MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews may have a show entitled Hardball and screech “let’s play hardball” at the top of each show, but it rarely squares with reality. Wednesday was no different as Hawaii Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard appeared for a friendly chat bashing the Saudis but was not pressed on her coziness with the murderous Assad regime in Syria.
Syria came up twice, but both were off-hand comments by Matthews and Gabbard as just another country in the region where, in their minds, the U.S. should remove troops and not implement regime change. Of course, Gabbard would be against regime change, but that’s because it’d involve the removal of the man she’s expressed doubts on whether he gassed his own people.
Matthews first didn’t ask Gabbard so much a question as complain that the Trump administration’s response to Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was similar to the President’s answers about why he won’t release his tax returns: “It’s nonsense. It’s B.S. Nobody believes they’re doing anything, but just delay. Why are they doing this?”
This allowed Gabbard to unspool a long rant without pushback (click “expand”):
The biggest B.S. that I see in this whole thing is the statement that you hear from President Trump. You hear it from Mike Pompeo. You hear it from different people within this administration, that Saudi Arabia is a good ally, or is our best ally or our best friend within the region. The — the issue here with the murdering of this journalist in Turkey shines a light on the larger question that I think needs to be asked and answered here in Washington, which is, show the evidence of how Saudi Arabia is our ally, because I can tell you, there is a long list of reasons pointing to all of the reasons why they are not our allies, why they are acting directly in ways that are counterproductive to the interests of the American people and to our own national security interests.
Matthews replied by lamenting that Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner has “a buddy in MBS, the killer over there” who’s “seduced” Kushner into “think[ing] he’s going to get an Israel — a pro-Israeli deal, not just a deal in the Middle East, but a deal that Netanyahu is going to like, the hard — the hardest of the Likudniks, that he’s going to like it.”
Gabbard offered more Saudi bashing and Matthews was more than pleased to oblige with the Hawaii congresswoman slamming the administration for “further ratcheting up tensions with other nuclear powers in the world, further beating those hawkish neocon war drums.”
Matthews gushed in reply that “you sound like me talking here” and “I like this” before shifting to how Trump, in his book, has failed on not only stopping “stupid wars,” but neglected our troops (which, as my colleague Nick Fondacaro has repeatedly chronicled, is nonsense).
Matthews then ended the six-minute-plus segment by pressing Gabbard on whether she’ll join the seemingly infinite field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and specifically “what would stop you from running.”
As for Gabbard and Assad, the record speaks for itself. Even outlets like The Guardian and reporter Sabrina Siddiqui admitted in August that “[h]er highly controversial visit last year to Syria, where she met with Assad, also raised eyebrows both nationally and at home.”
When the Assad regime carried out a chemical weapons attack on innocent people in April 2017, Gabbard stood by Assad by saying she was “skeptical” he’d do such a thing and based U.S. intelligence: “Why should we just blindly follow this escalation of a counterproductive regime-change war?”
It was perhaps Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin who put it best in January 2017 with this piece “How Tulsi Gabbard became Assad’s mouthpiece in Washington.”
Scratch that. Washington Examiner columnist and McLaughlin Group host Tom Rogan wrote a November 22 piece on Gabbard’s comments against the Saudi regime in light of Khashoggi that was even better. Here’s an excerpt (click “expand”):
The reality of what Gabbard has done with Assad, whom she has visited and defended in public, isn't just hypocritical, it's morally foul. That makes Gabbard far different from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for example, who also ardently opposes any kind of effort to confront Assad's regime. Because Paul hasn't rendered himself a political servant for Assad, he's simply opposed U.S. policy toward Syria. Gabbard, however, has basically spent the past few years morphing into an active member of the Syrian Baath party's tolerated side party. In their not-so-fine company she has attended "fact-finding" trips to Syria. This has included happy meetings with Bashar Assad, who has gassed, starved, barrel bombed, tortured, and hanged at least 200,000 of his own people.
Gabbard has every right to be an idiot. But by lending her congressional credibility to Assad, the congresswoman nuked American morality in order to get a few photos with a tyrant.
To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on December 12, click “expand.”
December 12, 2018
7:19 p.m. Eastern
CHRIS MATTHEWS: The Trump administration has made a concerted and committed effort to defend, believe it or not, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia after ruthlessly ordered, he did, the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. In the past 48 hours, the President, his son-in-law, and the secretary of state have all dismissed the CIA assessment that there was a high probability that MBS, that’s the crown prince, ordered the killing. In an interview with Reuters, Trump defended his position, saying: “He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia. They’ve been a very good ally.” Well, in an uncharacteristically tough grilling from FOX News, however, Mike Pompeo knocked down the notion that more should be done. Let’s watch.
MIKE POMPEO: The direct evidence isn’t yet available. It may show up tomorrow. It may have shown up overnight, and I haven’t seen it. But President Trump — President Trump —
AINSLEY EARHARDT: Someone has to pay the price, though. It’s so brutal.
POMPEO: President Trump —
EARHARDT: Apparently, those audiotapes are awful.
POMPEO: — well, we — the Saudis have already paid the price. There are — the folks who actually committed the murder, we’ve held accountable.
