The screen graphic claimed that Jimmy Carter was playing "hardball." But this wouldn't have qualified as softball. Not even T-ball. This was David Shuster coming down off the pitcher's mound to help his octogenarian guest swing the bat.
Guest hosting for Chris Matthews on this afternoon's Hardball, on three different occasions Shuster took up the cudgel for the man he repeatedly referred to as "the 39th President of the United States." I couldn't help but imagine Shuster saying to himself - "wow, Chris is away, and here I am, interviewing a former POTUS!"
Shuster first served as pinch hitter in the context of Iraq, asking Carter "does it anger you?" when President Bush points the finger at Al Qaida in explaining the troubles there. With Shuster having clubbed W for him, Carter was able to diplomatically allow that he was not angered and understood the need of a president to defend his policy.
Next, Shuster essentially asked if Donald Rumsfeld was fired harshly enough to suit Carter's taste: "Were you satisfied in the way in which his departure was announced, that the Bush administration said we need a fresh look, a new set of eyes to look at Iraq. Was that good enough for you?"
Finally, Shuster invited Carter to join in him in deriding the ignorance of "top policy makers" when it comes to the various sectarian groups in Iraq: "are you frustrated at all that Washington doesn't know more about the Muslim world, about these sectarian conflicts?"
Ah, if only people were as well-informed as David Shuster. Indeed, with a host so willing to prompt his liberal guests, why not cut out the middle man, eliminate the guests, and just have Shuster opine for the hour?
Finkelstein recently returned from Iraq. Contact him at email@example.com