Tony Snow Tries to Calm Down Chris Matthews

All throughout last night's Hardball, MSNBC's Chris Matthews kept pressing the line the administration was headed for war with Iran, so much so, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow felt the need to calm down Matthews. When an agitated Matthews demanded: "Tony, will the President ask Congress' approval before any attack on Iran?,' Snow countered, "You're getting way ahead of yourself, Chris. Nobody here is talking about attacks on Iran." Snow even attempted to tone down the admitted film buff's active imagination as he warned the excitable Hardball host: "Well, you've been watching too many old movies featuring your old friend Slim Pickens is what you're doing now, come on."

The following is the fuller exchange between Matthews on Snow as it occured on the January 11 Hardball:

Chris Matthews: "Welcome back to Hardball. Last night, President Bush called for more than 20,000 new U.S. troops in Iraq, but will Americans will agree to get even deeper into a war they consider a mistake? Here to play Hardball right now, the White House press secretary, the Honorable Tony Snow. Mr. Snow, thank you for joining us. Last night the President said this about Iran. Let's listen."

George W. Bush: "Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

Matthews: "Tony, will the President ask Congress' approval before any attack on Iran?"

Tony Snow: "You're getting way ahead of yourself, Chris. Nobody here is talking about attacks on Iran. What the President was talking about is the movement of money and personnel and weaponry across the Iranian border into Iraq, where they're being used to kill Americans and also Iraqis. And what he's doing is making the sensible military point, which is you cut off the supply lines, you go after the people who have been supplying, carrying those supplies into Baghdad and elsewhere. We're also thinking about the same thing with Syria, which is cutting off the so-called ratlines between the Syrian border and Anbar province. So I tell anybody who's sitting around worrying about wars with Iran, there are, there's more than one way to work on getting a nation to behave. For instance, you look at North Korea, we worked with, you know, worked with the Six Party Talks. With Iran, we have worked through the United Nations Security Council to try to send a message to the Iranian government. Right now we are working on success in Iraq. And part of that success is making sure that individuals who are killing and funding and also weapons, including some pretty advanced weapons, don't get into Baghdad, where they can kill our fellow citizens."

Matthews: "Well, he did say ‘we're gonna disrupt the attacks on our forces, we will interrupt the flow of support from Iran.' Does that mean stopping at the Iranian border or going into Iran?"

Snow: "Well, again, I think what the President is talking about is the war in Iraq, Chris."

Matthews: "So he will seek congressional approval before any action against Iran?"

Snow: "You are talking about something we're not even discussing. You are way ahead of yourself."

Matthews: "Well, you are, Tony, because, look at this. ‘I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region.' Isn't that about Iran?"

Snow: "It's about, yeah, it is, in part. And what it is, is it's saying, 'Look, we are gonna make sure that anybody who tries to take aggressive action.' But when Bill Clinton sent a carrier task force into the South China Sea after the North Koreans fired a missile over Japan, that was not as a prelude to war against North Korea. You know how it works."

Matthews: "No, I'm just concerned because very much for, in the years and months building up to this war in Iraq, we heard kind of a drumbeat of the dangers from Iraq and the nuclear weaponry and, and what we're going to do about it. And then gradually we went to wore war. And I'm just wondering, we're looking here at the precursor for a rationale for an attack of some kind on, you say, I'll take it at your word, if the President's not going to attack Iran, we'll move on."

Snow: "Okay, but let me do just a couple of things here. I think you understand and most Americans understand Iran is the, the foremost financier here of global terror. It's a problem. But you don't deal with everything militarily, as you know. The United States exhausted all diplomatic options before going into Iraq. I think what you're doing is you're trying to go down a road of speculation that is just way ahead of events. Right now, we're working on making Iraq a success. One other thing about Iran, Chris. The Iranian public, most which of is young, is very pro-American. We got a lot of people who like our way of life."

Matthews: "Boy, do I agree with you on that. Completely agree with that today. My concern is we're gonna see a ginning-up situation whereby we follow in hot pursuit any efforts by the Iranians to interfere with Iraq. We take a couple shots at them, they react. Then we bomb the hell out of them and hit their nuclear installations without any action by Congress. That's the scenario I fear, an extra, or extra-constitutional war is what I'm worried about."

Snow: "Well, you've been watching too many old movies featuring your old friend Slim Pickens is what you're doing now, come on."

Matthews: "No, I've been watching the war in Iraq is what I've been watching. As long as you say to me before we leave tonight that the President has to get approval from Congress before making war on Iran."

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