It's a flip-flop that would be the envy of John Kerry in good windsurfing weather off Nantucket. For the last two days, Chris Matthews had been excoriating General David Petraeus for his reluctance to opine on the effect of the Iraq war on America's safety at home. Suddenly this morning, Matthews has decided that -- guess what? -- it's not Petraeus's job to make pronouncements of that sort.
View video here.
As I described here, it began on "Hardball" two nights ago, with this Matthews diatribe against Petraues for his reluctance to answer the question from Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) as to the implications of the Iraq war for Americans' safety at home:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: He couldn't say whether what we're doing in Iraq makes America safer or not. He couldn't say whether the lost lives, the misery, the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent are worth the effort in terms of our national security.
This must be a first, an American field commander who can't say whether the sacrifices he's asking of his troops every day and night are worth it to their country. Did General Washington not know the answer in the American Revolution? Did General Eisenhower not know the answer in World War II? What are we doing in Iraq if the very man commanding the war doesn't know if it's doing us any good in terms of our national security? This is the real news of the [pronounced with contempt] so-called Petraeus Report. The general who won't tell how long it will take us to achieve the mission in Iraq can't tell us whether achieving that mission -- should it ever be achieved -- is worth it.
The tirade continued on last evening's "Hardball," Matthews going so far, as I described here, as to belittle Petraeus as a ventiloquist's dummy.
But appearing on today's "Morning Joe" at 7:35 A.M. EDT, Matthews had a sudden change of heart.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: It's President Bush that brought a non-political person, a serving field commander, into politics* by asking him to defend the policy, which is in fact the president's policy. It's not the policy of people who have sworn to serve the country, it's the policy of the president, to fight this war. And I think that came to a head when Warner asked him that question, "is this making us safer at home?" And he really didn't want to answer that question. Because that's not a question for a military officer, that's a question for the president.
So what explains Matthews' stunning about-face? I'm guessing he figured out that it wasn't good politics for him to denigrate a dedicated, accomplished member of our military. Chris realized he had to keep his eyes on the prize: bashing President Bush.
Will anyone else in the media call Chris on his flip-flop?
*NOTE: The General was testifying not at the president's behest but pursuant to congressional mandate.
The Supplemental budget bill passed by congress reads:
Prior to the submission of the President's second report on September 15, 2007, and at a time to be agreed upon by the leadership of Congress and the Administration, the United States Ambassador to Iraq and the Commander, Multi-National Forces Iraq, will be made available to testify in open and closed session before the relevant committees of the Congress.”