MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who hosts “Hardball” on the network, made what a large number of people considered to be a highly offensive and inexplicable statement about President Obama’s speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Matthews said that the president went into “the enemy camp” for his speech at West Point. Obviously, you don’t need advanced college degrees to know and see the offensive nature of such a statement. Matthews, rightly, came under fire for those comments.
Here is what Matthews originally said:
MATTHEWS: I didn’t see much excitement. But among the older people there, I saw, if not resentment, skepticism. I didn’t see a lot of warmth in that crowd out there that the President chose to address tonight and I thought that was interesting. He went to maybe the enemy camp tonight to make his case. I mean, that’s where Paul Wolfowitz used to write speeches for, back in the old Bush days. That’s where he went to rabble rouse the ‘we’re going to democratize the world’ campaign back in ‘02. So, I thought it was a strange venue.
That is reprehensible and just plain stupid. At the very least, it was a poor choice of words.
MATTHEWS: But first. I’ve gotten some very tough calls from parents of cadets and from former cadets at West Point and about my saying last night that the President going to speak up there to maybe the “enemy camp.” I was talking about the skepticism I saw on the faces in the crowd as President Obama spoke also of course about how West Point was where President Bush went in 2002 to make his most hawkish speech before the Iraq war.
Now I’ve heard too many politicians say things like, “oh that was taken out context” to explain something they wish they hadn’t said let me just say to the cadets, their parents, former cadets and everyone who cares about this country and those who defend it: I used the wrong words and worse than that I said something that is just not right and for that I deeply apologize.
As those who watch me regularly probably got right away, my point was that the military up at West Point was probably a skeptical audience for President Obama given his strong position against the war in Iraq and generally more dovish image. I was wrong to make that conclusion based on the lack of applause or apparent enthusiasm in the ranks of officers and cadets last night. Cadets, one former cadet and a friend of mine just told me, aren’t supposed to show that kind of reaction to a speaker.
He, a former cadet, reminded me that soldiers, including those now in training to face the enemy, want wars to be fought effectively and ended as quickly as possible. I had no reason to assume that the cadets at West Point or their officers who were present last night are more hawkish than the president. People who have watched me over the years know, I think, of my strong devotion to this country and strong gratitude toward those who serve in the military. It’s because our military is so good and true I want the civilians that make the policies and set the missions to get them right, in this country’s best possible interest. And by the way, it’s something we’re allowed to argue about in this country. Whenever I meet someone with a service record I always say, “thank you for your service.” They know I say it, and I hope they know I mean it.
It’s good that Chris Matthews apologized for his comments. He could have done what Bill O’Reilly would do and make excuses, blame the victims and bring on someone like Juan Williams to defend him against a charge. Fortunately, Matthews did not do that and issued a solid apology for his words.