Matthews on Tsarnaevs: 'What Difference Does It Make Why They Did It If They Did It?'

April 23rd, 2013 6:36 PM

Last week, MSNBC's Chris Matthews was seen shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings wondering whether they had anything to do with "Tax Day" (which it wasn't in Massachusetts; it was Patriots' Day, a state holiday, and the tax filing deadline there was not until the next day) and asserting that "Normally domestic terrorists, people, tend to be on the far right."

Now Matthews appears not to be interested in finding out what motivated the Tsarnaev brothers, accused of perpetrating the Boston Marathon bombings, to do what they allegedly did, as the following passage from an April 22 "Hardball" discussion with an incredulous FBI profiler found at RealClearPolitics tells us (bolds are mine):

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: I know we're filled in this country with some strange thinking people, truthers, birthers that have off-the-wall theories. I don't know how anybody could look at this evidence presented so far and have some other theory of the case besides the indictment itself.

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FBI PROFILER: No, it's really coming together. I mean, there's -- as terrible as this case is and was, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of heavy lifting. We've got the two primary individuals. It's obvious that they had hands on the devices. The pieces we don't have, Chris, are where was their inspiration? Where did they get the guidance? Who taught them how to build the bombs? Where did they build them? These are a lot of questions.

MATTHEWS: Why is that important? Why is that important to -- is that important to prosecuting? I mean, what difference does it make why they did it if they did it? I'm being tough here. But I don't know whether, when you look at all this evidence --

VAN ZANDT: No, no, no.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

VAN ZANDT: No, it's important to the case because we want to make sure there aren't others that should be prosecuted. 'Is there anybody else in the immediate Boston area who gave aid and comfort, assistance, money, guidance, teaching?' If not, how far does this go?

Did that six month trip to Russia and the Kazakhs, at the 26-year-old, now deceased, suspected terrorist or bomber. Did he receive bomb training there? We, you know, can't quit and just say, okay, we got two guys, we're done with it, let's move on again.

As you know, today they had another incident, it took place in Canada.

So Matthews now either didn't believe or apparently had to be convinced that learning about what motivated the perpetrators of a terrorist act is important, after he, along with many others in the press, spent an awful lot of time speculating about right wing-based motivations when the nature and background of the bombers wasn't known.

One can of course narrowly argue that motivation doesn't have a direct bearing on proving that an accused murderer or murderers did or didn't commit their crimes. But in terrorist acts, the profiler's point about the potential involvement of others, as well the potential that other acts may be committed by others directly connected to or even perversely inspired by the terrorists' "successful" actions, is at the very least important to public safety and national security.  It's stunning that someone in Matthews's position either didn't care (and maybe still doesn't, even after the profiler's explanation), or had to have someone explain that trying to answer the question "why?" really is important. 

One commenter at RCP noted that if he's consistent, Matthews should be opposed to so-called "hate crime" laws, where prison sentences can be lengthened based purely on the motivation of the convicted criminal. I think it's a pretty good bet that he's not

Cross-posted at