"Heading to 10": Matthews Claims Bush Leak Allegations Top Seriousness Scale

That didn't take long! Back in the MSM's Watergate heyday, it took a while for a steady drumbeat of revelations, stories and allegations to gather sufficient momentum. The pace has apparently quickened in the modern liberal-media world. On this morning's Today show, speaking of the allegation that President Bush authorized the disclosure of information by Scooter Libby, Matt Lauer asked Chris Matthews: "scale of 1 to 10, [where] 10 is a deal-ender, where does this fall?"

Matthews didn't hesitate: "heading to 10."

Even Lauer seemed taken aback: "Really, that big?"

For good measure, Matthews later analogized VP Cheney to Henry II having put out a hit leading to the murder of a dissenter in his administration.

In support of his seemingly inflated 'grading,' Mathews argued that prior to the Iraq war, "the main argument that sold the most Americans in the political center . . . most people supported the war with Iraq for one reason. The belief that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons."

He continued: "When we found there were no nuclear weaons, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson . . . said he had been sent by the Vice-President to check out this deal that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy nuclear materials in Africa. He . . . came back with a report that said there was no such deal."

Concluded Matthews: "Then according to this new tesimony of Scooter Libby, the President of the United States himself authorized the leak of information that would undercut Wilson's case."

Matthews wouldn't be mollified when Lauer suggested that there will be a game of semantics, with people arguing the president "couldn't have leaked classifed information because he has the power to declassify any information." Asked "how will that fly?", Matthews shot back:

"First of all, [former CIA Director] George Tenet knows nothing of this." And later: "What it shows is that the White House is involved in a major effort to undercut Wilson's claims that the emperor has no clothes, there was no nuclear case for war. That's why it goes possibly to a 10."

When Lauer wondered why the President didn't get out in front of this story and explain the situation to the American people, since Libby's allegations were likely to come out in the course of the trial, Matthews responded:

"They may be confident that Scooter Libby will never say 'the Vice-President said to me 'leak the name of Valerie Plame,' which is the crime here." That's when Matthews then made his lurid historical reference: "It may well be one of those things out of Beckett where the king said 'will no one do this for me?'"

That was an allusion to Henry II having complained to four of his knights about Beckett, the stubborn advocate of the rule of law, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" The knights eventually obliged Henry, hacking Beckett to death with their swords.

Nice analogy, Chris!

Finkelstein lives in Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle'. Contact him at: mark@gunhill.net

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.