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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 14-Jan-07
NBC News reporter Chris Matthews exhibits abysmal ignorance and vitriolic partisanship

Web Log - January, 2007

NBC News reporter Chris Matthews exhibits abysmal ignorance and vitriolic partisanship

Commenting on the President's speech, Matthews was the worst of a bad bunch of ignorant journalists.


NBC News reporter Chris Matthews commenting on President Bush's speech <font size=-2>(Source: MSNBC)</font>
NBC News reporter Chris Matthews commenting on President Bush's speech (Source: MSNBC)

Chris Matthews, NBC News reporter and the moderator of MSNBC's Hardball, exhibited abysmal ignorance of what's happening the Mideast as well as American history in his comments following President Bush's speech on Wednesday evening. This is fairly typical of Washington's politicians and journalists, but Matthews exhibited the most ignorance, and then insulted the knowledgeable viewer by claiming that he knew more than anyone.

I've never taken any position on whether we should have pursued the 2003 war in Iraq, and I'm certainly taking no position on whether it's good or bad to pursue the "surge" that President just announced. These decisions will have chaotic (in the sense of Chaos Theory) results that no one can predict, which hasn't stopped journalists and politicians from making ridiculous, random predictions all week. But I do take a position that Washington politicians, journalists and pundits should earn their salaries and not act like partisan morons.

Matthews' comments were based on the speech, and also on an hour-long briefing by the President that many Washington reporters had attended on Wednesday afternoon. Matthews was not at the briefing, but NBC reporter Tim Russert attended.

According to Russert, Bush said, "I'm glad Saddam is gone, because if he were still there, he and Iran would be in a race to acquire a nuclear bomb, and if he didn't stop him, Iran would be going to Pakistan or China, and things would be much worse." Russert added, in a tone of voice that indicated his contempt for President Bush, "That's the way he sees the world."

Russert also paraphrased Bush as saying that he wished he could reveal all the intelligence they had received. "If you knew what we know, you would understand why we have to go on," Russert paraphrased Bush.

Chris Matthews went ballistic, because of this and because of Bush's mention of Iran and Syria in his televised speech.

"A lot people are going to go to bed tonight terrified. I'm worried that the President maintains that neo-conservative aggressiveness, the same attitude that we have to go into countries when we don't like their weapon systems. If we're going to attack Iran, that's serious business." Actually, Bush didn't say we were going to attack Iran.

"He still thinks like that," Matthews continued angrily, shouting at times. "He still thinks in terms of a hair trigger -- we're gonna go in their and knock it out -- we're gonna go in there the minute they do something , we're gonna look and see if they're interacting in any way with Iraq, and then we're going to war with them."

Matthews reacted particularly angrily to Bush's wish that the journalists had access to all the intelligence he gets. "The possibility exists," enunciated Matthews, "that we know more than he knows."

And although I didn't hear it myself, I understand that Matthews continued his furious assault on Thursday morning on the Imus show on MSNBC, when he said, "We have Cheney, who always wants to kill."

There's no question that there's a great deal of animosity and partisanship in the Washington press, targeted at President Bush, and it's true that most journalists, politicians and analysts are abysmally ignorant of even basic facts about what's going on in the Mideast, but Matthews' vitriolic performance was particularly egregious, given his incredible ignorance of what's happening in the Mideast today and what's been happening in America for the last 60 years.

Let's begin with the latter point.

Truman Doctrine and Iran/Iraq War

We don't get much appreciation for it, even by our own people, but America is "policeman of the world." This is not something that George Bush made up; it was enunciated by President Harry Truman in the Truman Doctrine of 1947, where President Harry Truman said that America had to be the country guaranteeing freedom around the world.

Truman defended the doctrine by saying that, no matter how expensive it would be, it would be a lot cheaper than World War II was.

Every President since then has followed the Truman Doctrine. Truman himself launched the Korean war.

President John F. Kennedy, whom Chris Matthews idolizes, launched TWO pre-emptive wars against Cuba -- the first, based on faulty CIA intelligence, led to the "Bay of Pigs disaster," and the second, the blockade of Cuba, risked nuclear war with Russia. Then Kennedy launched the Vietnam War, which led to America's first defeat.

Skipping ahead, we have the Bosnian war and the Kosovo war in the 1990s, and the Afghan war in 2002. So there have been lots of pre-emptive wars, and President Bush is not uniquely evil in the history of the world in pursuing the war in Iraq.

Matthews is also too ignorant to remember that the Iraq war didn't start in 2003. It started in 1991, after Saddam invaded Kuwait. It escalated sharply in 1999, with Pres. Clinton's daily bombing of no-fly zones, after Saddam expelled the U.N. weapons inspectors.

It escalated again with the 2003 ground war, but if we hadn't done that, then we'd still be bombing no-fly zones, and we still wouldn't know whether or not Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

And this brings us to the other area of Matthews' ignorance. He and Russert were obviously contemptuous of President Bush's claim that if Saddam were in power, then Iraq and Iran would be competing to develop a nuclear weapon.

That this claim is correct is perfectly obvious to anyone who is familiar with the extremely vicious, bloody Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, that killed 1 million people.

Actually, few Americans are. The Iran/Iraq war was a major historical war in Arab/Persian relations, and it greatly impacts events today.

Briefly, Saddam shocked and surprised by the fury of Saddam's attack, and especially by his WMDs -- he used poison gas on the enemy and was developing nuclear weapons technology. Iranians today note that they're surrounded by countries -- Pakistan, Israel, India, Russia -- that have nuclear weapons. Having been attacked by WMDs during the Iran/Iraq war, they believe that they need nuclear weapons (and perhaps other WMDs) to defend themselves. Animosity between Iran and Iraq has continued after the war, and if Saddam were still in power, there's little question is that he would be in competition with Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

So what President Bush told Russert in the background briefing was not worthy of his contempt, and it was almost certainly true.

On CBS's "Late Show with David Letterman" a few days ago, Letterman told the following as a strange but true "miscellaneous fact": The cause of the Iran/Iraq war was that Iran and Iraq couldn't agree whether to call it the 'Iran/Iraq war' or the 'Iraq/Iran war.'"

Letterman's statement was a joke, of course, but I doubt that Chris Matthews or any of the Washington journalists knows much more about the Iran/Iraq war than that joke.

So Chris Matthews pursued his ridiculous rant, shouting about how everybody is going to go to bed tonight terrified, and even claiming that he knows more than anyone in the Administration, and it turns out that Chris Matthews is just an ignorant loudmouth.

Not all of the politicians and journalists in Washington are as much loudmouths, but unfortunately almost all of them are equally ignorant. This is discussed further in the next web log item, which describes, among other things, how British politicians and journalists are just as ignorant as American politicians and journalists. (14-Jan-07) Permanent Link
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