Chris Matthews Compares Obama Speech to Troops in Afghanistan to Henry V

May 2nd, 2012 11:28 AM

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.

I have to wonder how the St. Crispin's Day speech by Henry V as written by William Shakespeare would sound if read from a teleprompter. The reason for this strange speculation is that Chris Matthews yesterday on Hardball compared President Obama's speech to the troops in Afghanistan to Henry V as you can see on this video and below the fold.

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After piously proclaiming that Obama's visit to Afghanistan was beyond partisanship, Matthews and his guests, Jim VandeHei of Politico and Congressman Jim Moran discuss the politics of it after valiantly attempting to put up a "nonpartisan" front as you can see in this transcript:

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Well, that's great stuff. I was so proud of the president there, I must say. This has nothing to do with partisanship. This is a commander in chief meeting with the troops, as it was right out of " Henry V," actually, a touch of Barry in this case in the night for those soldiers risking their lives over there. Congressman Jim Moran of course is a Democrat from Virginia, and Jim VandeHei is executive editor of Politico. Congressman Moran, I was so proud of him there, because I imagine being a soldier over there, this is what you want to hear, that the troops are backed up by the people at home, and there you had your commander in chief there with you personally. It's great stuff.  

REP. JIM MORAN(D), VIRGINIA: He is. He is our commander in chief, and not just by claiming to be, but by acting as a commander in chief should act. This was a commander in chief's speech. It was not political. It was motivational. It was just exactly what the troops need to hear, and, as important, what their families need to hear back home. I do think, from the perspective of hardball politics, Chris, this takes national security and foreign policy off the table as a campaign issue. You can't accuse the Democratic candidate of being weak on defense. President Obama is leading in the proper way. And instead of gloating over the killing of bin Laden a year ago, this is exactly where he should be and doing what he should be doing. Now, in terms of responding to the concern about this war, I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't accelerate a troop withdrawal. But it's not going to happen before the election. And it's going to happen only as he can responsibly withdraw troops. So you're not going to hear much about this issue, because I don't see where he's left any room on the left or the right for it to be a campaign issue Chris.  

MATTHEWS: Yes. Jim VandeHei, here's an example, I suppose, of a president, a commander in chief's ability to shift the backdrop rather dramatically from a kerfuffle, a fuss over who gets credit or should get credit for the killing of bin Laden to, hey, we're still fighting a war over here and we have got a commander in chief who is at post here.  

JIM VANDEHEI, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, POLITICO: Right. I mean, politically, there is no danger ever appearing with the troops, and I think the one thing both parties could probably agree on is that when the public is focused that we still have so many troops over there and have such a big interest in what happens in that country, that is a good thing. For the most part, people have ignored the war in Afghanistan. And most of the attention, at least politically, has been on domestic issues. So it's not a bad thing. Has the president politicized this? Well, sure. I mean, presidents politicize everything. People drink in bars. People gamble in casinos. People practice politics in politics. And so this idea -- I saw the White House today was putting out that it's coincidence that it just happens to be on the anniversary that he's in Afghanistan. That strikes me as a little bit laughable. I don't think there's any coincidences in -- in politics. It how you spin...

Oops! VandeHei went off the "nonpartisan" script by admitting that the president has politicized this. However, rather than argue with VandeHei, Matthews and Moran contradict themselves from earlier and pretty much accept the political nature of the visit.

MATTHEWS: I think -- I think he acknowledged that, Jim, somewhere in those comments with the troops, that this was a year later after we have done what we have done.


MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Congressman Moran about this whole political thing here. You know, I have to tell you, I look at John McCain's career, and I have nothing but pride in it as an American. I think he did a great job as a soldier, as a flyer, a combat pilot. He got shot down. He suffered as a POW those seven years. He came back to America. He was elected to Congress based on that wonderful service record. He was elected to the Senate on that service record and was nominated for president to a large extent on what he had done for his country. Why is it wrong for then -- for this president to get some credit for his role as commander in chief? I don't get it. I don't get it.

MORAN: Well, it certainly is...

MATTHEWS: It's consistent.

MORAN: Yes, absolutely. It's not wrong. We all have roles to play. The vast majority of Americans today have not served in uniform. They certainly support the troops. But the question is, do we support them in a tangible way or just by standing up and saluting them at ball games and so on? I think President Obama is responding to the needs of the troops, just as he should be doing. The fact is, with all of the fiscal constraints, he's put more money into helping out veterans getting jobs, traumatic brain injury, helping their families. This is what they need. And I think that you're going to see -- you can see on the face of the troops right now, you know, they're happy this guy is their leader. He's responding to what's in their mind. They are concerned they're going to lose their -- probably as concerned about losing their buddies as losing their own life. But he recognizes their sacrifice. I think he speaks for all of us. So, you know, you can call it political. Everything he does is political, but there are some political things that need to be one and need to be done in the right way. This speech was perfect. He's just where he ought to be. And he's the kind of commander in chief that the troops need.

MATTHEWS: Let's come back to Jim VandeHei. You edit Politico, so we're talking politics, as well as national security here. How will this play out, do you believe, although it's very early, the news to the American left, center and right that we're in Afghanistan, perhaps for the foreseeable future, in some role, we're not going to roll up our sleeves -- I mean, roll up the blankets and pull out of the bunks and head home; we're going to stay there in some capacity? Is that going to rub a war-fatigued country the wrong way, Jim VandeHei?

VANDEHEI: I think it does. I just don't think, to be blunt, that it's a top issue, if you talk to most voters. Most of them are focused on the economy. I think where it does become a big issue is the duration of the war, can we have success in the war, and the cost of the war. So, politically, I think I agree with the congressman, you think of national security and the liability that national security has been for Democrats historically, it's just not as big of a liability for President Obama. He gets pretty high grades, if you look at the polls, on his stewardship of the foreign policy, of the wars, of the fight against terrorism. And on many of these policies, he's acted just like I think George Bush would have, and in some areas maybe even been more aggressive. If you think of the use of drones to assassinate terrorists or suspected terrorists, he's been extremely aggressive.

With their "nonpartisan" cloaks tossed aside, Matthews and Moran spend much of the rest of the interview bashing Mitt Romney including the congressman declaring that Romney "probably ought to keep his mouth shut.

And for those of you having trouble envisioning a Barry V delivering the St. Crispin's Day speech, this is how it should be done.