By now you've likely heard your fill of the MSM's overreaction to excerpts of former White House spokesman Scott McClellan's forthcoming book which were released on Monday. But unless you managed to sit through last night's Hardball, you missed the spectacle of a completely euphoric Chris Matthews encouraging virtually every guest to join in his utterly fantastic "smoking gun" spin.
Gloated Matthews at the intro:
"Was Bush himself part of the CIA leak cover-up? Let`s play HARDBALL."
The salivating host with the goofy grin then read the teaser to McClellan's book, What Happened, which publisher Public Affairs Books had posted online: [emphasis added throughout]
"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.
"There was one problem. It was not true.
"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the President himself."
Now, you'll likely notice that there's nothing in those words to even suggest that George Bush knew anything about any conspiracy. In fact, when asked by Larry King in a March CNN interview whether or not he had been lied to, McClellan responded:
"Well, Larry, I said what I believed to be true at the time. It was also what the president believed to be true at the time based on assurances that we were both given."
Additionally, the words in question - which ask as many questions as they answer --derived from a book promotion, not sworn testimony.
Nonetheless, Matthews giddily paraded out correspondent David Shuster to perpetuate the complete misinterpretation of what he labeled a "bombshell development."
"Vice President Cheney knew that what Scooter Libby was doing was Scooter Libby was heading to the FBI and was about to tell a falsehood. Now we learn that Scott McClellan helped perpetrate that falsehood on the American people around the same time because President Bush encouraged Scott McClellan to do so."
In what state of consciousness does "were involved in" mean "encouraged?"
Next, David Yepsen of The Des Moines Register, and WaPo's Dan Balz emerged to discuss whether or not, in Matthews' words, "the politicians running for president on the Republican line have to decide whether they`re going to go down with this president on this particular point."
Particular point? Had one somehow slipped past?
Anyway, the next segment had one such Republican hopeful, Mike Huckabee, rolled out, expecting to discuss his sudden rise in the Iowa polls and his use of martial arts star Chuck Norris in a new campaign commercial. But no sooner had the former Arkansas governor opened his mouth than the agitated host lost control once again:
"Did you get the latest news from the Public Affairs Publishing company that Scott McClellan, who was a long-time spokesman for the president, says that the president, the vice president, the chief of staff -- well, let me read you his words."
Which he did -- every last one of them - for the 2nd of what would be 3 times, before demanding a response from the visually bewildered candidate.
Later, Chris talked about John McCain being asked at a Monday New Hampshire luncheon whether he would accept campaign help from Karl Rove if he knew it would help win him the election. Remember, Chris reminds us with a smug smile, Rove`s critical role in defaming John McCain back in 2000.
But just when it appeared Matthews might soon be returning to Earth, he added:
"Anyway, the question is whether McCain would still welcome Rove`s help after today`s revelation -- bombshell, I think -- from Scott McClellan that Karl Rove, along with President Bush and along with Vice President Dick Cheney, was personally responsible for that big cover-up in the CIA leak case."
So, now "were involved in" translates to "was personally responsible for."
Next, Doris Kearns Goodwin arrived to discuss whether 2008 would be "one of those magic change elections," like Kennedy or Roosevelt. We'll never know. Before the presidential historian could opine, Matthews interrupted:
"What about the jack-in-the-box story that popped on us this afternoon that Scott McClellan, the president`s spokesman, who was up there at that lectern at the White House Press Room for months and years, now coming out and saying it was the president as well as the vice president, the rest of that crowd, that put him up to telling the lie basically that his people, Scooter Libby and Karl Rove, weren`t involved in the leak of that CIA agent`s identity?"
Okay, I give up. Why not just toss a bunch of Bush-bashers on screen and let them all ramble randomly about their own self-serving interpretation of these 121 vague, contextually deficient, words?
He did, and he dubbed it "the roundtable." And while no Camelot it was certainly born of pure fiction.
Amidst an onslaught of hypothetical wishful narrative from NBC Whitehouse correspondent David Gregory and WaPo's Jonathan Capehart, Matthews finally lost all touch with reality, tripping over his words while fantasizing about an impending Matthews Thanksgiving table conspiracy discussion:
"The argument will be, we now know that your guy was behind the leak, cover-up, your guy, the president -- this will be the argument from the other side, your guy was involved in this whole Scooter Libby thing, he got Scooter Libby to fall on his sword like a good soldier, he leaked it, Karl leaked it, they all leaked it, Ari leaked it, Armitage leaked it.
"And when they got caught in a lie, in perjury, in obstruction of justice, the president said, oh, I will deal with this matter, I`m commuting the sentence. So the silence goes on. The vice president didn`t have to testify. Scooter didn`t have to testify under oath. And they commute the sentence. It looks to me like they closed the circle on the truth -- Julie."
To which Julie Mason of the Houston Chronicle obediently replied:
"They absolutely did, Chris."
It's likely that the buzz over Public Affairs Books' deliberately misleading blurb will ultimately have its intended impact upon book sales, but little upon the occupants of the West Wing Cabinet Room. But hey, what's the harm in one nutty ex-Jimmy Carter speech writer and his equally deluded Bush-whacking guests playing fantasy Hardball?
It's not as though the program were known for its unbiased critical analysis, or represented MSNBC's only political "talk show."
Plus, with Matthews' intro question lingering conspicuously unanswered, surely the network would follow with a decidedly more sober approach.
Wait, Olbermann's just coming on. What's that Cheshire Cat grin on his face?