If sputtering after being insulted for five minutes constitutes pwnage these days, then touche. Even more annoying than Matthews is the opportunity this gave all the Stewart fanboys to scoff theatrically and remind us what a rhetorical gladiator their man is. “Remember the time he went off on Tucker Carlson? Brilliant!” Yeah, what was brilliant about that was his point that shows like Crossfire reduce political debate to a cheap game of jousting soundbites and partisan point-scoring. Which, more often than not, is exactly what the interview segment on Stewart’s own show amounts to, and even more so on Colbert’s. Brilliant.

As for the rest of it, the funniest thing about it is that the left has convinced itself, quite seriously, that Chris Matthews is a conservative.

In front of an audience that included such notables as Alan Greenspan, Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy, Matthews began his remarks by declaring that he wanted to “make some news” and he certainly didn’t disappoint. After praising the drafters of the First Amendment for allowing him to make a living, he outlined what he said was the fundamental difference between the Bush and Clinton administrations.

The Clinton camp, he said, never put pressure on his bosses to silence him.

“Not so this crowd,” he added, explaining that Bush White House officials — especially those from Vice President Cheney’s office — called MSNBC brass to complain about the content of his show and attempted to influence its editorial content. “They will not silence me!” Matthews declared.

“They’ve finally been caught in their criminality,” Matthews continued, although he did not specify the exact criminal behavior to which he referred. He then drew an obvious Bush-Nixon parallel by saying, “Spiro Agnew was not an American hero.”

If it were anyone else I’d blame the booze, but this sounds just like him, doesn’t it? Apparently he mumbled something else about it on Hardball this afternoon but the transcript’s not available yet. Exit question: What a pair of champs those Clintons are, never trying to silence anyone, huh?