After former President Jimmy Carter criticized “the government of Israel” during a Thursday press conference for having “no desire for a two-state solution” with the Palestinians, MSNBC Hardball host and former Carter speechwriter Chris Matthews hailed his old boss: “...he stuck it to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. Why not?...He might as well stick it to the guys who’ve caused him trouble, as he’s seen it, especially Netanyahu. Why not stick it to Netanyahu? He deserves it.”
Matthews added: “So I think Carter is still that guy, that gutsy guy who knows how to stick it to guys he’s quite ready to that to. So he’s still there. He's all there...”
Minutes later, Matthews continued praising Carter’s willingness to denounce Israel:
I think Carter has taken a lot of hits for his position on Israel, and yet his heart is clear on that....His animosity towards Netanyahu is real. And sometimes you wonder whether the people who have offered tough love to Israel are better guides to its future than some of the people who claim to be its best protectors.
Matthews then blasted opponents of the Iran nuclear deal: "And you watch this whole fight over the Iranian nuclear deal and you wonder, are the people pushing for the deal, maybe they’re better friends of Israel than the ones opposing it because you have to be very discerning in watching that."
Here are excerpts of MSNBC’s live August 20 coverage of Carter’s press conference regarding his recent cancer diagnosis:
10:00 AM ET
JOSE DIAZ-BALART: And, Chris, it is really unusual, right? A former president to give a press conference?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yeah, well, he's been relentless as a former president. He's really been remarkable I think by anybody’s partisan – non-partisan stance. There he is. Wait till you see. This is going to be something to remember, I can tell you.
DIAZ-BALART: Thank you, Chris. Thank you, Jonathan [Alter]. We'll be speaking with both of you just right after the former president gives his speech. And Chris, as he's walking in, I mean, he's expected to speak for up to like 40 minutes – 45 minutes today.
MATTHEWS: That's him. I'm telling you, it's going to be definitive, it’s going to be remarkable and it's going to be honest as hell because Jimmy Carter never tells you a lie. You watch, this is going to be something we haven’t never seen before. That’s my prediction.
MARIA SAPORTA: Maria Saporta, a longtime journalist in Atlanta, with Saporta Report and now The Atlanta Business Chronicle. You have had such a scope of work in your life. If, in the time that you have left, what would give you the most satisfaction to see something happen? Peace in the Middle East or eradication of polio or – what are those things that you would hold onto the most, that would give you the greatest satisfaction for the world? And if you can look at the state of the world and how you've been working in efforts to try and-
JIMMY CARTER: Well, in international affairs, I would say peace for Israel and its neighbors. That's been a top priority of my foreign policy projects for the last 30 years. Right now, I think the prospects are more dismal than any time I remember in the last 50 years. The whole process is practically dormant. The government of Israel has no desire for a two-state solution, which is the policy of all the other nations in the world. And the United States has practically no influence compared to past years in either Israel or Palestine. So I feel very discouraged about it. But that would be my number one foreign policy hope.
MATTHEWS: You know, I was privileged to work for him, Jose, as you know, and I was a speechwriter. And I was with him right till the end and right till Reagan took the oath. And I was on the helicopter with him when he flew into Plains the morning of the election of 1980 when he lost and had to tell Rosalynn. I watched the whole thing. The guts the guy went through, the way he rebuilt himself the last 35 years to become this heroic global figure without a lot of malice.
A little bit of tweeking there. He stuck it to John Kerry there, I noticed, and he stuck it to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. Why not? What's he got to worry about? He might as well stick it to the guys who’ve caused him trouble, as he’s seen it, especially Netanyahu. Why not stick it to Netanyahu? He deserves it. So I think Carter is still that guy, that gutsy guy who knows how to stick it to guys he’s quite ready to that to. So he’s still there. He's all there, that’s all I can say. He’s all there.
DIAZ-BALART: And Chris, kind of to wrap up this conversation that we're having, when you think of those four years and you think of a man who – he even said, you know, wishes he had done things differently but in the final analysis did what his heart told him to do. What will be his biggest legacy? Is it the presidency? Is it the post-presidency?
MATTHEWS: I think it’s Camp David. I think it’s bringing Anwar Sadat together with Israel and bringing – and Menachem Begin, an incredible story. Gerry Rafshoon has put that film, the movie together, actually it’s a play right now and I think it’s going to be a Broadway play soon. The story of how one president can sit down with two leaders and bring them together.
I think Carter has taken a lot of hits for his position on Israel, and yet his heart is clear on that. He’s the only president we’ve had that’s been able to bring peace between Israel and at that time it’s most serious strategic enemy, which was Egypt, the only real threat it faced. He sat down and did that. And I think his concern about peace in the Middle East is real. His animosity towards Netanyahu is real.
And sometimes you wonder whether the people who have offered tough love to Israel are better guides to its future than some of the people who claim to be its best protectors. And you watch this whole fight over the Iranian nuclear deal and you wonder, are the people pushing for the deal, maybe they’re better friends of Israel than the ones opposing it because you have to be very discerning in watching that.
And by the way, I want to thank Jonathan [Alter] for clarifying that. When he took a list of – when he went through the former presidents and he took that shot of saying, “They finally got a hold of me when I’m in trouble.” Jonathan’s right there, it wasn’t just John Kerry. In fact, it wasn't John Kerry. It was all the other presidents that hadn't been so dutiful in keeping him up to date on world events.
DIAZ-BALART: Yeah, or even, you know, borrowing his brain to exchange ideas. You know, I mean, you normally think that-
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yeah, well, they haven't been doing that apparently.
DIAZ-BALART: Yeah, apparently nobody has.