MSNBC's Matthews: Obama's Afghanistan Speech Was Right Outta' "Henry V"

Erika Johnsen

5/2/2012 10:36:00 AM - Erika Johnsen

I often find myself pondering how it is that MSNBC host Chris Matthews can refer to his own show as "Hardball" with a straight face; I'd say that "Rather Less-Than Hard-Hitting Adoration of All Things Barack Obama" would feel like a somewhat more accurate moniker. After President Obama delivered his address to the troops during his surprise visit to Afghanistan last night, Matthews offered a taste of what MSNBC rather generously titles 'analysis':

"I must say, this has nothing to do with partisanship. This is a commander-in-chief, meeting with the troops... It was right out of Henry V, the uh, touch-of-Barry in this case, in the night for those soldiers risking their lives over there. ... I was so proud of him there because, I imagine, being a soldier over there, this is what you want to hear, that the troops are backed up by the people at home, and there you have your commander-in-chief with you, personally. It's great stuff."

I'll readily agree with Matthews that, yes, it is good for a commander-in-chief to leave the relative safety of D.C. to visit with the troops and remind them that they aren't forgotten -- and after the president's speech, Mitt Romney's camp released a statement saying as much:

“I am pleased that President Obama has returned to Afghanistan. Our troops and the American people deserve to hear from our President about what is at stake in this war," he said in the statement. "Success in Afghanistan is vital to our nation’s security. It would be a tragedy for Afghanistan and a strategic setback for America if the Taliban returned to power and once again created a sanctuary for terrorists.

"We tolerated such a sanctuary until we lost thousands on September 11, 2001," Romney said. "Many brave Americans have sacrificed everything so that we could win this fight for a more secure future. Let us honor the memory of the fallen, not only by keeping them in our daily thoughts but also by staying true to their commitment. We are united as one nation in our gratitude to our country’s heroes.”

But c'mon, Matthews -- can't we all admit that this was just a little bit partisan? Or even, perhaps, a lot partisan? This was all a part of Team Obama's calculated flurry of campaign-oriented activity surrounding the anniversary of the OBL raid, designed to gain maximum exposure and beat us all over the head with the fact that President Obama gave the go-ahead for the mission (you know, just in case you live under a rock and have miraculously managed to not pick up on that). Comparing President Obama's speech of predictable platitudes with, presumably, Shakespeare's famous "band of brothers" rallying cry just feels disingenuous, and I'm sure that what troops would really like to hear from their commander-in-chief is a victory strategy, rather than blatantly revealing the arbitrary timeline of our mere exit strategy. You can bet that the Taliban was listening in with not-dispassionate interest:

KABUL – The Taliban warned it will officially start its annual "spring offensive" in Afghanistan on Thursday. …

The Taliban said the offensive would focus on "all those people who work against the Mujahedeen, toil to pave ground for the occupation of Afghanistan and become the cause for the strength of the invaders."

Hours after Obama and President Hamid Karzai signed the strategic partnership agreement that will serve as the framework for future relations between the two nations, the Taliban issued a strong response.

Taliban attackers targeted a heavily fortified, private compound in eastern Afghanistan that is mostly occupied by internationals with a car bomb at 6:15 a.m. Gunfire followed the bombing. Police officials say the incident was under control by 9 a.m., leaving seven people dead and 17 injured.