeled Buchanan a "Republican strategist." Buchanan - the fellow who quit the GOP in 1999 to run for president against W as the candidate of the Reform Party. See report with revealing screen shot here.
Any pretense that Buchanan is anything but a Bush administration critic often more in synch with the Democrats than the GOP was stripped away on this evening's Hardball, when a partisan Democrat let the cat out of the bag.
A follow-up on Howard Kurtz's profile of Keith Olbermann: in his weekly "Media Notes" online chat at washingtonpost.com, Kurtz tries to declare that he has no opinion on the question of Olbermann's ideological bias:
Washington, D.C. : Can you tell me what is the upside in Keith Olbermann denying he has an agenda? I mean, you didn't buy that line. Who would?
Howard Kurtz: I'm agnostic. It is true that he was on every night in 1998 dealing with the Clinton scandal. And even most opinionated anchors don't want to be seen as aligned with one party or another (although Sean Hannity talks openly about raising money for Republican candidates). The true test will come the next time there's a Democratic president.
There was more good news about the economy today. The Conference Board announced that consumer confidence is now at its highest level since May 2002. Yet, on Tuesday’s “Hardball,” host Chris Matthews just couldn’t admit on television – with people watching – that the economy is actually doing well. Instead, he stuttered, stammered, and referred to the current economic condition as “not terrible.” Yep. 4.8 percent unemployment and 17 straight quarters of positive economic growth in Matthews’ view is “not terrible.”
In a segment featuring Pat Buchanan and former Clinton transportation secretary Rodney Slater, the threesome were discussing potential changes in the administration now that Andy Card has stepped down as the president’s chief of staff. Buchanan said:
Wouldn't you think that someone who fashions his show "Hardball" would have the intestinal fortitude to invite on at least one guest who disagrees with his world view? At least tonight, Chris Matthews apparently thought that unnecessary.
Here was Matthews guest line-up this evening:
Philippe Sands: left-wing Brit, author of a new book, Lawless World, accusing Pres. Bush of having decided very early on in the game to go to war against Iraq.
Susan Page: reporter for the Dem-friendly USA Today. Let's call the affable Page a voice of the more reasonable realms of the center-left media.
Craig Crawford: the snarky MSNBC/CBS political analyst who enjoys taking snide shots at the Bush administration.
Charlie Cook: political pollster, he of the Cook Political Report. Call Cook reasonably down-the-middle, but consider that the bouquets he placed in his own bio come from the NY Times, Bob Schieffer Al Hunt and David Broder. No one has ever accused Cook of being a Republican.
Sure, Matthews has had his share of Republican guests. But couldn't he have found at least one to round out tonight's left-leaning/Bush antagonist line-up?
Seemingly on every evening's Hardball, Chris Matthews enjoys chanting a mantra of allegedly failed Bush administration promises on Iraq. Chief among them is his taunt that the White House claimed that our troops would be greeted as liberators.
Just as it might be soothing to see someone silence an ostentatious Berkeley hippie endlessly iterating 'ummm', it was most satisfying to witness Christopher Hitchens on this evening's Hardball comprehensively refute Matthews on his claim.
Once again, Matthews launched into his leitmotif: Pres. Bush: "strikes out . . . on the fact that we were going to be treated as liberators."
Is Chris Matthews making a profound point about self-determination and democracy, or has he gone off an end deeper than even Cindy Sheehan has so far ventured into?
Discussing the Iraqi insurgency with Pat Buchanan on this evening's Hardball, Matthews had this to say:
"We know it for a fact that the country is about 20% Kurd, 20% Sunni and about 60% Shia. In any democratic process you put together, the Shia will run the show. Here's the question: who are we to say that the minority group, the Sunnis, shouldn't rebel? Who are we to say they shouldn't try to rebel against the majority of the people?"
Continued Matthews: "I'm asking a simple moral question. We can tell the people under our system of government . . . what to do. What right have we got to go into another country and tell those other people what to do?"
On the Tuesday night edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews asked if Cheney would "see the light" and retire.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well Mike Wallace announced his retirement today, and Mike Wallace who I thought never would retire. If he retires, maybe Cheney's gonna see the light. What do think? No? No takers on that?
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: I'm not sure if Cheney would see it that way.
Give Dem strategist Hillary Rosen high marks for candor.
