"Hardball": Barack Obama is no Neville Chamberlain

Those who don't learn from history will be humiliated on live television by Chris Matthews.


Andrew Leonard
May 16, 2008 3:46AM (UTC)

How much you enjoy watching Chris Matthews sadistically twist the knife into the body of an unprepared political operative probably depends on whether it's your ox that is getting gored or not. But the performance on Thursday's edition of MSNBC's "Hardball" in which Matthews made right wing radio host Kevin James drown in a puddle of his own babbling ignorance was something special.

The context was Thursday's political furor du jour. While speaking to Israel's Knesset on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, President Bush made an implicit comparison between Barack Obama's willingness to meet with the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and British Prime Minister's Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Adolf Hitler.

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Them's fightin' words, and Democrats have been on the warpath all day. But during "Hardball," Matthews asked James a simple question: What exactly did Chamberlain do that was so wrong? (The following is a close paraphrase of the ensuing exchange.)

Well, he was an appeaser, James exclaimed.

Yeah, but what did he do?

He was an appeaser!

Kevin, what exactly did Chamberlain do?

He appeased!

It gradually became clear, as the two men shouted at each other, that not only did James not have a clue as to what Neville Chamberlain may or may not have done, but it's not all that obvious that he even knew what the word "appeaser" means.

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Finally, Matthews declared: "You don't know what you're talking about, Kevin," and after a little more back and forth, James conceded that he doesn't actually know what Chamberlain did, upon which Matthews gave him a little history lesson.

What Chamberlain did wrong, most people agree, Matthews said, is stand by and let Hitler gobble up half of Czechoslovakia without lifting a hand to stop him. But there's a difference, said Matthews, between talking with someone as opposed to doing nothing while they invade another country.

That's a key distinction, and credit goes to Matthews for drawing it out. As for President Bush, who dared liken a political opponent of his party to a Nazi "appeaser" while speaking in Israel, well, it's hard to conceive of how much lower he can go.

Think Progress has the video.

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Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama War Room




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