On the March 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews repeated his baseless assertion that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton [D-NY] “supports the maintenance of permanent bases [in Iraq], adding, ” [S]he said permanent bases, never end it." This came just a day after Matthews, on the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show, accused Clinton of “playing ... straddle” with her Iraq stance, asking New York Times reporter Patrick Healy: "[I]s she ready to say 'I'm against the war,' or is she still playing this straddle of 'I want to keep a permanent base in Iraq'?" On the March 25 edition of The Chris Matthews Show, Matthews and his panel went on to recycle old falsehoods regarding Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, with Gloria Borger reviving the falsehood that Gore claimed to have invented the Internet, while Matthews again compared Clinton to the Charles Dickens villain Madame Defarge and said that Clinton welcomed Gore with “dead people's eyes” at his March 21 appearance before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
In fact, Clinton's assertion about the need for a limited military presence in Iraq after most troops are withdrawn is not a call for “a permanent base" and is consistent with the Senate Democrats' emergency war spending bill that is expected to come to the floor this week.
Clinton has stated her support for a redeployment of combat troops from Iraq that would leave a "scaled-down military force" to protect “remaining vital national security interests,” but no longer patrol the streets of Baghdad or protect Iraqis from sectarian violence. In a March 13 New York Times interview, Clinton said that she supported a phased withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq while a contingent of “far fewer troops” would “remain for our antiterrorism mission, for our northern support mission, for our ability to respond to the Iranians, and to continue to provide support, if called for, for the Iraqis.” But contrary to Matthews' repeated claims about her policy, Media Matters for America noted that Clinton has not proposed to keep U.S. troops in Iraq “permanently” or said that she supports a “permanent base” in Iraq.
Moreover, Clinton's proposal for a limited number of troops to remain in Iraq after the substantial withdrawal is similar to the provision in S.965, the war spending bill that Senate Democrats are expected to bring to the floor this week, that calls for "[a] small number of American forces [to] remain in Iraq for force protection, training and equipping Iraqi troops, and targeted counterterrorism options." And as Media Matters noted, her position is also consistent with the March 15 Democratic Senate resolution on troop withdrawal, which, as The New York Times reported on March 16, “would have redefined the United States mission in Iraq and set a goal of withdrawing American combat troops by March 31, 2008, except for a 'limited number' focused on counterterrorism, training and equipping Iraqi forces, and protecting American and allied personnel.” And in January, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) introduced legislation that “allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces.”
Hostile greeting of Gore
Discussing Gore's March 21 testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Borger declared: “The Democrats, most of them welcomed him like the returning prophet. Except for one -- Hillary Clinton.” Matthews then asserted that Clinton looked at Gore with “dead people's eyes,” before adding, “That was the coldest look. ... No phony smile, nothing.” Borger also said: “Let's just not say -- it was not welcoming your old friend. ... 'Great to see you, Al. Good to have you in the same room. And by the way, did you invent the Internet, too? I don't think so.' ” Media Matters has repeatedly refuted the assertion -- often repeated during the 2000 campaign -- that Gore claimed to have invented the Internet.
In discussing rumors that the former vice president and his wife, Tipper, may be happier outside of the political arena, Matthews compared the facial expressions of Clinton and Tipper Gore -- before likening Clinton to Madame Defarge, a character in A Tale of Two Cities. Matthews has previously compared Clinton to the literary character, who according to BookRags.com, a website that provides study guides for classic novels, “spends her days knitting a 'register' of names of people she has marked for death.” Matthews declared: “Hillary looks like Madame Defarge in that picture, and Tipper looks as happy as she's ever been.”
From the March 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, with guest and former 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Tom Vilsack:
MATTHEWS: But your state is well known to be anti-war. And Hillary Clinton not only voted to authorize the war, Hillary Clinton supports the maintenance of permanent U.S. bases, military bases, U.S. personnel, our Army in Iraq permanently. How can you, representing a state like Iowa, support that position?
VILSACK: She'll end the war, Chris. The reality is that we would hope that President Bush would end the war. But it doesn't appear --
MATTHEWS: But she said permanent bases, never end it.
VILSACK: It doesn't appear as if he's intending on doing that, so it's necessary for the next president of the United States to handle that issue. And she's prepared to do it, and I believe she will. That's the key, ending the war.
MATTHEWS: But do you support a permanent U.S. base in Iraq?
VILSACK: I think it's important for the United States to have protection of its national strategic interests in that region. And obviously, there's going to be an opportunity for us to have troops deployed throughout that region, as there has been. But the bottom line is, the war has to end. Hillary Clinton has promised and pledged to end it, and I believe that she will on the first day she is in office.
MATTHEWS: You believe that she's going to be more dovish than she says, then?
VILSACK: I heard her say it today, that she is intent on ending the war. She recognizes that President Bush started this war, has mismanaged this war, and has responsibility for ending it. But if he doesn't accept that responsibility, she will.
From the March 25 edition of the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: Patrick, is she ready to say “I'm against the war,” or is she still playing this straddle of “I want to keep a permanent base in Iraq” -- you know, the whole thing?
HEALY: Yeah, yeah. She's saying that she's against the war and she wants to get out most of the troops, but she's going to keep these troops there. We asked her, you know, “If Iraqis are killing each other right outside of the gates, you're really going to have all these American servicemen just sitting in there and letting civil war happen?” She said, “Yeah. You know, let them go at it. We're not going to do anything.”
STENGEL: It does seem like an incremental position, right?
BORGER: This is part of a general-election strategy. I mean, obviously, she's got to win the primaries. But they're looking over the rainbow here to the general election, where she is going to want to have that strategy.
BORGER: It was so wonderful to watch him on the Hill this week looking very sporty, not looking --
NORAH O'DONNELL (MSNBC chief Washington correspondent): Sporty?
BORGER: Not looking like a senator. You know, he's wearing a checked shirt, sort of a different kind of a tie -- “I'm not one of you.” The Democrats, most of them welcomed [him] like the returning prophet. Except for one -- Hillary Clinton.
MATTHEWS: Did you watch her eyes?
BORGER: I did.
MATTHEWS: Weren't those dead people's eyes? That was the coldest look.
BORGER: It was not --
MATTHEWS: No phony smile, nothing.
BORGER: Let's just not say -- it was not welcoming your old friend.
MATTHEWS: “Good to see you, Al.”
BORGER: “Great to see you, Al. Good to have you in the same room. And by the way, did you invent the Internet, too? I don't think so.”
MATTHEWS: And Patrick, before -- we were in the green room a while ago, and you were saying that you think he's lost some weight. I know this is so cosmetic, but people are watching the weight here.
HEALY: When we were reporting on Gore coming back last week, the anecdote that kept coming up from his friends about how much he loves the low-fat, low-cal sandwiches, they were just pushing that storyline over and over again. You know, he -- it's hard to tell.
MATTHEWS: Compare the faces of Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore. Hillary looks like Madame Defarge in that picture, and Tipper looks as happy as she's ever been. You're dead right.