The Examiner reports:
Chris Matthews had barely finished praising his colleagues at the 10th anniversary party for his “Hardball” show Thursday night in Washington, D.C. when his remarks turned political and pointed, even suggesting that the Bush administration had "finally been caught in their criminality."
In front of an audience that included such notables as Alan Greenspan, Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy, Matthews began his remarks by declaring that he wanted to "make some news" and he certainly didn't disappoint. After praising the drafters of the First Amendment for allowing him to make a living, he outlined what he said was the fundamental difference between the Bush and Clinton administrations.
The Clinton camp, he said, never put pressure on his bosses to silence him.
“Not so this crowd,” he added, explaining that Bush White House officials -- especially those from Vice President Cheney's office -- called MSNBC brass to complain about the content of his show and attempted to influence its editorial content. "They will not silence me!" Matthews declared.
This is no *new news flash*. We learned this soon during the Scooter Libby trial when, on February 7, 2007, Tim Russert was on the witness stand:
2:29 p.m.: All morning, we listened to audio tapes of Scooter Libby's grand jury testimony. Along with yesterday, that makes eight hours of tapes in all. Toward the end of this droning saga, the courtroom gallery was becoming rather sparsely populated.If I didn't know any better, I'd say that Chris Matthews was out hawking another book....Wait a minute, that's exactly what's going on!
But now these tapes are, mercifully, over. We've had our lunch break, and the judge and jury are seated. And for some reason, the courtroom is packed. Some reporters can't even get in. Why?
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald steps up to the podium. "The government calls Tim Russert," he says.
And there's the man, walking to the witness stand. Or rather, limping to it. Russert is on crutches—the result of a broken ankle. He takes his seat, spells out his name, and describes his job: host of Meet the Press and Washington bureau chief for NBC News.
Fitzgerald launches into questions about a July 2003 phone call Russert received from Scooter Libby. Russert tells us that Libby called him to complain about something Chris Matthews said on his TV show, Hardball. Libby was "agitated," and his voice was "very firm and direct," Russert recounts.
"What the hell's going on with Hardball?" he asked Russert. "Damn it, I'm tired of hearing my name over and over again."
Fitzgerald asks if Russert had ever before, or since, received a call like that from a vice president's chief of staff. Russert says he has not. The call was really just a "viewer complaint." Besides, there was nothing Russert could do about Hardball, since it wasn't his show. He suggested other NBC people that Libby could complain to. And that was the end of the conversation.
Chris Matthews has written another book, is making the talk show rounds, and is trying to appeal to the left for sales before he crawls back to the right and starts sucking up again so that he can get interviews with them during the election season.
"They've finally been caught in their criminality," Matthews continued, although he did not specify the exact criminal behavior to which he referred. He then drew an obvious Bush-Nixon parallel by saying, “Spiro Agnew was not an American hero."
Matthews left the throng of Washington A-listers with a parting shot at Cheney: “God help us if we had Cheney during the Cuban missile crisis. We’d all be under a parking lot.”
Following his remarks, a few network insiders and party goers wondered what kind of effect Matthews' sharp criticism of the White House would have on Tuesday's Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan, which Matthews co-moderates alongside CNBC's Maria Bartiromo.
"I find it hard to believe that Republican candidates will feel as if they're being given a fair shot at Tuesday's debate given the partisan pot-shots lobbed by Matthews this evening," said one attendee.
When reached, the White House declined to comment and NBC refused requests to release video of the event. The event included such NBC/MSNBC brass as NBC Senior Vice President Phil Griffin (the former "Hardball" executive producer called "Hardball" the "best show on cable television"), "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert, "Today" show executive producer Jim Bell, NBC News Specials Executive Producer Phil Alongi, "Meet the Press" Executive Producer Betsy Fischer, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC Vice President Tammy Haddad, "Hardball" correspondent David Shuster and Vice President for MSNBC Prime-Time Programming Bill Wolff.
On a side note: Matthews was overheard discussing his Tuesday appearance on "The Daily Show," which featured a heated exchange with host Jon Stewart. According to one source, Matthews was steadfast in his belief that the debate left Stewart crestfallen, and Matthews victorious.
I like to think that venues such as this one on Jon Stewart, where Matthews can't control the conversation, is causing Matthews some introspection into just how responsible he's been for the mess that is the Bush-Cheney administration, by giving Republicans an easy ride these last six years. But then I realize that he said nothing of substance at his book party, and we have no way of knowing which criminality Matthews thinks the administration has been caught in.