Chris Matthews has clearly forgotten all the concern over violent rhetoric he and his colleagues expressed in January after the tragic shootings in Tucson.
On this week's syndicated program bearing his name, Matthews began the show saying, "Going for the kill! This week's shutdown fight is just the beginning. The young Republican turks want to fight to the death!" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Going for the kill! This week's shutdown fight is just the beginning. The young Republican turks want to fight to the death! They just don't want cuts in programs like Medicare, birth control, the environment, but the end of them. It isn't about reform, it's about repeal. It isn’t about 2011, it’s about 2012.
It appears Matthews forgot what he and his "Hardball" guests said on January 10 of this year, just two days after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and other innocent Americans were shot in Tucson:
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews in Washington, with this special edition of HARDBALL. This country has a history of political violence. Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley shot and killed in office, Teddy Roosevelt shot in the chest in 1912 while campaigning for the presidency, Franklin Roosevelt shot at a month before his inauguration. The bullet killed the mayor of Chicago.
In 1950, assassins carried out a plot to kill Harry Truman, killing one of the president’s bodyguards, Jack Kennedy killed by an assassin, Gerald Ford shot at twice in separate assassination attempts, Ronald Reagan nearly killed by an assassin, saved only by the quick thinking of a Secret Service agent who gets him to the hospital in three minutes. Huey Long, George Lincoln Rockwell, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Allard Lowenstein, Malcolm X all killed by gunmen.
We’ve grown up with this stuff, knowing this stuff. We’re not like other countries, not in Europe, not in Africa, not in Asia, not in South America, not in Canada or in Mexico. It’s only here that political assassination has worked its way into the history books and won’t get out.
Given this, why would anyone bring a gun to a political event in this country? Why would anyone want to? Why would any political leader think it’s just fine to do so? For one reason, I can only suppose, to say that guns can be a solution to a political difference.
What does it mean when a possible presidential candidate paints targets, crosshairs over members of Congress she disagrees with, or when a Senate candidate says she supports "2nd Amendment remedies" to political differences with the Congress? How can a person who has any sense of our country’s history talk like that?
John Wilkes Booth didn’t like which way the Civil War went. Lee Harvey Oswald was infatuated politically with Fidel Castro and didn’t like what Kennedy had said about him. Sirhan Sirhan didn’t like Bobby Kennedy’s strong support for Israel. Assassins often have recognized political motives, left and right, to go out and kill a politician. They don’t like what a leader says, they go kill them.
The matter here is what you believe about gun violence and politics. Do we think guns are a proper reference point in political debate? If not, why are guns even mentioned in our political discussions? Why are they carried to political events? Is there any other interpretation than this, that some people believe guns, the threat of using them, are a political solution to this country’s debate?
Can we, out of this horror in Arizona, simply agree on this one thing? Don’t bring guns to political events. Don’t talk about guns in a political argument. Let’s stop it right here. Gun violence against politicians is not a metaphor. It’s not about the Old West. It’s not cowboy talk. It’s not about the Founding Fathers and the British army. When you talk about using guns or threatening to use them against policies or politicians you don’t like, it’s for real. When you bring a gun to a political event, you are the problem. And leaders who refuse to say just this are themselves part of the problem.
Let’s begin with three members of Congress who are all close friends with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords -- U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona. He represents another part of Tucson. Also with us, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine.
Thank you all for joining us. I want to start with my friend, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and talk about this development tonight, and that is that Michael Bennet, the senator from Colorado, has just had someone threaten his life. That person has been arrested. This goes on. Your thoughts.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, my thoughts, just to follow up on your introduction to the show or that -- you’re absolutely right, Chris. We have to tone down the rhetoric. We have to really look inside ourselves. I think members of Congress need to lead by example. And then, hopefully, by removing and checking ourselves on the violent rhetoric that far too many people sometimes use in the political arena, that we’ll be able to lead by example and push the outside world, the shock jocks and the -- and other political leaders, to take a page from our book.
It’s absolutely critical because there’s fragile people who are mentally unstable that, you know, we just don’t know when they’re going to take those -- that language literally.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Grijalva, your thoughts about this, coming so close to where you live and your friend?
REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D), ARIZONA: Yes, it’s been devastating for all of us. We’re happy with some of the prognostics that’s happening about Gabby, but generally, it’s a level of shock. That’s all I can say. And you know, this whole political discourse that we’ve had for the last four or five years in this country, we’re not -- I’m not saying that this has led to this, but there is a contributing factor that all of us in political life that use rhetoric that is incendiary, that creates demons out of other people -- we need to be very careful and we need to tone that whole thing down.
MATTHEWS: And Congresswoman Pingree from Maine. Thank you for joining us, as well.
REP. CHELLIE PINGREE (D), MAINE: Absolutely. Well, our thoughts and prayers are with Gabby and the families of all the victims of this senseless crime. And it was a deranged person, but the fact is, it gives us an opportunity to talk about political speech, to remember that words do matter, that as Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, people are influenced by these words.
And you know, honestly, it happens on the left and the right. There was a left-wing blogger, when Debbie didn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi, said, Gabby Giffords, you’re dead. In my state, there’s a right-wing group that has a slogan on its Web site that said, If you’re willing to fight for your country, are you willing to kill for your country? We can’t use language like this and expect that it won’t have some effect on civil discourse, which is critical to our political system.
So, exactly three months ago, two days after the Tucson shootings, Schultz told Matthews, "We have to tone down the rhetoric...Hopefully, by removing and checking ourselves on the violent rhetoric that far too many people sometimes use in the political arena, that we’ll be able to lead by example and push the outside world, the shock jocks and the -- and other political leaders, to take a page from our book.It’s absolutely critical because there’s fragile people who are mentally unstable that, you know, we just don’t know when they’re going to take those -- that language literally."
I guess Matthews has forgotten this, as he did Grijalva telling him, "This whole political discourse that we’ve had for the last four or five years in this country, we’re not -- I’m not saying that this has led to this, but there is a contributing factor that all of us in political life that use rhetoric that is incendiary, that creates demons out of other people -- we need to be very careful and we need to tone that whole thing down."
It appears he also forgot Pingree saying, "We can’t use language like this and expect that it won’t have some effect on civil discourse, which is critical to our political system."
Now, three months later, Matthews is quite comfortable saying Republicans are "Going for the kill" and "want to fight to the death."
Just more proof that all this hand-wringing about violent rhetoric in politics three months ago was utter nonsense, for people like Matthews and Schultz are now using the same language against their Republican rivals that they were complaining about in January.
How does hypocrisy smell to you on a Sunday?