The screencap captures it nicely: Heather Wilson, smiling. Robert Wexler, mouth agape. On this afternoon's Hardball, the feisty, brilliant [bio: high honors Air Force Academy grad, Rhodes Scholar] GOP representative from New Mexico took on the duo of the combative congressman from Florida and host Chris Matthews, and walked away a winner. The subject was Obama's Berlin speech, and by extension his presidential qualifications.
You'll find excerpts below, but they don't do begin to do justice to Wilson's brio and the coolness under verbal fire she displayed. That's why I'd strongly encourage readers to view the video. Wilson kicked off her tour de force in commenting on a clip of Obama in his Berlin speech proclaiming that various walls, including one between American and Europe, "cannot stand" and must be torn down.
HEATHER WILSON: Barack Obama has always had a great charismatic style, but the substance has never been there and his inexperience is one of the things that troubles a lot of people. Saying something like there's a wall between the United States and Europe? We've been allies with Western Germany and with Germany as a whole since the end of the Second World War. NATO is one of our strongest alliances. And so, what's he talking about? What's the substance behind that --
CHRIS MATTHEWS: He's talking about the fact that Europeans, Europeans hate George Bush.
WILSON: I think one of the things he tried to do in Israel was to reassure Americans that the mistakes he made with respect to Middle East policy because of his experience maybe they shouldn't be concerned about that. He went there because of his inexperience to try to give himself some kind of kind of patina of credibility.
MATTHEWS: Are you say the United States has had a good relationship with Europe in the last seven years?
WILSON: Absolutely. Yes. The US relationship with NATO, with the UK, our relationship with the United Kingdom has never been closer, and that's been spurred by common, mutual interest. I used to serve at NATO when there were 16 NATO countries and we were facing the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. We have very close relationships withour western european allies and I think that continues with Angela Merkel or president Sarkozy or with the Brits. I think very close relationships.
In an ensuing exchange, Wilson talked Wexler down over Iraq and Afghanistan, the first time I've ever seen the aggressive Floridian so silenced. And then . . .
ROBERT WEXLER: The allegation that Senator Obama has not been effective, yet it is his view in Iraq that is now the prevailing view that the Prime Minister of Iraq has endorsed. It is Senator Obama's view that has been endorsed by the Bush administration in concept in Iran by engaging in diplomacy. It is his view in terms of adding troops in Afghanistan that's winning the day. So it's Senator Obama, before he's even president, that's affecting policy in such a great way.
WILSON: It's amazing that you can skew things that far. Senator Obama has been dead wrong when it comes to the policy in Iraq. He opposed the surge and he is now in a situation where he's trying to deny that the surge was successful. I don't think that's particularly presidential.
And finally . . .
WILSON: To say that somehow there is a wall in NATO that's running somewhere down the Atlantic shows Senator Obama's inexperience when it comes to understanding where we are. You see that on a number of other things. I mean, look at his platform. He has these kind of message-tested, poll-tested things like, we should, Barack Obama will make sure we take -- he'll negotiate with the Russians to take our ICBMs off hair-trigger alert. It's a great idea: it was done 20 years ago. He seems to be unaware of American history. And that's inexperience which causes people some real concern about whether he's ready for the Oval Office.
Ouch. If I were going into a fight, I'd like Heather Wilson on my side. In the rugged rep from the land of enchantment, McCain has one smashing surrogate.