On Hardball, Chris Matthews stated that if Democratic critics recognize that President Bush made a "smart decision" to invade Iraq, then Bush "deserves to have a place in history" because "[y]ou can't say he did the right thing but he didn't quite do it right."
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On the July 31 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews declared that Democrats can't criticize the Bush administration's execution of the war in Iraq if they believe that the decision to invade Iraq was the "right thing" to do. According to Matthews, if critics recognize that President Bush made a "smart decision" to invade Iraq, then Bush "deserves to have a place in history" because "[y]ou can't say he did the right thing but he didn't quite do it right." Moments before, Matthews suggested that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) could "flip" to an anti-war position if Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT) is defeated in the upcoming primary against challenger Ned Lamont. Responding to Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter's assertion that Democratic candidates in 2008 will have to explain that they "made a mistake" by voting to authorize the war "sooner or later," Matthews declared that they will have to "do one of these Mel Gibsons: 'I was dead wrong.' "*
Matthews has previously suggested that the Iraq war might prove that Bush deserves a "place in history." For example, as Media Matters for America noted, he stated on the December 16, 2005, edition of Hardball that Bush "belongs on Mount Rushmore" if the war in Iraq can "create a democracy in the middle of the Arab world."
From the July 31 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, which included Matthews, Alter, and New York Times reporter Anne E. Kornblut:
MATTHEWS: But it could be read by the magazines, your magazine, if Lamont beats Lieberman, could it be "Democrats declare anti-war stance" or "Take Democratic --
ALTER: Yes. I think what it'll do is it'll put some starch in Democrats on the war issue all across the country.
MATTHEWS: Will Hillary flip after this if Lieberman loses?
KORNBLUT: Well, flip how? I mean, no.
MATTHEWS: Flip toward the anti-war position? Take a clear anti-war position?
KORNBLUT: She has actually been a lot more critical of the war than Lieberman has. She has backed away from it in a way that Lieberman never would.
MATTHEWS: It's like the electric slide. Is it like moving over there to the left?
ALTER: What they're gonna do is go hard on the incompetence of the execution of the war and try not to look backwards at whether we should have gone or not.
MATTHEWS: In other words, they're going to hedge their bets.
ALTER: No, but a lot of Democrats, I think, will be tougher on this now.
MATTHEWS: OK, in other words, it's the right war, but the wrong fighting of it.
ALTER: That's --
MATTHEWS: What's wrong with that argument, Jon, is if you think George Bush made the toughest decision of his life to go into Iraq and it was the smart decision, he deserves to have a place in history. You can't say he did the right thing but he didn't quite do it right.
ALTER: That's where I think all these '08 candidates are going to eventually have to do what John Edwards did, which is to say --
MATTHEWS: Do the backflip. Backflip.
ALTER: -- "I made a mistake, I made a mistake. If I'd known then what I know now, I'd change."
MATTHEWS: And Kerry hasn't quite done that yet, has he?
ALTER: No, Kerry has done it, but Hillary has not, and she's going to have to do it sooner or later.
MATTHEWS: So sooner or later, you've got to do one of these Mel Gibsons: "I was dead wrong."
ALTER: Right. I don't know about that comparison.
MATTHEWS: I like that one because I did everything -- I don't even believe what I'm saying. I know it's all stupid. I like public-relations people. Thank you.