Matthews Apologizes for West Point 'Enemy Camp' Slur, Then Interviews Marine-Slandering Murtha
Talk about taking one step forward and two steps back. Chris Matthews, on
Wednesday's Hardball, opened the show by offering an apology to members of the
military and their families for his infamous West Point is the "enemy camp,"
quote made during coverage of Obama's Afghanistan speech, as caught by
the MRC's Jeff Poor, but immediately after that went to an interview with
John Murtha, who himself got in trouble with servicemen and women for
falsely accusing Marines of killing innocent civilians in Iraq.
Matthews opened the show by saying he received a "some very tough calls from parents of cadets and former cadets," for calling West Point an "enemy camp," and offered, "I deeply apologize." But after attempting to repair that bridge, he didn't do himself any favors by turning to Democratic Representative John Murtha to talk Afghanistan war policy. For the record Matthews followed Murtha with Republican Representative Mike Pence, but given the damage done with the "enemy camp" remark perhaps he should have had aired Murtha second, or even better, brought on a Democrat who isn't being sued by a Marine for falsely smearing him of slaughtering innocents.
The following Matthews apology and odd turn to Murtha were aired on the December 2, Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: But first I've gotten some very tough calls from parents of cadets and former cadets at West Point about my saying last night that the President had gone to speak up there to maybe the enemy camp. I was talking about the skepticism I saw on the faces in the crowd as President Obama spoke, also of course about how West Point was where President Bush went in 2002 to make his most hawkish speech before the Iraq war. Now I've heard too many politicians say things like "Oh that was taken out of context," to explain something they wish they hadn't said. Let me just say to the cadets, their parents, former cadets and everyone who cares about this country and those who defend it, I used the wrong words and worst than that I said something that is just not right. For that I deeply apologize.
As those who watch me regularly probably got right away, my point was that the military up in West Point was probably a skeptical audience for President Obama, given his strong position against the war in Iraq, and generally more dovish image. I was wrong to make that conclusion based on the lack of applause or apparent enthusiasm in the ranks of officers and cadets last night. Cadets, one former cadet and a friend of mine, just told me, aren't supposed to show that kind of a reaction to a speaker. He, a former cadet, reminded me that soldiers, including those now in training to face the enemy want wars to be fought effectively and end it as quickly as possible. I had no reason to assume that the cadets at West Point or their officers, who are present last night, are more hawkish than the President.
People who have watched me over the years know, I think, of my strong devotion to this country and strong gratitude toward those who serve it in the military. It's because our military is so good and true I want the civilians who make the policies and set the missions to get 'em right in this country's best possible interest. And by the way it's something we're allowed to argue about in this country. Whenever I meet someone with a service record I always say, "Thank you for your service." They know I say it and I hope they know I mean it.
Now to President Obama and the criticism he's facing from both the left and the right. A few minutes ago I spoke with Democratic Congressman Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, chairman of the subcommittee on Defense Appropriations. Mr. Murtha, the President wants 30,000 more troops to go to Afghanistan and basically get the job done and begin to withdraw them a year-and-a-half from now. Does that make sense to you?
-Geoffrey Dickens is the senior news analyst at the Media Research