Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chris Matthews and "The Enemy Camp"

by Rick Francona

After President Obama's address to the nation last night explaining his strategy for the war in Afghanistan, MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews surprised viewers with his characterization of the United States Military Academy, more commonly known as West Point, as "the enemy camp." He further described it as the venue used by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to "rabble rouse the 'we're gonna democratize the world' campaign."

Interesting choice of words to describe the alma mater of some of America's greatest leaders. The audience last night included serving officers and non-commissioned officers, plus the entire 4000-strong Corps of Cadets. These people are not the enemy, Chris, these are the men and women who have led and will lead the troops that fight America's wars.

President Obama is the commander in chief. If the military academy that trains his officers is "the enemy camp," he has a serious problem. Actually, if that is the case, we all have a serious problem. I do believe that Mr. Obama faces a variety of problems, many of his own making. For example, read my comments on his ill-advised Afghanistan policy, Taliban analysis of the Obama speech.

Chris Matthews is an Obama fan - he makes no attempt to disguise that fact. He is known for his "thrill up his leg" comment during the 2008 campaign. His exact words: "I have to tell you, you know, it's part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often." He also has cried on the air during an Obama speech, and has compared the President to Jesus Christ.

During my five year stint with NBC News (NBC, CNBC and MSNBC), I appeared periodically on Hardball with Chris. I have joked that I liked being on his show because he asked the questions, then he answered the questions - easy money! I did appreciate his coverage of the Abu Ghurayb issue, as he allowed me to provide what I thought was in-depth analysis of the underlying causes for the breakdown in the chain of command that led to prisoner abuse.

That said, I think Chris's recent comments are out of line. The United States Military Academy Corps of Cadets is made up of some of the finest young people this country has to offer. They have chosen to serve as officers in the armed forces of their nation during a time of war - most of them will soon find themselves in harm's way, at our behest. They are our sons and daughters - they are not the enemy.