Chris Matthews Compares Plamegate to Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

October 23rd, 2005 12:46 PM

On this morning’s “The Chris Matthews Show,” Matthews played a videotape of British broadcaster David Frost interviewing former president Richard M. Nixon. In that interview, Nixon spoke about anti-war activist Daniel Ellsberg. After the clip, Matthews suggested that the “outing” of CIA agent Valerie Plame was the current White House’s attempt to eliminate dissention to the Iraq war:

Chris: Sometimes you do things on your own and the boss afterwards says things like “Is this one of yours?” Or sometimes you know you're supposed to do something, and you do it. Could this be the story -- the pattern we see here of how a White House gets into trouble? Of course, the reigning champion of White House scandals was Watergate. Here is Richard Nixon telling David Frost years later that the scheme to trash anti-war activist Daniel Ellsberg was really to discredit all opponents of the Vietnam War.

Nixon on tape: What Ellsberg really boils down to, discrediting and all the rest, what it boils down, to I didn't want to discredit the man as an individual. I couldn't care less about the punk. I wanted to discredit that kind of activity. Which was despicable and damaging to the national interest.

Chris: I love the way he says I couldn't care less about the punk. I think he had a little attitude there. But Kelly, the larger question here is sometimes you have policy debates. Carried on in the newspapers and on television every night. And sometimes people play rough. And sometimes that rough play is illegal. And that's what this whole question about what's going to happen next week is will there be indictments or simply a scathing report of some kind or nothing?

Prior in this segment, Sam Donaldson invoked images of Watergate:

Sam: Well, it’s possible, but there was a great phrase from about 33 years ago: “What Haldeman knows, Nixon knows.” Haldeman being Richard Nixon's chief of staff. Libby and the vice president are very close. I'm not saying that Cheney knew any of this. But it's possible that what Libby knew about some effort to discredit Joe Wilson, Cheney, who wanted desperately to continue to prove that there was weapons of mass destruction there, also knew, and if the special prosecutor goes that far, that’s what I mean about a big deal.