Matthews Snipes at Lauer for Supporting Iraq War Funding

And here I thought Chris Matthews reserved his hardballs for his guests, not his colleagues . . .

To use one of Imus's favorite phrases, there are "tension conventions" breaking out all over MSNBC today. Earlier, I noted the shots Andrea Mitchell took at Nancy Pelosi over her "unseemly, imperial" celebrations marking her ascension to the speakership.

Later, things got a bit ugly between Chris Matthews Matt Lauer over the funding of the war in Iraq. It was a very rare display of real anger between fellow members of the NBC/MSNBC stable. Alluding to President Bush's speech of yesterday calling for the Democrats to avoid the kind of politics that will lead to stalemates, Lauer asked Matthews:

"What kind of stalemate are we going to see over Iraq in Congress?"

Video: Real (1.55 MB) or Windows (1.77MB) Plus MP3 (283 KB)

Matthews: "The question is whether the Democrats will stand up to the President if they disagree with him, or whether they try to finesse the issue. The signals we're getting today from Carl Levin, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, are that they're going to try to finesse this. They're going to say 'well, Mr. President, you can have your troop surge in Baghdad of 30,000 more American soldiers going into the fight if we can get some kind of committment from you that we will reduce the overall number of troops over the next year or so. My sense is that the President will let the Democrats believe that there'll be an overall reduction in troops but never commit to it."

Lauer: "Well, but, you say they're going to try to finesse it. In reality, Chris, they don't have a choice. What are they going to do, suggest they cut funding while troops are still in the ground in Iraq? They can't do that."

That got Matthews's Irish up. Clearly flashing some anger, he responded: "Well, that's a political assessment by you, Matt. I think the Democrats have to decide whether they want to climb aboard this catastrophe or not."

Matthews later struck a more conciliatory tone with Lauer, but the initial anger was unmistakable. All these frayed nerves among MSM types remind me of the kind of spats that often break out in families at the time of momentous events - weddings, funerals and the like. And after all, the MSM is like a member of the family when it comes to today's big occasion of the retaking of power by the Democrats.

Mark was in Iraq in November. Contact him at mark@gunhill.net
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.