How do you know when things have jumped ugly at Hardball? When host Chris Matthews himself has to jump in to separate the warring parties, even warning a Dem consultant to lay off the ad hominems.
Bob Shrum is always spoiling for a fight. In contrast, Ron Christie is normally mild-mannered and affable. But the former aide to Pres. Bush and VP Cheney had definitely eaten his Wheaties this afternoon.
The video portrays things beyond my poor power of description, but the fur began to fly when Shrum accused Christie of using talking points. Things went downhill from there.
I'd say Christie landed the single most-telling blow of the evening. Shrum gave him an opening, calling for the cut-off of funding for the Iraq war at a date certain, claiming "this is how we've always ended wars. We honored Gerald Ford last week for helping to end the war in Vietnam. And that's how it was ended - the funding was cut off."
Christie pounced: "Now you're going to tell me that's how we end wars? We actually end wars when we achieve our objectives that we've set militarily."
Precisely. And what does it say that Shrum holds up as his model the most stinging defeat in the history of the United States?
View an edited clip of the best blows of the bout here.
If anyone was using a line that smacked of a talking point, or at least of being as canned as Chicken of the Sea, it was Shrum himself when he managed to work in "after the surge, the lights always go out." Good one, Bob.
After a subsequent, testy exchange, Matthews got between the combatants: "Bob, cool it on the ad hominems, OK? I don't know whether you have talking points or he does, you have no way of knowing that. He has no notes in front of him, I assure you that."
And later: "Bob, my concern in this discussion is you don't accuse your adversary of coming in here with talking points. I've never seen Ron Christie use talking points."
Christie: "Because he doesn't."
Introducing another segment with the two, Matthews alluded to the feistiness in the air this way: "Welcome back to Hardball. We're back with Hardball. And I mean Hardball!"
Mark was in Iraq in November. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org