I have my issues with Pat Buchanan. Anyone who writes a book arguing we should have found a modus vivendi with Hitler isn't necessarily high on my list. Still, when it comes to spot-on analysis of the political scene, Pat is without peer. But when Buchanan—his own opposition to the Iraq war notwithstanding—argued on this evening's Hardball that McCain's support for the surge is a winning issue for him, it drove Chris Matthews into such a frenzy he was reduced to a reality-defying scream that the surge isn't working.
Air America's Mark Green was along for the bumpy ride. An extended clip was rolled of McCain at a town hall in New Mexico saying that he knows how to win wars, that Obama was wrong to oppose the surge, and that he McCain will build on the Iraq experience to lead us to success in Afghanistan.
Then all hell broke loose.
View video here.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Pat, are you saying we've won the war in Iraq? What do you mean by winning wars? What wars has John McCain won? Seriously. Name the wars, list them, that we have won under his leadership, or in his view.
PAT BUCHANAN [in a classic bit of realpolitik]: Do you want to get into the substance, or the politics? [Green can be heard laughing in the background.] Look, the American people believe we made a mistake going into Iraq. Barack wins that. The American people believe the surge has worked, it is working.
MATTHEWS [shouting]: No it hasn't! The American people haven't been asked the right question. Pat, you know you're wrong on this. Pat, you're disagreeing with yourself on this, Pat. You have said in the past the reason to stick the army in there with greater strength a year or two ago was to get the Iraqis to solve their own fish. To put it together themselves politically so that we could come home. By that definition, have we won?
BUCHANAN: By the loudness of your argument and your intensity, you are suggesting McCain indeed has a powerful point.
The argument raged on for several minutes more. In closing, Pat returned to the theme that Mike Huckabee often invoked during the primaries: if you're catching flak, you must be over the target.
BUCHANAN: Well listen, the very intensity of your argument, gentlemen, tells me that Barack Obama's got a problem on this issue.
MATTHEWS: OK, if that's your measure of --
BUCHANAN: That's my observation.
MATTHEWS: -- intellectual confidence, then Pat, you lost a long time ago. Pat Buchanan, it's always an honor to watch you switch sides between your ideals, your ideology, and your partisan responsibilities.
Buchanan compromised his ideals in no way. He made clear that he believes the war was a mistake, and that Ike was a great conservative for keeping us out of foreign entanglements. But as a matter of pure political analysis, he rightfully observed that McCain has the whip hand on the surge. As for "partisan responsibilities," when's the last time you recall Chris accusing a Dem of sacrificing his integrity to toe the party line?