The graphic claims 'Kerry Plays Hardball', but it was all slow-pitch softball this evening for the junior senator from Massachusetts. After feeding Kerry a number of leading questions letting him tee off on the way Pres. Bush allegedly misled the country into war, talk turned to exit strategies.
Matthews: "Senator, you have a plan, pretty hard, about how we can deal with getting out of Iraq."
Kerry: "Well, it's time to get tough, Chris."
Now there's a courageous politician for you - one willing to admit he's tough.
Kerry repeated a stock formulation he's been using this week: "The policy is broken. When you go down to the Vietnam War Memorial, you take a look at it, you see that almost half the names that are on that wall were added after our leaders knew that the policy wasn't working. That's immoral, and I believe it's immoral today for us to pursue a policy where our kids are dying, losing their limbs, going to Walter Reed . . . because Iraqi politicians won't compromise."
His plan? "You need to have a conference, bringing together all of the parties in the region and we must leverage a change here, and we've got to put it to them hard."
Hmm, not only is Kerry tough, he's hard - impressive!
"Either you get a government by May 15th, or we're withdrawing our troops."
OK, that sounds pretty tough and hard. Quite the stick. So what's the carrot, Senator?
"And when you get a government, we're withdrawing our troops at the end of the year."
Wait a sec! So the plan is that if the Iraqis don't cooperate, we're withdrawing, but if they do cooperate . . . we're withdrawing? And the difference between you and John Murtha, Senator?
You might have thought that Matthews would have called Kerry on his heads-I-win-tails-you-lose plan. But his follow-up was one more softball: "Do you believe that the Iraqis will respond to that kind of ultimatum?"
In answering, Kerry indulged in what, had a Republican said it, might have brought down MSM condemnation of ethnic or religious stereotyping: "They only understand deadlines."
Matthews wasn't in the least offended. To the contrary, he suggested that President Bush was making a mistake by not following Kerry's strategy. "The president's policy has been in another direction. The president has said other presidents beyond me will have to deal with the number of troops we still have in that country. Is he sending them the opposite signal, we're going to be here, we're going to have permanent bases here, you don't have to worry?"
Kerry was only too happy to agree.