(Editor's note: Chris Matthews apologized to the cadets at West Point during the 7 pm edition of "Hardball" on Dec. 2.)
Every once in awhile the hyperventilating 24-hour news cycle causes otherwise well-produced TV personalities to show their true colors. One such occurrence happened immediately following President Obama's address from West Point on Tuesday night. In the course of his analysis of the President's remarks, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, the host of the popular "Hardball" program, made the following comment about those in attendance:
"I saw, if not resentment, skepticism. I didn't see a lot of warmth in the crowd out there, ah, the president chose to address tonight, and I thought that was interesting . . . he went to the enemy camp tonight to make his case. I mean, that's where Paul Wolfowitz used to write speeches for back in the old Bush days. That's where he went to rabble-rouse the �we're going to democratize the world' campaign back in, ah, '02. So, ah, I-I thought it was a strange venue."
So four thousand-plus young men and women -- Eagle Scouts, student council presidents, varsity letter winners, former enlisted war vets -- who have taken the first bold step toward becoming the next generation of Army leadership comprise the "enemy camp"? And West Point -- the place that produced Grant, Eisenhower, and Petraeus among many other national heroes -- is politically reduced to the place where neocons went to lead America astray?
Here's a clue for Mr. Matthews as he arcs around DC living the privileged life and listening to himself talk: Those cadets didn't choose to be in the crowd. They were told to muster in front of the hall some hours prior and wasted a lot of precious study time (final exams are looming, after all) filing into their seats. And they were instructed to conduct themselves as Army cadets, which they did brilliantly.
And that's not to say the cadets in the crowd didn't appreciate the opportunity they were afforded. The chance to listen to the president in person at least once over the four years at the institution is one of the values of a service academy education. That's the sort of thing that makes high-achieving high schoolers want to go to places like West Point and Annapolis.
I don't know Chris Matthews personally but strongly believe that his mischaracterization was an insult to the Corps of Cadets and West Point and demonstrates the obtuse and hypocritical outlook of a shallow and self-centered TV personality. I use the term hypocritical because I've watched "Hardball" for some years now and know that Matthews represents himself as a street-savvy tough from Philly who understands the plight of the regular guy. Well, it now appears that that's an act he drags out when he's losing an argument with a more erudite guest (one who appears exactly one time on "Hardball").
Based on his comments one could deduce that in reality Matthews sees the military as a cabal bent on undermining the Commander-in-chief's strategy because of a difference in political affiliation. That's beyond a simple insult to the men and women in uniform. It's woefully ignorant. It's profane. And it's irresponsible for someone who shapes public opinion night after night.
Chris Matthews owes the West Point Corps of Cadets a public, high-visibility apology. In the meantime, those he insulted will continue to petition themselves to a cause that allows him to be as ignorant and pedantic as he wants.