It's been obvious for ages that from Medicare to Social Security to foreign policy, the Dems don't have anything that comes close to a hint of a suggestion of an outline of a constructive proposal.
Just the same, Democrats deny that the only thing they have to offer is fear itself. They claim they're being constructive, and keep promising to come forth, at a date certain, with specific proposals. It's just that the date somehow manages never to arrive.
It was thus curiously refreshing to hear a Democrat admit what everyone knows: the Dems have no policy and see no reason to offer one. The particular context was the war in Iraq. Interviewing Rosen on this evening's Hardball, Chris Matthews asserted: "I don't think your party [your party?] has a policy."
It's not exactly news to the GOP base that John McCain is not one of them. But it was perhaps noteworthy to hear Chris Matthews, ostensibly a McCain man [at least when it comes to his preference among Republican presidential hopefuls], acknowledge that fact on this evening's Hardball. He might also have raised eyebrows on the other side of the aisle by ripping Democrats for their weakness on illegal immigration.
Speaking of the issues that were stressed at this past weekend's Republican coffee klatsch in Memphis, Matthews stated "all I heard was . . . no gay marriage, immigration - lock it up, stop illegals - keep cutting taxes and keep appointing conservative justices."
If you put stock in the actual results of the Memphis GOP straw poll, you've got things . . . Oz backwards. At least, that's Chris Matthews' view.
In Dorothy's adventure, the Wizard cautioned us to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." But this morning, Chris Matthews told us that the way to understand what happened in Memphis was to do just that - look behind the curtain at the Republican heavy-hitters lining up behind John McCain.
Interviewed by Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show, Matthews claimed:
"The big thing for McCain is the strength he showed not in the straw vote [where he finished at the bottom of the pack] but among powerful people. [Haley] Barbour, Lindsey Graham, Trent Lott and [J.C.] Watts all talked up McCain. I think McCain is building up strength."
Tonight's Hardball post-mortem special on the just-concluded Memphis straw poll of GOP presidential hopefuls was a treasure trove for political junkies.
One obvious conclusion: it was good night for Mitt Romney. As a northerner, someone from Massachusetts and a Mormon at that, finishing second in the South was a notable accomplishment.
But Chuck Todd of the Hotline suggested another headline:
"The biggest thing: we'll look back at this conference by saying this is when we found out that Haley became McCain's southern sherpa. He has made McCain bona fide. I think a Haley-McCain coupling from this weekend sends gigantic shock waves to Republicans."
For some time now, Chris Matthews has played the leitmotif of a "second-rate second term" at the White House. When on this evening's Hardball he invited Margaret Carlson to whack the Bush pinata, there were embarrassing consequences for the toothy ex-Time editor, now languishing at Bloomberg News.
Matthews tried his best to tee it up for Carlson:
"Margaret, I look at a pattern of events and they come out of people's mouths, conservatives, liberals, whatever: Katrina - competence question. That nomination for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, and now the ports issue. Is there a pattern of not being on base as we say in baseball, being caught off base by the President?"
The average American’s net wealth is the highest in history. More Americans own their home than ever in history. Unemployment is currently lower than the average of the previous three decades. The average weekly pay for non-supervisory production workers has increased by almost 16 percent in the past five years while inflation has risen by 13 percent. Yet, Chris Matthews stated on “Hardball” Tuesday evening that the current economy is only helping the people at the very top (video link to follow).
In a discussion with political analyst Charlie Cook, Matthews opined that one of the problems the Republicans are going to have in the upcoming midterm elections is the economy, and the public’s perception of it. In Matthews’ view, despite what the GDP is doing or what is being written about in financial papers, his “sense” is “that the money is going to the top.” Why is this? “Because of the tax breaks they got under Bush and because the way the economy is geared right now.”
Don't expect to see Chris Matthews and Hillary Clinton dining tête à tête any time soon. On this evening's Hardball, he described her as "Dukakis in a dress."
The comment arose in the course of his interview of House Majority Leader John Boehner. The topic was McCain. Boehner, perhaps with a grain of reluctance, labelled McCain a "good guy." But Boehner cut Matthews short when he floated a scenario in which the GOP would turn to McCain as its candidate "if you see Hillary coming, if it looks like she's got up a head of steam."
Boehner: "Wait a minute. You know, if ifs and buts and were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas. I don't think she can win."