Anyone who thought that they would obtain incisive coverage from Chris Matthews of all the torture news that is breaking was in for a disappointment Wednesday. Matthews does not know anything, so he shows old film clips, takes offense and yells.
The first segment featured the usual; a Republican, Senator John Ensign and a Democrat, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Matthews questioning of Ensign was infuriating because Matthews apparently does not know what anyone who read The Dark Side by Jane Mayer knows, which is that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were caused by the importation of Gitmo interrogators and contractors to teach so-called interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib.
Thus, Matthews let Ensign continually distinguish between "abuses" at Abu Ghraib and interrogation. As Joan Walsh pointed out later in the show, this is abject nonsense. The interrogators, as unqualified as they were, brought these "techniques" to Abu Ghraib and taught them to the so-called rogue soldiers.
Matthews could not dispute Ensign's nonsense because he does not know the most basic facts. Instead he spent the time being offended that Ensign accused Matthews of being "inflammatory" for reading from the Senate committee report that confirmed Mayer's reporting.
Turns out it is not difficult to tell Matthews something he does not know!
(Updated below with transcript)
And while we are at it:
- Did Wasserman-Schultz and Ensign appear separately because Ensign insisted on it? Just asking.
- Why did Matthews let Ensign get away with calling the report a "Democrat" report when the adjective is Democratic. This is some kind of Republican stunt to imply that the Democratic Party is not democratic. Ensign said it about ten times and Matthews never mentioned it and even adopted the word. He was to busy faking offense at being called inflammatory, which of course is all that he is.
And that is just the first segment.
UPDATE: here is the transcript
I have shortened the interview below, but I don't think I have left out anything other than repetition. Matthews simply does not know anything except that there is a report. if an attorney cross-examined this way, he would lose every case. You have to prepare, not preen.
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Well, Chris, I think that you're making some pretty inflammatory statements.
MATTHEWS: Which one? . . .
MATTHEWS: No, don't call me inflammatory.
ENSIGN: No, no, Chris...
MATTHEWS: I'm quoting from the committee report of Carl Levin. If he's inflammatory...
ENSIGN: That's a Democrat committee report.
MATTHEWS: ... say that.
ENSIGN: That is a Democrat committee report. That is a partisan committee report, and you're reading--as a matter of fact, he uses the words abuse.
Chris, let's state the facts. . . .
ENSIGN: ... Abu Ghraib. And Abu Ghraib--and you lump that in together, Chris, and I have to point this out. You lump in Abu Ghraib together. Abu Ghraib was an abuse.
ENSIGN: OK, that wasn't--that wasn't to get...
ENSIGN: ... information out of prisoners, that was to make fun of them. That was just to abuse prisoners...
ENSIGN: ... and that was not the same thing as our intelligence people were doing.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me show you on camera what I'm looking at. This is the Senate Armed Services Committee inquiry into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. Now, let me read to you what you said I was being inflammatory. Let me read to you directly from this report, which--the primary document here.
"The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of"--quote--"a few bad apples acting on their own." This is the report of the committee, the full committee. "The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate information, intelligence, that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies and compromised our moral authority."
Well, I don't know how you can accuse me of being inflammatory when I'm reading directly . . .
ENSIGN: And that's why I'm saying it's a Democrat partisan report.
MATTHEWS: OK, let's go through what you don't like. Do you believe that it was a few bad apples at Abu Ghraib, that that was not a bunch of enlisted people operating under some general guidelines for softening up prisoners? You disagree with that. You say it was just a few bad apples.
ENSIGN: Oh, I think that there was general abuse going on at Abu Ghraib. I think that's been condemned by the highest levels, and people were held accountable for that. That's completely different than what was going on. And that's why I think it's wrong to kind of, you know, mix what we're talking about here.
MATTHEWS: I'm reading from the report. Senator, I am...
ENSIGN: Well, I know, but I'm talking about...
MATTHEWS: ... not an expert. I am a generalist reading from the committee report making the very points you call inflammatory. One, they make particular reference to the Abu Ghraib situation, a "few bad apples" and your argument. They make particular reference to the fact that they developed these intelligence-gathering techniques from the Chinese communists, used to prepare our soldiers at that time, now being reused, replanted, if you will, to be used by our interrogators.
I'm simply reciting the record, sir, and you're calling it inflammatory. Maybe the record itself is inflammatory.
ENSIGN: No, Chris. What I want to separate here is what we were doing as far as the Intelligence Committee is--or the intelligence community was concerned. The memos that were released earlier talked about the techniques, the advanced interrogation techniques...
ENSIGN: ... that were used to get information from people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Those kinds of techniques, which I believe are not torture, that was not what was going on at Abu Ghraib. That's why I'm saying lumping them together I think is wrong. . . .
What went on at Abu Ghraib was not for intelligence gathering. It was to humiliate prisoners. It was people basically getting their jollies and it was absolutely wrong and it was an embarrassment for this country. And I was very strong in condemning that at the time.
However, what we're talking about here is something totally different.
This is what our intelligence community was using to get information...
ENSIGN: ... to keep the American homeland safe, and they were using techniques that were not torture. The United States did not engage in torture.
MATTHEWS: So you disagree with this committee report that assigns blames for the higher-ups for that behavior, that abuse by the enlisted people are Abu Ghraib. You disagree with that report.
ENSIGN: Oh, I think that there were some higher-ups. How high up as far as Abu Ghraib is concerned, I don't think that, you know, it probably went any higher than field commanders or the general that was implicated at the time. However, it is separate than. . . .
MATTHEWS: ... and you disagree with the summation statement by the chairman of the committee. That's all I'm asking.
ENSIGN: I will try to answer it again, Chris. Separate out what you're talking about, what the intelligence community was using for people like--who were captured from al Qaeda, who we were trying to get information from, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who we got information to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States.
ENSIGN: That's different than what was going on at Abu Ghraib. Whoever was responsible for the type of behavior that went on at Abu Ghraib should be held accountable. I've said that a long time. That was an abuse. That wasn't for intelligence-gathering. That was just abuse, you know, of prisoners, you know, by, you know, people, and however high up that went, that, you know, should be investigated, and I think it has been investigated. Those were abuses.
There were not abuses, what we're talking about, the people who were at Guantanamo Bay and other places around the world, where our intelligence community was using enhanced interrogation techniques to get information that kept the American homeland safe. That's what I'm trying to say is, don't put these things together. Keep them separate, and then I think it's a fair discussion.
MATTHEWS: Again, Senator, with all respect, I didn't put them together. Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, did so in a report which took three months to clear through the Defense Department community. It's been vetted. It's in the report released yesterday. I quoted to you from the report, which do bring together the higher-up guidelines, the framework, it said here--the framework for dealing with these prisoners that led to the abuse of those prisoners at the lower level. You have a disagreement with that committee, sir. Thank you very much, Senator John Ensign.
ENSIGN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for coming.