Chris Matthews drew fire last week for his observation that, in his recent audiotape, Osama Bin Laden seemed to be echoing some of the themes commonly struck by the anti-war Left (my original posts are here and here).
Peter Daou, a former Kerry adviser now writing at Salon, was an early critic of Matthews' comments. Now Mr. Daou is back with a rebuttal to my defense of Chris Matthews right to speak his mind:
Tom, the issue is this: there's no reason on earth to lump together the words of Moore and a bloodthirsty terrorist. No reason, other than to push the latest GOP talking point, namely, Democrats are treasonous terrorist-appeasers.
Is that really the latest GOP talking point? I would have thought it was an oldy but goody; maybe we can ask former Senator Max Cleland for his opinion.
No matter. Let's see if we can think of some reasons to compare Osama's rhetoric with Michael Moore's.
(1) Osama has made a Moore reference before, in his October 2004 pre-election tape. As Mark Coffey pointed out, Michael Moore did not exactly hang his head in shame or outrage at the time; from the Moore website, with emphasis added to a pre-election open letter to President Bush:
Hey, we’ve all been there. “You’re fired” are two horrible words when put together in that order. Bin Laden surfacing this weekend to remind the American people of your total and complete failure to capture him was a cruel trick or treat. But there he was. 3,000 people were killed and he’s laughing in your face. Why did you stop our Special Forces from going after him? Why did you forget about bin Laden on the DAY AFTER 9/11 and tell your terrorism czar to concentrate on Iraq instead?
There he was, OBL, all tan and rested and on videotape (hey, did you get the feeling that he had a bootleg of my movie]? Are there DVD players in those caves in Afghanistan?)
(2) In his latest tape Osama was plugging another lefty's book, "The Rogue State" by Blum.
(3) Osama cites other conventional lefty talking points in this tape, such as Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech.
So, one might well hold the opinion that Osama is trying to make his case to the American people by adopting the arguments of the left. And in fact, Mr. Daou has no problem with this opinion as long as it is expressed by the proper people:
And this is about a reporter saying it, a reporter who is supposedly playing "hardball" with guests of all political stripes, a reporter who is presented as non-biased. Last I checked, Matthews' show wasn't called "Rightwing Hardball."
Since we're talking about distinctions and differences, there's a world of difference between an ordinary citizen or a partisan pundit saying something and a reporter saying it - when the reporter is presented as a "neutral" deliverer of unbiased information. I'm less concerned about someone like Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity attacking Democrats as terrorist-lite, considering that both are confused men consumed by anger and arrogance. O'Reilly's agenda is obvious, Matthews' agenda is insidious.
My goodness - Chris Matthews is meant to be a "neutral" deliverer of unbiased information? Chris Matthews without opinions would be like... silence. NBC describes his show as "a nightly hour of in-depth political analysis and fiery debate"; I don't think anyone, with the convenient exception of Mr. Daou, is under the illusion that Chris Matthews is meant to provide "objective" news rather than entertaining opinion.
So if Matthews has the opinion held by righties and Michael Moore, that Osama sometimes picks up Moore's talking points, why can't he say so? I say he can. Mr. Daou, who disagrees, is at least clear enough in his objective, as explained by the first link he provides - he wants to scream loudly enough that Matthews is moved even further to the left (I am making the bold assumption that, based on his resume, Matthews is not exactly a movement conservative - for non-link followers, here is a sampling:
Matthews spent 15 years in politics and government: he worked in the White House for four years under President Jimmy Carter as a Presidential speechwriter and on the Government Reorganization Project, in the U.S. Senate for five years on the staffs of Senator Frank Moss (Utah) and Senator Edmund Muskie (Maine), and was the top aide for Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. for six years.
Well. Mr. Daou and his followers are certainly free to scream about anything they like in this free country. But please don't ask me to see this as anything other than an attempt to bully a media figure into hewing to their party line.
MORE: Follow the campaign against Matthews here.