Chris Matthews Hostile to 'Victory' In Iraq

Chris Matthews is so blatantly anti-Iraq war that any time he's discussing it, he ought to be balanced out but that wasn't the case on this morning's Today show. NBC's Matt Lauer sat idly by as the host of Hardball compared Iraq to Vietnam and demanded the President relent to Democrats and withdraw troops as soon as possible. Matthews even was dismayed that the President still dared to use the word, "victory."

Matthews ranted to Lauer: "I mean the President lost the election. He, he still talks like he won the election. The Democrats who control both houses want to begin withdrawing our troops. It's all about numbers of troops and the timetable for getting them out and the President and Tony Snow right there said they don't, they don't go along with that thinking."

Then, given a little time to catch his breath, Matthews began with the Vietnam comparisons: "Well you know it's a lot like Vietnam. It's a lot like Vietnam was when we had the Tet Offensive in 1968 and the American people saw that we couldn't get victory out of that country. The word victory is still used by the President. Most Americans I think know we can't win over there. We can't create a stable, Democratic government. What we're facing is a war basically between the Sunni and the Shia and if we wait for those people to get along with each other we'll never leave that country. A question, I think, before the people politically right now is how many more casualties will we take in what looks to be a losing war. It's just like Vietnam. We could have cut the same deal in '68 that we cut eventually in '73. I think the American people are gonna see that."

The following a complete transcript of the exchange on the November 14th edition of the Today show:

Matt Lauer: "Alright Kelly, thanks so much. Kelly O'Donnell at the White House for us this morning. Chris Matthews is the host of MSNBC's Hardball and the Chris Matthews Show. Hey Chris, good morning to you."

Chris Matthews: "Good morning, Matt."

Lauer: "So we've got this spirit of cooperation at the moment in Washington between Republicans and Democrats but when we get down to the next couple of weeks or months to talking about withdrawing U.S. troops even in a phased redeployment from Iraq is that when the cooperation ends?"

Matthews: "Well I think there's a real conflict here. I mean the President lost the election. He, he still talks like he won the election. The Democrats who control both houses want to begin withdrawing our troops. It's all about numbers of troops and the timetable for getting them out and the President and Tony Snow right there said they don't, they don't go along with that thinking."

Lauer: "But what's the risk for Democrats, Chris? If they get some kind of concession from the President on this and there is some withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the situation continues to deteriorate there, fast forward to 2008 and the elections and all of a sudden the Democrats are cut and running again."

Matthews: "Well you know it's a lot like Vietnam. It's a lot like Vietnam was when we had the Tet Offensive in 1968 and the American people saw that we couldn't get victory out of that country. The word victory is still used by the President. Most Americans I think know we can't win over there. We can't create a stable, Democratic government. What we're facing is a war basically between the Sunni and the Shia and if we wait for those people to get along with each other we'll never leave that country. A question, I think, before the people politically right now is how many more casualties will we take in what looks to be a losing war. It's just like Vietnam. We could have cut the same deal in '68 that we cut eventually in '73. I think the American people are gonna see that. But the most important pressure point for the Democrats is not someday, down the road where they may look bad for this it's right now. They have told the people, the Democratic Party, 'Vote for us we'll get us out of Iraq.' The people voted for the Democrats, Carl Levin is now head of the Armed Services Committee. You've got Joe Biden head of the Foreign Affairs, Foreign Relations committee. You've got Bobby Byrd head of Appropriations."

Lauer: "Right."

Matthews: "You got Harry Reid as Maj-, all these people are against the war. The people in power now from Pelosi, Murtha, the whole crowd of them said they would get us out of the war if they got elected. They have their people to deal with. I think the Democratic base is gonna demand withdrawal."

Lauer: "And, and so if you're the President and the Baker-Hamilton commission comes back with its, with its ideas and one of those ideas is a phased withdrawal of troops does the, is the President then forced to go along with it?"

Matthews: "Yes except the conundrum is I'm not sure the Baker people have the guts to come out and offer such a dramatic proposal. I've, what I've been hearing coming out of that commission is they're gonna talk about better negotiation efforts with Iran and Syria, the neighbors over there but not gonna push hard on troop withdrawals and I think a lot of people will be very disappointed when they don't. And by the way the Baker commission wasn't elected. The Democratic-controlled Congress was elected."

Lauer: "Right."

Matthews: "The people back home who voted for them aren't waiting for Jimmy Baker to bail them out, they're waiting for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to do it. I'm telling ya, all the pressure in the world's gonna come from that Democratic base, especially the Northeast, I'm up in Boston right now, are gonna want results from having voted Democrat. They want out of Iraq as soon as possible. And that means troop withdrawals pretty soon."

Lauer: "Well let me talk about what you just mentioned. Okay let's say the Baker commission comes back and they say, 'Look you've got to sit down, Mr. President, and you have to talk with Iran and President Ahmadinejad.' What kind of position does that put President Bush in? There's been an incredible war of words between these two countries-"

Matthews: "Right."

Lauer: "-over the last several months. You've got Ahmadinejad continuing to say he's looking for the destruction of Israel."

Matthews: "Right."

Lauer: "Iran is part of that 'Axis of Evil.' How does the President handle that?"

Matthews: "That is the trickiest part in a war. I'm reading the Financial Times this morning and all the talk in Europe about is this, if they link the Middle East settlement or some kind of settlement between Israel and the new Palestinian state with getting along better with Iran it's gonna drive a lot of people in this crazy. The, the hard part for President Bush is to try to broker something that gives Iran something of what it wants. Well obviously the only thing we have to give them is something a lot of people in this administration don't want to give them, which is some kind of pressure on Israel, Olmert over there, to try to give them, give some concessions on, on dealing with the Palestinian people and that's something the administration doesn't want to do. I think Bush is in a very tough situation. He's gonna have the Democrats-"

Lauer: "Right."

Matthews: "-who demand troop withdrawals fairly soon. I think pretty damn soon. And then he's gonna have the pressure to negotiate with Iran and the only thing he can give Iran is a better, a better situation for them with regard to the Palestinians and that's one place I think this administration will not give. I don't see how Bush can really give the Iranians anything."

Lauer: "Let me change subjects real quickly and I only have 30 seconds left on this. Rudy Giuliani has announced he's gonna form an exploratory committee to look at the presidency in 2008. Handicap him for me."

Matthews: "If we had a general election in this country to start the campaign instead of to end it he would win. If you look at all the polls he beats everybody in both parties. The problem he has is convincing the Republican Party that he's their guarantee of election next time and that's the hardest fight for him, going into South Carolina being pro-gay rights, being pro-abortion rights, being basically a liberal on social policy and saying, 'Yeah but right now the issue of this country is security and fighting the terrorists, it's not those other social issues.' He's got to win that argument and he's tried to make it already."

Lauer: "Alright Chris Matthews up in Boston for us this morning. Chris, good to see you."

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