It’s been four years since President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney left the White House, but MSNBC’s Chris Matthews can’t miss an opportunity to trash the former vice president every chance he has. After playing a recent soundbite of Matthews's favorite bete noir, Matthews asked Howard Fineman, the editorial director of the Huffington Post, “Where do you learn to be that evil?”
Speaking to his all-liberal panel, which included Joan Walsh of Salon.com, Matthews went on a bender against Cheney from everything from the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame -- he blamed the wrong person for it, by the way -- to the decision to go to war with Iraq. Matthews began his spittle-laced rant:
That guy sat there and brilliantly conspired. He had Judy Miller writing the stories for the week and with Scooter feeding her the stuff. Gets the Times story. Get on Meet the Press, does the alley-oop play. Acts so avuncular, so sure of himself in his presentation that a lot of middle of the road people bought it. [See video after jump. MP3 audio here.]
Matthews’ hatred towards Cheney didn’t stop there, with the Hardball host then calling Cheney’s actions as Vice President “criminal.” For their parts, Walsh and Fineman failed to push back on Matthews’ over-the-top rhetoric, and at times added their own vitriol, with Walsh claiming Dick Cheney has an “ugly legacy” and was the “source of evil from the White House from that administration.”
But wait, there's more! Not content to attack Cheney over policy, the deranged Hardball host mocked the vice president's mannerisms:
We can't compare anybody to Dick Cheney. By the way, that snarl that he has when he talks with that evil manner of his and it's this sort of avuncular, as I said, when he snarls, that thing, it's hardly Elvis Presley snarling either. It's a whole new kind of snarling. When he does that, I got to say, this is just -- thank God a troll occasionally looks like a troll and you can actually--- look at that way he walks.
To his credit, Fineman expressed his discomfort at Matthews going so personal against Matthews, but went on to say Cheney's view of the world lives on in congressional critics of the Obama administration's foreign and military policies:
I get uncomfortable with that kind of language sometimes, Chris, maybe because I'm not strong enough to deal with it, but I think what's missing here is that Dick Cheney is the former Vice President, is the guy who propounded his theory of the world, and his Republican allies on the hill are not having a serious discussion about foreign policy in defense during these nomination hearings. Whether it's Hagel or Brennan or whatever. They're just taking cheap shots all over the place and they're not having a serious discussion.
"Taking cheap shots" and "not having a serious discussion"? That sounds an awful lot like Chris Matthews.
See relevant transcript below.
Hardball w/ Chris Matthews
February 11, 2013
5:16 p.m. EST
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball." Dick Cheney is at it again telling Wyoming Republicans over the weekend that President Obama's national security appointments don't live up to the high standards set by the stellar legacy of the Bush-Cheney years. Cheney’s team of course was filled with the likes of Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton. On Cheney's words, quote, the performance now of Barack Obama as he staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal. Frankly, what he has appointed are second rate people. Well, agree or disagree with his politics, John Kerry is not a second rate choice for Secretary of State certainly. He served as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and he came close to being the President of the United States. Senator Kerry as well as Senator Chuck Hagel, both served honorably in Vietnam and in combat while Dick Cheney made sure that he got five different deferments to avoid fighting a war, Vietnam, that he loved supporting. So let's take a look at the Cheney legacy and see how it stacks up to the president's so-called second rate team. We've got an expert, Howard Fineman is editorial director of the "Huffington Post" and Joan Walsh is editor-at-large of Salon. Both are MSNBC political analysts. By the way, Dick Cheney says the president's national security rate team is second rate. A great phrase he knew would be coined quickly. And that's rich coming from the man who did more than most anyone to sell the U.S. on a completely unnecessary war. Take a look
DICK CHENEY: We know with absolute certainty that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon. We believe he has in fact reconstituted nuclear weapons. I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators. We learn more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the 90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems. It involved the Iraqis providing bomb making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.
MATTHEWS: Howard, where do you learn to be that evil? I mean, that guy sat there and brilliantly conspired. He had Judy Miller writing the stories for the week and with Scooter feeding her the stuff. Gets the Times story. Get on Meet the Press, does the alley-oop play. Acts so avuncular, so sure of himself in his presentation that a lot of middle of the road people bought it.
HOWARD FINEMAN: Just watching that again, Chris, was both infuriating and upsetting. We lived through that time. We were lied to, flat out lied to in that way, and for him to say that the president is appointing second raters, that was first rate bilge.
MATTHEWS: Good choice of words.
FINEMAN: I can't say more. If that's what first rate is, I'll take the second rate.
MATTHEWS: You know, Joan, his avuncular fashion, that we now know, that bonding he did with the viewer, I know the trick. It' was almost criminal. We, we now know, we now know, talking to whoever he is talking to at the anchor desk there, establishing a kind of bond among those reasonable people, all the time pushing this bilge. All the time pushing stuff that he had conspired with his chief of staff and his whatever his press wing was at the time to feed into The New York Times feed into the national news so that after awhile people would say he can't be lying all the time and coming up with great phrases like weapons of mass destruction and intermingling those with either chemical or biological or occasionally throwing in the fact that they have some balsam wood airplane that’s going to fly over here with a nuclear bomb and drop it in Washington. Anything that would get that war started they were willing to say, including sending General Powell out there with his mission at the U.N.
