THE ROAD TO IRAQ: Shameless, Christopher Matthews said!

MONDAY, MARCH 25, 2013

Part 1—Shamelessness may look like this: Last Friday night, MSNBC re-aired its hour-long documentary about the way we went to war in Iraq.

Hubris, the program is called.

As best we can tell, the network has never posted a transcript of the hour-long program. Nor has the network made the tape of the program available on-line.

Last Friday night, the network re-aired the Hubris program at 9. After that, the network aired an hour-long discussion of the program.

The network hasn’t produced a transcript of that discussion program, which was hosted by Chris Hayes. On-line, it has produced the tape of the program. To watch its segments, click here.

Whatever! Last Friday afternoon, one of the network’s most talented players was promoting the upcoming pair of programs. At 5 PM, the cable show Hardball went on the air, and Chris Matthews started as follows:
MATTHEWS (3/22/13): Shameless! Let’s play Hardball.

Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews in Washington. Let me start tonight with this.
To watch the whole segment, click this.

“Shameless,” the shameless fellow said. Then, as he started, Matthews recalled his own history, perhaps a bit less than correctly. Later that evening, it seemed to us that a few of the stooges played along as Matthews extended this process:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): I hated the Iraq war, said so when I saw it coming, have said so since. The only time I held back from that early criticism, which began when I saw the run-up coming, was in the early days of the actual occupation, when it looked like our forces were being well received, when I had no real choice but to root that the losses our forces had suffered already were being justified.

Who in this country would not have held that hope, especially after it was too late to do anything else? I would much rather America succeed, by the way, and be wrong, than the other way around.

Anyway, but here we are, the other way around. It turns out my opposition to the Iraq war was well considered. The war didn’t liberate people. It did what anyone could have predicted. It put the Shia in power, took the Sunni out of power and removed a buffer from Iran, gave Iran an ally, did nothing to bring peace to the Middle East. Which is why the shamelessness of the hawks is so obnoxious today.

The people who took us into this war with lousy evidence and ruthless propaganda now slink back into quiet, proud—well, I don’t, still don’t know what to think of a better word for it–shamelessness. They never come clean on selling the war. They will never come clean in admitting how nastily they succeeded.

Well, tonight, we let their voices rise to the ceiling so that you will know the horror to which they rose, the depths to which they have now descended in hiding their guilt.

David Corn is not guilty. He’s the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones, and he’s opposed it from the beginning. And Ron Suskind is another guy who is not guilty. He’s won a Pulitzer Prize and he’s author of Confidence Men.

Thank you both for joining. It’s good to have you back.
Corn and Suskind are “not guilty,” Judge Matthews ruled from the bench. As for Matthews himself, he hated the Iraq war, said so when he saw it coming, has said so since.

Or at least, that’s what Matthews said. By way of contrast, the architects of the war are shameless because they refuse to tell the truth about what they actually did.

On a hyper-technical basis, that part of Matthews’ self-description isn’t exactly false. Back in September 2002, Matthews did say he hated the war. As far as we know, he stated this view exactly once, in one short paragraph at the end of a newspaper column which didn’t otherwise concern the still-distant war.

It’s also true that Matthews frequently slammed the architects of the war after the war went bad. Starting in July 2003, the mainstream press corps began turning in this direction. Matthews became rather vocal about various matters at this point in time.

But what did Matthews say and do in the roughly seven months which constituted the run-up to war? On Friday night’s discussion of Hubris, Matthews pimped his own greatness once again.

One other panelist said he remembered how great Chris had been. “You were a lonely voice, I remember that, Chris,” that same David Corn gravely said.

Here are a few of our questions:

Was Matthews really “a lonely voice” in the run-up to war in Iraq? If Corn remembers that lonely voice, is he remembering correctly?

Is it true that the only time Matthews held back from that criticism was in the early days of the occupation? That’s what Matthews said on Hardball.

Was that statement true?

In this, our latest award-winning series, we’ll examine the various things Matthews said and did as the nation moved toward war with Iraq. Helped along by Corn’s recollection—and by the silence of Hayes and Alex Wagner—Matthews painted himself as a bit of a lonely hero last Friday.

At one point during Friday evening’s discussion program, we sadly turned to the analysts, several of whom were tearing their hair. “Conventional wisdom ain’t what it used to be,” we sadly but wisely observed.

Tomorrow: When Matthews met Richard Perle


  1. For the interested:

  2. Lot's of back and forth about Matthews and the war, let me throw in:

    Seeing as the hand Matthews had on the scale for W, in how hard he work
    to destroy Gore, his approval of the election fix and much more, does Matthews deserve any credit for this anyway? It's a little like
    being the passionate, devoted President of the Kardashian Fan Club but also having
    some reservations about the way Kim handled her marriage. Chris was down the line
    with W until the big change came, and after Katrina he suggested that what New
    Orleans needed was a high profile leader with boots on the ground to turn things around, either Dick Cheney or his real pick for 2008 for most of the run up, Rudy.

    I would say he gets a mixed grade on Iraq. He did express some reservation but was also down with the Powell at the UN scenario, where he played up the "Adli Stevenson moment" with gusto. And even some of the war's boosters can be forgiven for not predicting just the extent of the ghastly mess W would make of it.

    Slightly off topic, in any of this great reappraisal, anyone heard the word "embedded?"

  3. Better hit Lexis-Nexis a little more carefully, Bob. Matthews repeatedly expressed skepticism about the war to come in Iraq in the months leading up to it. I was watching his program throughout those months and was struck by it. You can't just go searching for terms like "hate" and leave it at that. It was the whole way he asked questions, repeatedly challenged supporters of the war, etc., which was one hell of a lot more than anybody else with a TV show, other than Phil Donahue, I'm aware of did.

    And given that MSNBC had just *fired Phil Donahue* for his opposition to the war, I'd say he deserves more than a small bit of credit for doing it.

    Once the invasion began, he stopped questioning it, as he said.

    You are simply utterly unwilling to give the man credit for *anything* since he manifestly doesn't belong to your tribe.

    Shame on you.

    1. I disagree also. I don't recall Matthews ever speaking up in any meaningful way prior to the invasion. He certainly had many a chance, but as I recall his show was pro-war through and through. The only guy on that network who wasn't (and had the network's highest ratings) was attacked on air by Matthews and basically characterized as un-American shortly before being fired.

      During the lead up to war Matthews took to referring to Bush seriously as "our warrior prince" on air. No irony, no snark, "our warrior prince", Jack must have smiled at that from his perch on Cape Cod.

      Matthews performed his institutional role to a 'T' and got rich doing it. A textbook example.

    2. Of course, Matthews was the one who got Donahue canned.

  4. I would disagree. I also watched Matthews every night (I still watch him every night). I taped his show hoping to see him get the guts to make a firm and clear argument against the war. He didn't. Oh, once in a while he would slip something by, a btw moment, that wouldn't arose the ire of Jack Welch. He was correct about the selling of the war but didn't have the guts or integrity to actually refute the garbage they were selling..."He means well. But he means well weakly"...TR on Taft. You could barely say the same about Matthews, who takes strong positions when there is no price to be paid.

  5. Again, it is also said that Justice O'Conner hated the war and was sickened by a lot if what W did. Should we give her credit for that too?

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