On MSNBC Wednesday night, during coverage of President Bush's speech to the nation, Chris Matthews compared Iraq to the "losing battle" of the "Alamo," calling it a "catastrophe," and contended that, if America were under a parliamentary system, that the President's handling of the war would be grounds for retirement. Matthews was further alarmed at Bush's apparent willingness to confront Iran over its nuclear program, as the MSNBC host contended that "a lot of people are going to go to bed tonight terrified," and even described himself as "worried" because of Bush's continued "neoconservative aggressiveness."
Matthews: "A lot of people are going to go to bed tonight terrified that the President of the United States admitted to mistakes in terms of implementing his policy over there ... I am worried, well, I shouldn't say I'm worried, I am definitely interested in the fact that the President of the United States maintains that neoconservative aggressiveness, the same attitude that we have the business in this world of going into countries when we don't like their weapons systems and deciding we're in the Middle East, we're going to attack." (Longer transcript follows)
Below is a transcript of some notable quotes from MSNBC's Wednesday January 10 speech coverage, co-hosted by Matthews and Keith Olbermann:
Keith Olbermann: "I know the content will not be the same, not even close. The reality is not the same. But politically, is, to some degree, is the administration's hope here that they will be conveying the same feel, the same gravitas here as the Lyndon Johnson landmark speech to the nation about Vietnam in '68 when he basically threw in the towel and said we have to go back and start this all over again and do it differently from here on end?"
Chris Matthews: "Well, there's grounds for the President to retire based upon the mistakes made. He will not retire. We know he's much more steadfast than that politically and personally. But there's certainly grounds, if this were a parliamentary-style government, where the parliamentary members, the ministers of the government, the foreign minister, the chancellor, the ex-cheque and the prime minister himself, would say, like they did in the Suez campaign in Britain, this was a catastrophe. We went into a battle thinking it would be quickly won, we would turn over authority to the Iraqi National Congress or someone, and would get out of there. That was the way it was sold to the American people. After, I must say, the dishonest selling of why we went in there, they told us how easy we would get out. The President, I don't think, is going to dwell too much tonight on leaving Iraq ever. I firmly believe he wants permanent bases there. I believe the ideologues behind this war are insistent that the United States never leave in force from the Middle East. They want us there as a permanent constabulary, the big brother in the Middle East. They want us there. You're never going to hear them say we're coming home. And I think that's the difference between this President and Lyndon Johnson. At some level, Lyndon Johnson was humiliated by the war in Iraq. He was beaten by it. This President still has a star that leads him to a kind of a messianic thinking that somehow he's the essential man right now to keep us in that war. I do not hear in this a victory plan. I hear in this a delay pattern, a fight-it-out, an Alamo. But the Alamo was not a victorious battle for Texas or for the country. It was a losing battle."
Matthews: "Well, the administration and its people have been accused of cherry-picking the evidence, the intel to get us into the war. Here they are cherry-picking the one hawkish Democrat in the U.S. Senate that they can claim as a bipartisan partner in this working group they're putting together."
Matthews: "Well, you and I have flagged that issue of Iran. We'll see if the other journalists in the print media have done it as well. I'll tell you, a lot of people are going to go to bed tonight terrified that the President of the United States admitted to mistakes in terms of implementing his policy over there, but after listening to that briefing we just got from Tim and Brian, I am worried, well, I shouldn't say I'm worried, I am definitely interested in the fact that the President of the United States maintains that neoconservative aggressiveness, the same attitude that we have the business in this world of going into countries when we don't like their weapons systems and deciding we're in the Middle East, we're going to attack. If we're going to take the same attitude towards Iran that we took towards Iraq, and wait for them to do something we don't like in the weapons area, the nuclear weapons area, and attack that country, that's serious business. The American people should, by the way, get a hand in debating that sort of policy, with all its ramifications. The idea that we can go in there and knock out the Iranian nuclear facilities, such as they are, and not pay an extraordinary price in terms of our relations with the Islamic world, for someone to think that now after what we've been through for four years now, is to ignore the message here of history, which is it's always more complicated once you're in than it looks on your way in, and I think for the President to espouse, as he apparently did in this briefing today with the anchor people there who were privileged to get in the room with him, that he still thinks like that."
Matthews: "He still thinks in terms of a hair trigger -- we're going to go in there and knock it out, we're going to go in there the minute they do something, we're going to look and see if they're interacting in any way with Iraq and then we're going to war with them. That's a serious bit of business we've picked up on tonight. We'll see if the other journalists in the country are as sensitive to what looks to me like another front in the Middle East."