The Seer of MSNBC hath spoken: no matter how good the news might be now for President Bush, he will be in worse shape come the November elections.
That was Chris Matthews' reading of the entrails on this morning's Today show. Guest-hosting David Gregory interviewed him, and, sounding the same theme we saw over at this morning's Early Show, cast the controversy over the latest leak of an anti-terror program not as a threat to national security, but as "this attack on the New York Times."
Gregory teed up this softball for Matthews: "The question is, whether should we be taking their [the administration's] word for it, that these are legal programs? Do you think the administration, any administration, has earned the right . . . to protect that kind of secret?"
Matthews was happy to take the hint: "Not this one. I think that's a fair charge."
Gregory then, interestingly, laid out a rosy scenario for the administration: "A new poll out from the Washington Post indicates Bush is gaining ground back on Democrats in terms of handling the war. There's the plan by General Casey talking about drawing down troops by the end of the year, more by the end of next year. Insurgents, according to the New York Times, talking to the new Iraqi government. Indications of some better news for this administration on the war."
That's when Chris went into his Cassandra impersonation.
"As long as we're in that war, and this has been shown in all the statistics, if you just look at the pattern since 9-11 or since we went into that war in Iraq, the president's numbers have come down serially. In other words there's been a trend line through all the static, up and down. Like this week it went up a bit, next week it will go down a bit. But the trend line has been about a 45-degree drop in the president's support since 9-11. That is unrelenting that progress in going downward for the president. So no matter how good the news is this June, by November you can predict based upon trends that have continued relentlessly since 9-11, the president will be in worse shape when the voters go to the polls in November."
Matthews needs to brush up on his Newtonian laws of inertia. He got the first part right: 'a body in motion tends to stay in motion.' But Chris forgot the qualifier: 'unless an outside force acts upon them.'
Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle.' Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org