MATTHEWS: Well, according to The Washington Post, the administration’s inability to listen to the CIA has frustrated officials. Intelligence officials tell The Post that there is a disconnect between the spy agencies and the president that is “without precedent,” leaving an arrangement they call “dysfunctional,” much like Trump refusing to release his taxes because of the audits he says are going. It’s unclear if Trump will ever accept the intelligence about MBS. I’m joined right now by Democratic Congressman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. It is like the — every time you ask Trump about his tax returns, he says they’re under audit and — or he says — like he used to do it with Obama and his birth records from Hawaii. Oh, I’m checking on those. It’s nonsense. It’s B.S. Nobody believes they’re doing anything, but just delay. Why are they doing this?
HAWAII DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSWOMAN TULSI GABBARD: The biggest B.S. that I see in this whole thing is the statement that you hear from President Trump. You hear it from Mike Pompeo. You hear it from different people within this administration, that Saudi Arabia is a good ally, or is our best ally or our best friend within the region.
GABBARD: The — the issue here with the murdering of this journalist in Turkey shines a light on the larger question that I think needs to be asked and answered here in Washington, which is, show the evidence of how Saudi Arabia is our ally, because I can tell you, there is a long list of reasons pointing to all of the reasons why they are not our allies, why they are acting directly in ways that are counterproductive to the interests of the American people and to our own national security interests.
MATTHEWS: So, why is the President’s son-in-law in charge of all this? Because he thinks he’s got a buddy in MBS, the killer over there. They have sweet-talked to him. He’s been seduced by them. He thinks he’s going to get an Israel — a pro-Israeli deal, not just a deal in the Middle East, but a deal that Netanyahu is going to like, the hard — the hardest of the Likudniks, that he’s going to like it. How can there be such a deal?
GABBARD: Well, when you look at the things that this administration is doing, they are things that are moving us farther and farther away from the possibility of striking a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Again, we’ve got to look at what’s driving — what’s driving this and if you look at Trump — and he’s made it very clear — it’s money and it’s his so-called deal with the Saudis for this $110 billion of weapons that he’s selling to them, without regard for how they’re using those weapons and slaughtering people in Yemen. There are so many issues here that really should —
MATTHEWS: You don’t think we should have to deal with the fact that the Saudi royal family is there to stay, there’s nothing we can do about it?
GABBARD: They — that’s not the point. I’m not saying that we have got to get rid of the Saudi state or the government or whatever. That’s — that is not my point at all. I don’t believe that we should be in the regime change business, whether it be in Saudi Arabia, in Iran, or North Korea.
MATTHEWS: Or Syria.
GABBARD: Or Syria or anywhere else.
MATTHEWS: Let’s take a look this. Meanwhile, according to — outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley talked to my colleague Craig Melvin about how she would use President Trump’s unpredictable behavior to her advantage at the U.N. Let’s watch this strange story.
CRAIG MELVIN: Is it true that you use the President’s unpredictable rhetoric to our advantage diplomatically?
NIKKI HALEY: If I needed to pick up the phone and say, this is what I’m going to do, you know, are you good with this, or this — we — we kind of partnered in that and so he would, like, ratchet up the rhetoric, and then I would go back to the ambassadors and say, you know, he’s pretty upset. I can’t promise you what he’s going to do or not, but I can tell you, if we do these sanctions, it will keep him from going too far.
MATTHEWS: This is sort of like the Nixon mad bomber thing. Make him think — and she’s saying that’s what she would do to our people negotiating with us. Oh, be careful. This guy’s a little — a little rocky here.
GABBARD: And yet what she’s doing is — is further ratcheting up tensions with other nuclear powers in the world, further beating those hawkish neocon war drums. So, whatever she — she’s trying to make it sound like she’s the good cop.
MATTHEWS: You sound like me talking here. I like this. Anyway, let me ask you about your cause, because, right now, Trump ran by saying he was going to get rid of stupid wars and help the troops.
MATTHEWS: Where’d you put him on that? Where is he doing on that?
GABBARD: Moving us in the wrong direction. Not only have we not ended any of these stupid wars. We are continuing to have our troops deployed in places like Afghanistan and Syria and other places, all while this administration is laying the groundwork for a regime change war against Iran. What — to speak of the veterans here at home, I spoke with a veteran recently. He used to work in the VA and who now works just helping veterans in his community, who said — and he was a Republican — and he said, never before has he seen veterans worse off with this VA than he has with this VA and that’s because veterans are being treated like a number.
GABBARD: And so, in order to report out good statistics, their cases are being closed prematurely. We’re seeing cases and appointments being deleted completely because they were waiting too long and this G.I. Bill issue, where veterans are trying to go to school, they’ve been promised these benefits, and the VA is saying, well, actually, you know what? We will pay you in a year-and-a-half. Meanwhile, they have got to pay their rent, they’ve got to pay their tuition and take care of their families.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, I know. My dad — our dad went to school on the G.I. Bill.
GABBARD: Yeah, so did I.
MATTHEWS: That’s why we were middle class. Anyway, 2020, the Baskin-Robbins campaign.
MATTHEWS: There’s every kind of flavor running. Somebody from Hawaii was recently elected President, Barack Obama. Yourself, are you running?
GABBARD: I’m seriously considering it.
MATTHEWS: What would stop you?
GABBARD: I’m — I’m concerned about the direction of our country.
MATTHEWS: No, what would stop you from running?
GABBARD: I don’t know. I’m thinking through very carefully.
MATTHEWS: It sounds like you’re heading toward it.
GABBARD: I’m thinking through it very carefully.
MATTHEWS: That’s an old Tim Russert question, by the way. What can stop you?
MATTHEWS: And you have to come up with that answer. It’s good to have you. A lot of people are seeing you for the first time. U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard may run for president in a very wide, interesting field.