JOAN WALSH: It's such an ugly legacy, Chris, but, you know, we have been talking about this for four years, five years now
MATTHEWS: But why is he still talking, why does he still have an audience in this country on the right?
FINEMAN: I know.
WALSH: Well actually, I want to look on the bright side here. Because it used to be that his every utterance was national news and he literally faxed a press release to Politico and they printed it a couple years ago trashing the president.
MATTHEWS: I remember that. How he used to feed Politico.
WALSH: He's done that over and over. But now, there he is. He’s just with his home state Republican Party where he kind of belongs, and I also want to point out that his two home state Republican Senators voted for John Kerry. So they don't agree with him that he's a second-rate person. He really doesn't have the kind of power that he had before. He's been fully discredited, and yet, yes, we are still going to talk about it when he says things like this because it's so ridiculous to be trashing this president all these years later when he's had a stellar record on foreign policy.
MATTHEWS: But you know these birthers, these babbits that sit in the audience for people like him. These birthers. You can see them from the Rotary Club, going, very polite. I can just hear the audience, excellent point, well put Vice President. This second rate – of course they all agree, they wouldn't have approved these people out there. You know, Wyoming doesn't deserve this guy. It's a beautiful state.
FINEMAN: I think that maybe Dick Cheney has a case of drone envy here.
FINEMAN: Well, I mean, he’s-
MATTHEWS: Go on, sir.
FINEMAN: Okay. He's the guy who is used to being attacked by the ACLU.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I see.
FINEMAN: You see what I'm saying? Actually President Obama has got some weapons that Dick Cheney wouldn't mind having had, and the president
MATTHEWS: This is getting way too sexual for me here Howard-- pull back.
FINEMAN: And the president has been unafraid to use them.
FINEMAN: No, the serious point here is the republicans spent a generation unhorsing Democrats because Democrats were, quote, weak on defense.
MATTHEWS: They weren't willing to pull the trigger.
FINEMAN: They weren't willing to pull the trigger. Barack Obama to the dismay of the ACLU has been perfectly willing to pull the trigger and he's done it pretty effectively in terms of decimating al-Qaeda, which was supposedly the original intent of what Dick Cheney was up to when we invaded Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Well the questions still linger about what role Dick Cheney played in outing Valerie Plame as the CIA officer. Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor said there is a cloud over him. That's what he said back then. And here is why according to "Time" magazine, quote, though his recollection of other events at the same time frame was lucid and detailed, on at least 20 occasions Scooter Libby, Cheney's Chief of Staff, could not recall details of his talks with Cheney about Plame's place of employment or questions the vice president raised privately about Wilson's credibility. Some bush officials, these are Bush officials, wondered whether Libby was covering up for Cheney’s involvement in the leak of Plame's identity. Joan, I have to tell you, I respect Scooter Libby in one regard, loyalty. He has kept, and it is a strange loyalty, he has never brought Cheney into this thing. Cheney has been able to use crocodile tears to pretend he cared about the guy. He referred to him as a soldier left on the field-excuse me, there were 4,000 real soldiers left on the field.
MATTHEWS: Somehow he comes off as the sympathetic guy when in fact this guy wasn't out robbing gas stations. He was doing what the vice president told him to be doing, which was leaking stories to discredit Valerie Wilson. Your thoughts.
WALSH: Well, I agree. We never were able to fully make that connection but that connection has seemed implicit. And when your chief of staff is sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in outing a CIA officer, you do go down in history –
MATTHEWS: And lying about it.
WALSH: And lying about it. You do go down in history with a cloud over your reputation, but it's a cloud that is accompanied by all the other things that we have said here, and, you know, I think Howard is right. And I think that he also did the president a favor because those of us who have been upset about the drone policies, we can't go around calling Barack Obama Cheney-light because now we are really reminded of the source of evil from the White House from that administration. So --
MATTHEWS: You know, we can't compare anybody to Dick Cheney. By the way, that snarl that he has when he talks with that evil manner of his and it's this sort of avuncular, as I said, when he snarls, that thing, it's hardly Elvis Presley snarling either. It's a whole new kind of snarling. When he does that, I got to say, this is just -- thank God a troll occasionally looks like a troll and you can actually--- look at that way he walks. That proud --
FINEMAN: You know, I get uncomfortable with that kind of language sometimes, Chris, maybe because I'm not strong enough to deal with it, but I think what's missing here is that Dick Cheney is the former Vice President, is the guy who propounded his theory of the world, and his Republican allies on the hill are not having a serious discussion about foreign policy in defense during these nomination hearings. Whether it's Hagel or Brennan or whatever. They're just taking cheap shots all over the place and they're not having a serious discussion.
MATTHEWS: What is, what is--
FINEMAN: In other words, if Dick Cheney wants to get in the ball game and have a really serious discussion about it, fine.
MATTHEWS: Okay, you’ve raised this, I have to answer your question. What is the burr in Lindsey Graham's saddle?
MATTHEWS: Why is he putting a hold on Hagel? What is this smallness?
FINEMAN: Chris, he's not in the end going to put a hold on Hagel. That's just -- he's just grabbing his ankles on the way out the door, okay. Hagel is going to be confirmed. It's a done deal. John McCain has blessed it. John McCain said he gave the committee enough, Hagel gave the committee enough information, I'm not going to hold him up on Benghazi. It’s just, I think Lindsey Graham is there to be the last annoying guy to make sure that Hagel keeps whatever promises he made behind the scenes.