There have been a number of excessive reactions to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday from the left, but the prize for conspiratorial thinking has to go to MSNBC host Chris Matthews. On Tuesday, Matthews accused the Israeli prime minister of executing a coup, aided by American Republicans, aimed at wresting control of the nation’s foreign policy away from the President of the United States… somehow.
Matthews joined Thomas Roberts on Tuesday, the host of MSNBC’s new two-hour block of programming vacated by Ronan Farrow and Joy-Ann Reid, to relate his thoughts on Netanyahu’s highly anticipated speech to a joint session of American lawmakers.
It began well enough. Matthews noted that the speech was a powerful one, and it touched on a variety of historical themes ranging from the origins of Purim to World War II.
He went on, however, to litigate the legitimacy of Netanyahu’s claim that the ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program will lead to a dangerous deal that jeopardizes Israeli security. “He implied that he would be a better bargainer than the president, but no one believes that,” Matthews said, positing an assumption of his and responding to it in the same breath.
This statement merely foreshadowed more disturbing comments yet to come.
Matthews went on to say that it was bizarre for Netanyahu to insist that no deal with Iran is better for Israeli security than any deal aimed at forestalling Iran’s march toward nuclearization. And that would have been a bizarre assertion for Netanyahu to make if he had made it. Fortunately for the sake of logical consistency, the Israeli prime minister did not make this claim.
My friends, for over a year, we’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.
Now we’re being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That’s just not true.
The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.
A better deal that doesn’t leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and such a short break-out time. A better deal that keeps the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in place until Iran’s aggression ends.
A better deal that won’t give Iran an easy path to the bomb. A better deal that Israel and its neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally.
A stronger deal, even one that Israel does not like, is preferable to an accord that provides Iran the cover it needs to stealthily develop nuclear weapons while pretending to abide by the results of a Western-backed nuclear agreement.
But the MSNBC host was just getting warmed up.
“I’ll get to the heart of this speech now,” Matthews warned. Brace yourself. “This man from a foreign government walked into the United States legislature and tried to take over U.S. foreign policy,” he insisted.
“Mmm hmm,” added MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts.
“It was a startling situation,” Matthews continued. “They went into the U.S. Congress today to take over U.S. foreign policy today from the president. It’s a remarkable day when the leaders of the opposition allowed this to happen.”
“This was a takeover attempt by Netanyahu, with his compliant American partners, to take American foreign policy out of the hands of the American president,” Matthews reiterated.
You don’t have to go back to Winston Churchill to find an example of a foreign leader addressing the U.S. Congress and defending the best interest of their country, which can at times diverge from those of the American president. As recently as September of last year, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appeared before a joint session of the legislature and pleaded for American defensive weaponry to aid his country in its effort to dislodge Russian soldiers from the portions of eastern Ukraine that they presently occupy. He made this request despite the fact that the White House opposed and continues to oppose sending those weapons to Eastern Europe. Was that a Ukrainian-led and Republican-sanctioned coup, too?
Following Matthews’ paranoid tirade, Roberts added that America remains committed to Israel’s defense and has former George W. Bush to thank for the funds committed to safeguarding Israel from the hostile powers by which it is surrounded. Don’t think too hard about it. They’re on a roll.
The fatal flaw in Matthews’ logic, and he said it twice so it wasn’t a slip, is that the United States always has a failsafe should Iran reach the threshold for nuclearization: Military force. Matthews insisted that American military might can and should be applied should Iran renege on its nuclear obligations, but that would never happen. Moreover, Matthews would oppose strikes on Iran in the event of this scenario.
What Netanyahu argued for, albeit without many specifics, is a deal that prevents both Iranian nuclearization and the need for war. Matthews seems to see military force as the only deterrent capable of enforcing the terms of a nuclear arrangement. By that logic, it seems that Matthews is conceding that the terms associated with the present nuclear deal with Iran are, at the very least, suboptimal.
And if Matthews is a mutineer, too, all hope is lost for the president.