Matthews Bellows: Is GOP 'The Party of Tax Cuts and Torture?'

The Dick Cheney-obsessed Chris Matthews opened Tuesday's "Hardball," by taking umbrage with the former Vice President's criticism of Obama declassifying CIA interrogation memos, as the MSNBC host compared Cheney to "The Empire," in Star Wars and called him "The Bush administration's tail gunner, manning his burp gun with that same nasty look we recall from the war comics." Matthews went on to wonder if Cheney's outspokenness was a good thing for the GOP as he questioned, "If the Republican Party really wants to be branded right now as the party of tax cuts and torture?"

Matthews didn't waste any time getting to the Cheney bashing as seen in the following intro to the April 21 edition of "Hardball":

CHRIS MATTHEWS: The Empire Strikes Back! Let's play "Hardball!" Good evening, I'm Chris Matthews. Leading off tonight. Clash of civilizations. Two different views of the universe out there right now. That's what's at war in Washington today. The dark view of Dick Cheney that sees no shame in brutal interrogations. Indeed refuses to blame America for anything. That against the new view of Barack Obama that America does best in the world when it upholds a moral standard and admits past failings. Who believes our government lost its moral bearings in pushing the moral envelope in our treatment of those prisoners. Two different views of the universe. And last night the old empire struck back as the former vice president, who refuses to leave Washington, took aim at the new values system.

(Clip of Dick Cheney)

MATTHEWS: So why doesn't Dick Cheney listen to his former boss and just keep quiet? Why's he acting like the Bush administration's tail gunner, manning his burp gun with that same nasty look we recall from the war comics?

Not long after that intro Matthews, in a segment with guest panelists Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and Newsweek's Howard Fineman, depicted the GOP in stark terms:

MATTHEWS: I wonder Howard if the Republican Party really wants to be branded right now as the party of tax cuts and torture? I mean that's what they're selling. I mean tax cuts are always happy to be heard about, even if they're not possible. But the torture part - the image of, of a party that seems to have attached itself to this method, this difficult, hard to justify, sometimes, perhaps necessary, method of getting to the truth in, in urgent circumstances. Is it what you want to be known for?

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK: No, that's the short answer. Certainly not in those terms. And I agree with Gene [Robinson] I think Dick Cheney, this is a personal crusade in part. Don't forget the United Nations repertoire on torture and, and the, and the international treaty and the United States law and increasingly some of the things President Obama himself is saying and Eric Holder, the attorney general, are at least implying the possibility that Dick Cheney himself, as Vice President, has some kind of legal culpability here-

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

FINEMAN: -in national and international terms. So Cheney is trying to defend himself. As far as the politics of it, Chris, I think for some young people, for some post-9/11 kids who, you know, who've grown, grown up with Jack Bauer and in the days after 9/11 it may be a little bit of a closer question than you may think on the question of torture. But overall the idea that you're gonna defend these methods is, is a political loser for the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: I just wonder where you draw the line? Because if waterboarding is okay, why not put the guy's head in a vice like they did in Casino. Why not just go all the way? If you really say, the end justifies the means, what means aren't justified? That's the problem with this argument.

Fineman went on to doubt the "credibility" of Cheney's claim that interrogation techniques helped thwart more 9/11 style attacks, even though, as reported by CNSNews.com, the CIA still stands by its 2005 memo stating an attack on Los Angeles was prevented due to information gained from the waterboarding of al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

FINEMAN: Look he doesn't have a whole lot of credibility Chris, given all the videotape that there is of the testimony he gave the American public about what we were gonna find, about what we knew, about what the rationale for the war in Iraq was, about a host of different things. Yes it's a dangerous world, Mr. Former Vice President, but you've got to prove it in specific ways. I'm wondering, I have to wonder what's actually in whatever CIA memos exist. If he could have gotten a hold of them to make his case, I think he would've started lickety-split to do it and the fact that he's only now saying he's gonna do it, makes me have to question, given his track record, what really did we gain from those things? And I think it's a very open question and his own history doesn't help his credibility on this.

MATTHEWS: Right and he used that same avuncular tone in selling the war in Iraq with bogus evidence.

Before closing the segment Matthews and Fineman challenged the "stupidity" of Cheney's "dark side," critique of Obama's performance at the Summit of the Americas:

MATTHEWS: Let's move on now to the broader charge. I opened the show by saying there is a battle of the universe going on here, Gene and Howard, and it's a battle of universes. The one universe is, "Let's be the good guys in the world and the world will rally to us." The other side, the darker side if you will, and Cheney calls it that, says, "No let's be the toughest guys on the block and people will respect us." Here's Cheney reminding us of the dark side, saying that our new president, Barack Obama, is just too darned weak. Here he is talking about the President's behavior this past weekend with Venezuela's Chavez....He doesn't mind being King Gringo as long as we're the boss. He doesn't mind what they call us, as long as we got the stick. Howard?

...

FINEMAN: But the point is that, that, that strength is defined in different ways. Stupidity is not strength. And there were, you know, you can give George Bush credit, if you want, for saying that there is such a thing as evil in the world, okay? And Dick Cheney said the same thing. But what they didn't understand and still don't is that, that's the beginning of the discussion, not the end of the discussion. If there is evil in the world you have to be shrewd about dealing with it. And not making enemies unnecessarily is not strong or smart. And what Obama is trying to do, is to try to see what's out there on the table. I mean Obama is examining the poker table, now, for the first time. He's sitting down at it, he's seeing who has what cards. I guarantee you he's gonna be a tough player but he's not gonna try to turn the table upside down before he starts.

MSNBC Hardball

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