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Hullabaloo


Thursday, March 12, 2009

 
Revisiting The Codpiece

by digby

Chris Matthews is making quite a bit of the fact that Ari Fleischer suggested again yesterday that Saddam was involved in 9/11. (Fleischer clarified today that he didn't really mean that, but it's nonsense. He simply blurted out the same conflation the Bushies always did.)You can see the video at the link.

Matthews is very proud of "confronting" Fleischer today and strutting around like he's a brave truth teller. (And it's correct that he wasn't a huge invasion booster at the time, at least compared to some others.) Still it's hardly true that he was a big war critic either or that he challenged the administration's obvious propaganda at the timje..

For instance he hauled out this example of Bush's misleading rhetoric on the connection between Iraq and 9/11, from his Mission Accomplished speech on the aircraft carrier:

The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men -- the shock troops of a hateful ideology -- gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the "beginning of the end of America." By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation's resolve, and force our retreat from the world. They have failed.


Matthews is correct that this was a ridiculous conflation designed to give the impression that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and that the US was exacting retribution. At the time 71% believed it to be true. He asks Bush defender Frank Gaffney to admit that these kinds of statements were misleading and Gaffney dances around on the head of a pin as usual. David Corn declares that the Bush administration did this constantly.

It's great to see Matthews go back in time and show footage of members of the administration in real time misleading the public. But he and his guests politely and self-servingly left out one tiny little part of the story. Here's what Matthews and his esteemed commenters had to say about that speech in real time:

MATTHEWS: Let's go to this sub--what happened to this week, which was to me was astounding as a student of politics, like all of us. Lights, camera, action. This week the president landed the best photo op in a very long time. Other great visuals: Ronald Reagan at the D-Day cemetery in Normandy, Bill Clinton on horseback in Wyoming. Nothing compared to this, I've got to say.

Katty, for visual, the president of the United States arriving in an F-18, looking like he flew it in himself. The GIs, the women on--onboard that ship loved this guy.

Ms. KAY: He looked great. Look, I'm not a Bush man. I mean, he doesn't do it for me personally, especially not when he's in a suit, but he arrived there...

MATTHEWS: No one would call you a Bush man, by the way.

Ms. KAY: ...he arrived there in his flight suit, in a jumpsuit. He should wear that all the time. Why doesn't he do all his campaign speeches in that jumpsuit? He just looks so great.

MATTHEWS: I want him to wa--I want to see him debate somebody like John Kerry or Lieberman or somebody wearing that jumpsuit.

Mr. DOBBS: Well, it was just--I can't think of any, any stunt by the White House--and I'll call it a stunt--that has come close. I mean, this is not only a home run; the ball is still flying out beyond the park.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know what, it was like throwing that strike in Yankee Stadium a while back after 9/11. It's not a stunt if it works and it's real. And I felt the faces of those guys--I thought most of our guys were looking up like they were looking at Bob Hope and John Wayne combined on that ship.

Mr. GIGOT: The reason it works is because of--the reason it works is because Bush looks authentic and he felt that he--you could feel the connection with the troops. He looked like he was sincere. People trust him. That's what he has going for him.

MATTHEWS: Fareed, you're watching that from--say you were over in the Middle East watching the president of the United States on this humongous aircraft carrier. It looks like it could take down Syria just one boat, right, and the president of the United States is pointing a finger and saying, `You people with the weapons of mass destruction, you people backing terrorism, look out. We're coming.' Do you think that picture mattered over there?

Mr. ZAKARIA: Oh yeah. Look, this is a part of the war where we have not--we've allowed a lot of states to do some very nasty stuff, traffic with nasty people and nasty material, and I think it's time to tell them, you know what, `You're going to be help accountable for this.'

MATTHEWS: Well, it was a powerful statement and picture as well.


As much as I love watching Ari Fleischer squirm, it's very hard to take Chris Matthews, of all people, seriously as his interrogator on this subject. Of course the Bushies consciously and knowingly conflating 9/11 with Iraq. But so did the media, including Matthews himself. I don't doubt that he was privately skeptical of the war and he even let it show a teensy bit from time to time. But for the most part on television as he vigorously and repeatedly fluffed Bush for his manly manliness for years, he too conflated 9/11 and Saddam and reinforced the nonsense the white house and its cronies were dishing out. Hell, even Fareed Zakaria was caught up in that skeevy homoerotic frenzy at the time.

The press and the gasbags both refuse to accept responsibility for their roles in that war. I suppose it's good new for our "team" temporarily that Matthews is on our side, but somehow I'm not comforted. The country desperately needs a real press and a punditocrisy with some credibility. Indeed, I'm still convinced that if we had one liberalism would be far better off. Having clowns attacking conservative losers they used to worship doesn't fill me with pride.


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