Thursday, December 28, 2006

Karen Hanretty tried to swiftboat Gerald Ford

The transcript should be up soon on MSNBC's web site, but I'll pull a few quotes off the TiVo. Chris Matthews, on tonight's MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews, had guests Ron Reagan, Jr., and "Republican strategist" Karen Hanretty, discussing the funeral arrangements for President Ford and also the release of Ford's 2004 statement against the Iraq War. Hanretty essentially tried to swiftboat President Gerald R. Ford two days after his death, and Chris Matthews would have none of it.

In the first segment of the broadcast, Chris Matthews talked to David Gergen, the two of them agreeing that Ford's comments about Iraq underscore the broad consensus among old-school conservatives against Bush's policies. Ford saw clearly that the President should not go looking for a messianic mission to spread democracy, but that we should address foremost our own national interests. Matthews also talked to his guests about other Ford statements from the Woodward interview and from other recent occasions. The second segment focused on news from Iraq, the third on John Edwards' candidacy for President, the fourth on the Presidential race more broadly, and the fifth was about President Ford, with guests Ron Reagan, Jr., and Karen Hanretty.

Ron Reagan, Jr., talked about the Ford funeral in comparison to his father's funeral. The Ford funeral will be less splashy than Reagan's, but, as Ron Reagan says, "I suspect [the Ford funeral] will be a little more subdued, but that fits the man. President Ford was, of course, a man of great integrity, but also a man of great humility and modesty." Ron Reagan also pointed out that Ford will be given special honor, lying in state in both the House and the Senate.

Chris Matthews then turned to his other guest, Karen Hanretty, to discuss Bob Woodward's release of a 2004-07-28 interview in which President Ford said, "I don't think if I had been President, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly, I don't think I would have ordered the Iraqi war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer.... I think Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the President made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq." Hanretty tried to give the Karl Rove genius polish on this steaming turd of news for the Bush faction: nobody cares what that old buzzard thought; what does he know, anyway?

Chris Matthews: Bob Woodward had a blockbuster this morning in the Washington Post. He has a tape-recorded testimonial from President Ford when he was speaking to Bob back in 2004, a year into the Iraq War, saying he would not've taken us to war in Iraq, that he thought it was a decision that was wrong. What do you make of that now, the political impact of that?

Karen Hanretty: Well, first of all, I think that it says a great deal about President Ford that he asked that that interview not be released until after his death, that he didn't join the fray of former Presidents like Jimmy Carter that was so critical of a sitting President and his foreign policy, but I'm not sure this is going to have any great political impact on current events. No one was seeking — with all due respect to President Ford and his family, no one was seeking President Ford's opinion, these past six years, and now thathe's chimed in "posthumously" [air quotes by eyebrow in the original], I don't know that it's really going to have much of an effect, other than to, I think, continue this growing outcry, certainly from Democrats, and even increasingly some Republicans in the middle who are wondering, What have we done, and where are we going?? and that is the question that President Bush has to answer in the coming weeks when he makes his announcement about what he is going to do with regard to troop levels, and I think there needs to be a coming-full-circle of Why are we engaged in this conflict right now? What is the "bigger picture," and is there a bigger picture than Iraq, something greater than this, you know, um, left/right debate we're having over this war in Iraq?

Matthews: I don't think it's left/right any more. I think when you hear people like President Ford, as you've pointed, chime in posthumously, and people like William F. Buckley and George Will, I don't hear a lot of traditional conservative support for this war.

Hanretty: Chris, I fully agree that Republicans are starting, and I —

Matthews: (overlapping) No, traditional Republicans would never have brought us into this war.

Hanretty: (overlapping) But it has been — but it largely has been a left/right —

Matthews: (overlapping) This is a neoconservative war — Karen, this is a neoconservative war, fought by strange ideologues, with their own strange objectives. This is not a Republican Party that would have supported this war traditionally. Ronald Reagan would not've taken us over there, Jerry Ford would not've taken us over there. I don't know which Republican President would've led us into the desert, put the American army stuck in Iraq — only one President did that, with the help of Dick Cheney and the neocons.
They came back after the break for more, but that's as far as I'm going for now. The striking thing is the extent to which Chris Matthews marked Karen Hanretty as one of those "strange ideologues" he mentioned. She simultaneously saluted and mocked Gerald Ford for waiting until his death to release his criticism of President Bush, and dismissed the unanimity with which his predecessors — including his own father, if he were honest enough to admit it — believe with good reason that George W. Bush made a complete clusterfuck of the situation in Iraq. If I were the President of the United States and all of the other people who have been in that position were telling me I should rethink my objectives and my strategies, it would give me at least a moment's pause to question my perspective. A friend of mine is fond of repeating advice from his mother: "If one person says you're a horse, you can ignore 'em, but if everybody says you're a horse, you'd better get a saddle." Either President Bush is wrong, or else Presidents Ford, Reagan, Carter, Bush, and Clinton are all wrong. Which way does the balance tip, putting Dubya on one side by himself and the others starting to leap up and down on their side?

Then there's the matter of the snide remark about how, honestly, nobody was really asking Gerald Ford's opinion in the last six years. This is something that the Bush cabal feel is a badge of honor, something to be proud of: not seeking the counsel of a highly respected former President of your own party, the mentor to your Vice President and your Secretary of Defense, who oversaw the conclusion of the most ill-fated military adventure in our nation's history. Yeah, really — what would Jerry Ford know about being a "War President," anyway? It's the same mentality that dismisses Senator Kerry's wartime service and holds Bush's up as the model, or that does the same to Max Cleland in favor of Saxby Chandliss, or that holds out Newt Gingrich as a paragon of family values.

Lastly, though, Chris Matthews drives home the point that the debate about the Iraq War is not along left/right lines, but rather neoconservatives versus everybody else, even including some of the original neocons. The Iraq War — Mr. Bush's War — is, to use Chris Matthews' phrase, being "fought by strange ideologues, with their own strange objectives." Neither Dubya nor his principal advisors have the slightest clue about Iraq. If it were just me, or even just me and a lot of blogs, far bigger blogs, then I would second-guess my assessment, but it's beginning to look like nobody wants to stay on Bush's side of the debate. We have had our national debate on the Iraq War, and President Bush has lost decisively. In the grand scheme of things, one person's endorsement is a small thing, even if he or she is a great person, but President Ford's clear criticism of the war, arriving as it does in the midst of the debate of what course correction 2007 should usher in, is a fitting seal on the case. The neocons are down to the hardcore devotees, no longer fashionable or popular, having never been intellectually respectable. The Iraq War was a mistake, and we need to figure out a way to get out as quickly as possible, with as little further damage to ourselves and to our involuntary host country and its citizens.

The Iraq War has not made the United States safer, it has made us less safe. The Iraq War has not made the world safer, it has made it less safe. The Iraq War has not made Iraq safer, it has made it less safe. The Iraq War has not made its neighbors safer, it has made them less safe. Our continued presence in Iraq does not put out the fire of terrorism, it fuels it. The winning strategy is the one with the quick exit.

(By the way: in the Hardball promo at the end of Tucker [Carlson], guest host Pat Buchanan said to stay tuned for "Hardball with Chrith Mashews.")

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