Last week I noted how MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who usually has tingles down his leg for the president, was taken aback by Barack Obama's statement regarding the ISIS beheading of American freelance journalist James Foley.
Tonight a frustrated Matthews expressed his frustration with Mr. Obama once again, asking his guests Bobby Ghosh and Howard Fineman why the president didn't couch the U.S. response to the bloodthirsty Islamist terrorists as a defense of American honor. Why, Matthews wondered, did Obama stick to business as usual "playing golf last week when he had the American people's attention?" Why doesn't Obama "fight like a street fighter when it comes to defending the lives of Americans"? The relevant transcript appears below the page break (emphais mine; MP3 audio here; video follows page break):
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me talk in American gut terms, Bobby. And you share them, let me hear them. Maybe you disagree with me. When the American people watched that execution, that beheading of an American last week they watched that man with tremendous guts and fortitude to stand out there knowing he was on camera.
Knowing his family would see it. Knowing he was going to die in a matter of minutes, knowing he was going to be done by a knife in his neck. And he stood there and he took it.
And the American people are either going to react positively to that or not. They will either going to get even with the people who did that or they are not. Or they are going to cook up some other excuse to go to war with ISIS like they're a threat to our homeland.
Why don't we behave anymore like a gut country behaves, that says, no, you don't do this to our people? We're going to make you pay for this. this to our people. We are going to make you pay for this. The American people would understand that language.
They'd say, this has nothing to do with the Sunni and the Shia and what the hell's going over Iraq or Mesopotamia or whatever we're calling it now, if it is a country. They don't care about rebuilding Iraq and putting together the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Shia. But they do have time with defending our honor. And I don't understand why he's now talking about the homeland and changing the subject.
He went off playing golf last week when he had the American people's attention. That execution had our attention. Then he flips off, comes back a week later, all dressed up, he's taken a shower, he's back in his business suit and now he's talking about some threat to the homeland. It doesn't sound right. It doesn't sound real.
It sounds like a legal excuse to go after someone he should normally just say, dammit, you Republicans, you get in my way. I dare you to stop me from going after the guy who killed our guy. Go ahead. Call for a vote and I'll kill you on the vote. But I don't understand why he doesn't fight like a street fighter when it comes to defending the lives of Americans. I believed him when he said that last week how it hurt him personally.
BOBBY GHOSH, managing editor, Quartz: Yes, and I've been mystified about this myself, as have lots of other people. It wasn't that long ago when the president was describing ISIS as the J.V. team...
While it's unfortunate Matthews's rant went into a bizarre partisan direction, it's noteworthy all the same that he thinks President Obama's handling of ISIS leaves something to be desired. But just so Chris knows, it's a liberal Democratic senator, Tim Kaine of Virginia, who has called on President Obama to make his case and have the Congress vote on airstrikes against ISIS.