Democrats and Republicans have the class to allow a President to deliver his farewell address without having it immediately countered by a crass and petty rant from a political opponent trying to settle old scores while issuing cheap insults. Not MSNBC.
Seconds after President George W. Bush completed his speech Thursday evening, MSNBC's Countdown featured a diatribe from Chris Matthews ridiculing Bush for picking up, “almost in the way a hermit crab does,” some “scary” notions from the nefarious “neo-conservatives.”
The condescending Matthews raged:
He was a rich kid driving his father's car. He got to be President because of his father, let's face it, the same way he got into school and everything else, the same way he got his car probably. But the scary thing about Bush is somewhere he came to meet people like Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby and Paul Wolfowitz and Feith and the rest of them...
The scary thing about Bush is he picked up on -- almost in the way that a hermit crab does -- another identity in becoming President....He became this new scholar of freedom, and he's going to spend the rest of his life selling this stuff. This stuff cost the lives of 100,000 Iraqis, it cost the lives of 4,000 U.S. service people....
The idea that we have some brand new neo-conservative ideology of freedom that's going to bring peace over in that part of the world is not true, and he's still selling it, and that's the tragedy of the last eight years.
Audio: MP3 audio (3:50, 1.4 Mb)
Before Bush spoke, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth noticed, Matthews had laughingly derided the suggestion the fact Bush reads books means he has “knowledge.” The exchange at the end of Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: John Kerry, who's not good at telling jokes, a couple of years ago, told a joke about, "If you don't study at school, you end up in Iraq," and that was misconstrued by his critics, like Senator Clinton, to mean you'll be drafted. What he meant, it was clearly what he meant to say was, "If you don't study, if you don't have intellectual curiosity, you don't understand the world, you make mistakes like taking America into an Islamic country and become an army of occupation." Was his lack of curiosity and interest in subjects like the Middle East the biggest problem of this President, he lacked curiosity about what he was doing?
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: I don't know that I think that's true. I mean, President Bush, in fact, has been a big reader, he says, and I believe him, that he's read a lot of history, but I'm not sure-
[LAUGHTER FROM OTHER GUESTS: ROGER SIMON AND BOB SHRUM]
MATTHEWS: You can hear the laughter because he said he read the books, but is there any evidence of knowledge?
Brad also corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the diatribe from Matthews aired live at 8:16 PM EST on Thursday night, January 15:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: The scary thing about the last eight years is that George Bush, whatever you think of him, came to office pretty much tabula rasa in terms of philosophy. He didn’t have much. He was a rich kid driving his father’s car. He got to be President because of his father, let’s face it, the same way he got into school and everything else, the same way he got his car probably. But the scary thing about Bush is somewhere he came to meet people like Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby and Paul Wolfowitz and Feith and the rest of them. They had this ideology that he bought in to, this ideology that somehow the United States in waging war and taking over countries somehow was fighting for freedom, and somehow in doing so we would encourage a moderation in the Arab world. Well, history would have taught him, and I know he just put down history by quoting Jefferson which was unfair to Jefferson, history would have told him that in the Arab world, it’s the Arab street, it’s the regular people out there, the vast population in numbers, who oppose the state of Israel, who have always been radicalized. It’s been the leaders that you could deal with, the potentates, the kings we set up over there, the British did, the people that were propped up with oil wealth. We could deal with those people, but the minute the street had a hand in the politics over there, it was radical.
Look what happened under him. Algeria had a chance at radical politics, and look what we got there, a bit of, a taste of that. Hamas elected on the West Bank, that did a great deal for peace-making in the Middle East. The election of Ahmadinejad. The idea that somehow the mechanical nature of holding elections, somehow moderates a country. He said it again in his speech tonight that somehow elections and democracy and freedom lead to a moderation on the part of these people. Well, these people have a problem in the Middle East. They want to fight. They don’t like Israel. They don’t like the West. There’s a real seething anger over there towards the West. We better start to figure it out instead of retreating to these notions that he’s been carrying around with him ever since he met Dick Cheney and the neo-conservatives.
I go back to this. The scary thing about Bush is he picked up on -- almost in the way that a hermit crab does -- another identity in becoming President. He didn't have a book knowledge to come to the White House with, having ignored and made fun of at college the pointy heads, he called them, or the intellectuals. He made fun of the smart kids at school and hung around with the jocks.
He decided he’s going to start listening to the intellectuals, so he said this Paul Wolfowitz is such a smart guy, let's go with this neo-conservative idea, let's go into Iraq. He listened to Dick Cheney, he listened to the rest of them. And, all of a sudden, he became this new scholar of freedom, and he's going to spend the rest of his life selling this stuff. This stuff cost the lives of 100,000 Iraqis, it cost the lives of 4,000 U.S. service people, and we don’t know what’s coming around the corner in Iraq. The Brits took over that part of the world and turned it into a series of monarchies. We’ve taken over and we supply it with our ideology. Well, we’ll see if it lasts because, in the end, the Arabs are going to have their own culture, their own politics, and down the road, we’re going to have to make peace with the elements we can find to make peace with.
The idea that we have some brand new neo-conservative ideology of freedom that's going to bring peace over in that part of the world is not true, and he's still selling it, and that's the tragedy of the last eight years. He's learned the wrong lessons, and he's out there selling them again tonight.
KEITH OLBERMANN: To the very last. To the very last.
MATTHEWS: To the last.