Don't Call It "Hardball"

Chris Matthews really needs to retire the name "Hardball" for his talk show on MSNBC. When it comes to liberal or radical guests, he ought to rename the show "Cuddles with Chris."

When did this toothless trend become too obvious to ignore? It could have been with John Kerry about a year ago, when Matthews asked him "hardballs" like whether the Bush campaign was hoisting themselves "on their own petard by bringing up the issue of your service," and whether it was possible the Republicans were questioning Kerry's service because they realize "they can't beat you on the jobs issue, they can't beat you on foreign policy, so they're gonna drop this nonsensical stuff [on you]?"

Maybe the saddest recent example was the incredibly kissy-kissy Matthews interview with Jane Fonda on April 15. As part of a strategy to sell copies of her new memoirs, Fonda has suggested she is sorry for sitting behind a communist anti-aircraft gun pointed at American pilots in North Vietnam in 1972. But Fonda isn't really sorry. She still believes all the same hard-left baloney about communist good guys and American bad guys. Matthews did lob a few mildly tough questions, but they were more than outnumbered by obsequious comments about Fonda's correctness.

For example, when Matthews tried to ask if Ho Chi Minh was working in league with other communist governments, Fonda, claimed Vietnam could have been a neutral country: "Ho Chi Minh begged the United States to become independent of France," and Matthews replied, "I remember it, in '45." That's funny: Matthews was born in 1945.

Fonda continued with her wacky history lesson. Ho Chi Minh "was essentially a nationalist," but "many people, I think rightly have said he was really more like Tito, the Yugoslav president, Marshal Tito," the man generally seen in the 1970s and 1980s as a less doctrinaire communist tyrant. Matthews was eating it up: "I understand exactly. You know your stuff!"

Matthews pressed her on whether the left actually shortened the war. When Fonda replied that yes, she and "tens of thousands of others" succeeded, Matthews fawned: "I think you're right!...if that war was supported by the American people, we might have stayed in there a lot longer and still lost."

When Matthews asked about how Fonda critics are "still fighting the war," Fonda fussed that Vietnam is still an "oozing wound" because of conservative "revisionism," and Matthews again endorsed her: "You're right! The war keeps bleeding us."

When Matthews asked about Iraq and why we fought there, Fonda proclaimed, "I don't think it's as simple as oil. I think it's we, we want to control the region." Rubber Stamp Chris replied: "I think you're right!"

Then Fonda needed a laugh track as she insisted "I didn't take sides" in the Vietnam War. Matthews asserted Fonda made the communist side "look like the good guys....Do you feel, looking back, that they were the good guys?" Professor Fonda said she could see why soldiers who fought there and lost friends in Vietnam would disagree, but it was as if someone invaded America and "divided us in half at the Mississippi River....We would understand why people were fighting and why people from both sides of the Mississippi were trying to get rid of the invaders."

Once again, this lecture earned an A from Matthews. Many gung-ho patriots decided the Vietnam war was a mistake, he said, but "they can't imagine slipping out of their American skin, their American soul, and becoming so objective, as you just were a minute ago...How do you step out of being an American to make such an objective judgment?" Fonda, of course, debated the idea she was anti-American, protesting "I never did step out of being an American."

Matthews ended the Vietnam segment of the interview with more ovations. "I think it's great the way you answer these, because, thank you, by the way for answering all the questions. It's obviously you doing this. This isn't a performance." When they discussed Fonda, the "feminist Christian," complete with Fonda suggesting Christianity became "patriarchal" in the fourth century, and left the more feminist passages of Jesus out of the Bible, Matthews said yet again, "And I agree with you, thank you!"

As the hour concluded, Matthews kept dishing the praise, about how she was clear, she was fun, she made her enemies like her better, so buy her "beautifully written" book, and "you deserve credit for this book, because I think you really did answer a lot of the questions people like me had about you, and you dazzle us with your beauty and all the good things."

You can call this interview/propaganda refresher a lot of interesting names, but one of them can't be "Hardball."