You’re better off reading the transcript at Newsbusters than watching the clip, which, for some reason, excludes two of Matthews’s references to “flashbacks.” Halfway through it, I thought he was using “flashback” and “nightmare” as some sort of extremely ill-advised metaphor for what McCain was feeling yesterday while interrogating Hagel. Tasteless, yes, but just a metaphor. Quote:
A resentment not against the North Vietnamese who imprisoned and toured him all those years, not against George W. Bush and his political henchmen who tried to stain McCain’s reputation back in 2000, but against a guy who fought against fear and rallied against wounds just like he did in the same army of America’s long nightmare in Vietnam, Chuck Hagel. A nightmare by the way whose flashbacks must haunt still the mind and heart of John Sidney McCain.
If you strain very hard you can read that nightmare/flashback line metaphorically, i.e. that Vietnam was a nightmare for the country at large and that McCain, like anyone who lived through it, can’t help letting his views of the Iraq war be colored by it. But no, that’s not what Matthews means. He goes on to say of McCain, “I’m absolutely convinced we’re watching a flashback” and, later, “It looks like a flashback. McCain is so angry.” (That second line is featured in the second clip below.) He obviously means it in the literal sense. He’s talking about an honest-to-goodness, post-torture POW PTSD flashback as an explanation for McCain’s irritation over Hagel’s filibustering at a hearing. This isn’t the first time the left has insinuated for political advantage that McCain might be mental, although typically they frame it in terms of worries about his “temper” precisely because they don’t want to be on the hook for a smear this nasty. Not Matthews, though. When it comes to protecting a critic of the “Israel lobby” from the neocons, he’ll happily delegitimize a war hero’s defense of the surge by blaming it on some sort of prison-camp psychosis. Only on MSNBC, only on MSNBC could you find a liberal who not only thinks the big takeaway from yesterday’s catastrophic Hagel testimony is how combative the Republicans were but who’s willing to use McCain’s torture as a bludgeon against him to serve that narrative.