[Updated w/video clip, 14:21 Eastern, July 30]
Something happened on Sunday's "Chris Matthews Show" that likely shocked virtually all viewers on both sides of the aisle: the panel, stocked with liberal media members as usual, actually discussed reasons why America shouldn't pull troops out of Iraq.
In fact, not only was this issue seriously debated, but some of the statements made could have come from well-known conservative columnists like Fred Barnes, Bill Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer.
Yet, this panel was comprised of the Washington Post's David Ignatius, Time's Michael Duffy, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, and U.S. News and World Report's Gloria Borger.
The shocking discussion was set up thusly by host Matthews:
Mike Duffy, you wrote a big piece for Time magazine last week highlighting three dangers Bush is pushing about if we withdraw: sectarian violence; safe haven for al Qaeda, and; a proxy war in Iraq fueled by its neighbors.
The Administration estimates that we have a thousand Iraqis dying a month at the current rate. That could explode, maybe ten times as many, if the U.S. leaves.
Shocking. O'Donnell entered the discussion:
Well, it's all about fear. Fear of the unknown. And, as we're seeing, it is potentially much more explosive if we were to have a reduced presence. And, that's what the president is focusing on.
Later, Matthews asked Ignatius the following:
When we get a national intelligence estimate that says al Qaeda is back and strong, and all over the world, what good does this war in Iraq do to reduce that threat?
Great question. Even better, Ignatius by no means gave the normal liberal media member response (fasten your seatbelts):
Well, these struggles are different fronts of the same war. There is a radical Islamic movement that is active all over the world. It's seeking to hit U.S. targets and targets of our allies...This national intelligence estimate says that it has regained its strength, and most important, it has regained a safe haven in northwest Pakistan. And, the big question the U.S. is going to have to decide: that's a very stark warning, that they have, they have a platform to stage 9/11 level attacks. What are we going to do about it?
The notion that, you know, a defeat for the United States and its allies in Iraq is costless in terms of the larger war against al Qaeda is just wrong. I mean, you know, bin Laden said again and again, "The Americans are weak. If you hit them hard, they'll run away. They were hit hard in Beirut, they ran away. They were hit hard in Somalia, they ran away."
If, if the Iraq experience shows the same thing, that will be emboldening.
Whether it's Bush's argument or not, I think anybody who rejects it out of hand hasn't read Osama bin Laden's writings.
Wow. Could have been said by Kristol, Barnes, or Krauthammer, right?
But don't unfasten those seatbelts yet, because moments later, Matthews posed the following:
If we pull out of Iraq in strength, and leave that country to its own devices, what will happen is the Shia will try to dominate the Sunnis, and then all the Sunni countries in the region, the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, will get into the fight. What's the outlook there?
They don't, this is one the Administration doesn't want to talk about much Chris because it doesn't just scare Americans or Iraqis. It scares markets. Because it immediately goes to the price of oil and what would happen to all kinds of countries in the Persian Gulf. At the moment, the U.S. doesn't want to talk about this, but it is so real that even Democrats are trying to figure out a plan are concerned about because the Saudis would come in on the side of the Sunnis, and this is already beginning to happen...
O'Donnell chimed in: "Jordanians, Syrians..."
Shocking. Moments later, Matthews said the following:
We put it to the Matthews Meter, twelve of our regular panelists: Can Bush keep 100,000 troops or more in Iraq until he leaves office? Looks like he can. Eight of our group says, "Yes he can." Four say, "No, pressure will prevent it." Kelly, you said, "Yes, he can keep all the troops he wants as long as he wants."
He has every intention to keep a sizable force. The next president will have a lot to do with this. And people are beginning to learn that exiting is not easy. There are enormous costs of getting out.
Better still, Borger shockingly added to this:
And can I say, this is such a problem right now for Democrats as we see them not only debate in Congress, but also in all of their presidential debates, because privately many of them will say, and Joe Biden has even said it publicly, that you can't withdraw overnight. That it would be dangerous for us to do so.
O'Donnell chimed in: Mechanically you can't do it.
Matthews then asked: "How will it be better if we stay there two years more than if we leave in a year?"
I think you get to maybe protect two clear interests that the U.S. has: keeping al Qaeda from having a safe haven on the order of Afghanistan, and; keeping that regional war from breaking out.
Shocking, so much so that 90 minutes later, I'm still questioning if this really happened.
However, as my DVR doesn't lie, I have to wonder if a staunchly anti-war media, after pushing for an expeditious withdrawal of troops for many months, are beginning to recognize the humanitarian disaster that certainly follows such a capricious act.
Or, is it possible that the surge is indeed working, and rather than report that before it has fully succeeded, press members are slowly moving away from their previous cut-and-run posture to position themselves better for a possible victory?
Either way, it was nonetheless refreshing to witness such an honest discussion about this crucial issue being had by such liberal journalists.
Of course, potentially even more delicious will be to watch the overwhelmingly likely rabid response in the liberal blogosphere to this program as they insist this proves how conservatively biased the media really are.