Chris Matthews on Friday asked the panelists on the syndicated program bearing his name two questions about the crisis in Egypt that must have made his liberal viewers gasp.
Moments after surprisingly asking NBC's Andrea Mitchell if "neo-conservatives who believe in really trying to push democracy" were right all along, Matthews asked David Sanger of the New York Times if George W. Bush was "better equipped than this President to deal with this crisis" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Let me get to the philosophical. You and I have talked about this so many times over the years. There's been an ideological struggle between the realists in American foreign policy and the more aggressive neo-conservatives who believe in really trying to push democracy, really trying to change the face. Who can say I told you so here the loudest? Were the neo-cons right in all fairness in saying this was going to come, we should have gotten out ahead of this before?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC: You could argue that, because some of the so-called realists would, are still today, and I just spoke to a prominent one, arguing that we should be supporting Mubarak…
MATTHEWS: All the way.
MITCHELL: …come hell or high water, all the way. This is our military, we built it, we paid for it. A billion and a half this year.
MATTHEWS: Are these the same that would have said support the Shah, support anybody, support Marcos? Support anybody.
MITCHELL: Yes, and while the analogy to Iran is incorrect because this is a secular movement and Iran was not, the analogy between a U.S. government, a White House that seems trying to straddle all sides and not knowing how much to move in which direction, that actually does remind me of 1979.
Well, that seems to be a bit of historical revisionism.
It was Carter and the so-called "realists" that wrongly chose to not support the Shah in 1979, and the conservatives in our nation who at the time thought we should do everything to keep him in to prevent a radical Islamic takeover of Iran.
To this day most of the Right believes much of the problems we're having with radical Islam stem from Carter's strategic blunder. Claiming that today's "realists" were the same folks calling for America to support the Shah in 1979 is therefore historically inaccurate.
But I digress:
MATTHEWS: Again on that point, did the government that we had before, the administration of Bush, which was so loaded with ideologues, if you will, and with some realists. Mostly ideologues. Were they better equipped than this President to deal with this crisis because they're more attuned to what is going on over there? Is [National Security Advisor] Tom Donilon ready for this?
Strange question coming from a man who earlier on Friday blamed the crisis in Egypt on Bush and the Iraq war.
Fortunately for Matthews' liberal viewers that were likely having a hard time breathing over the thought of Bush being better equipped than Obama to deal with anything, David Sanger of the New York Times was there to predictably offer the more acceptable left-wing view:
DAVID SANGER, NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah, I think that the Bush administration was certainly not ready for this in its first term.
On what would Sanger base this argument? Given the speed in which Bush mobilized the nation to head into Afghanistan after 9/11 and into Iraq fifteen months later, this certainly wasn't a White House that was slow in the uptake to respond to an international crisis.
In Sanger's view, exactly what did they lack the first four years to deal with what is currently going on in Egypt?
This seems especially quizzical given the peculiar and uncoordinated statements coming from Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton this week.
Regardless of your political leaning, you would have to think that Dick Cheney and Colin Powell would have performed far better than what we've seen from Obama's support team as it pertains to this crisis thus far, unless of course you wrote for the New York Times:
SANGER: By its second term, you got to that speech that you were discussing before that Condoleezza Rice gave. Even then, we don't know how they would have felt if they really thought Mubarak was not ready. Mr. Donilon and others in the administration were handling this. They are realists of a different kind, and their realism I think is a recognition that Mubarak was not going to last and they might as well move on to the next generation.
MATTHEWS: Right, that’s why I think.
So, Obama and Company are being reactive as opposed to proactive thereby making the answer to Matthews' question about which administration is better equipped for this crisis to clearly be Bush.
Not surprisingly, none of Matthews' guests was willing to go that far.