I generally get aggravated with Chris Matthews for being overly aggressive with his guests and talking over them. This time wasn't one of them. Matthews took New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio to task for his fear mongering over the Cordoba House Islamic center near ground zero or wrongly named "ground zero mosque" and for playing politics to help himself given his lagging poll numbers.
I'm frankly getting really tired of seeing this story continue to gain traction in the press other than the fact that it's putting front and center that the GOP doesn't mind painting itself as extreme as Pam Geller. When the Atlas Shrugs wingnut is driving the political debate of the day I don't see how that's good for them with any moderate voters who aren't anxious to start another race war in this country.
MATTHEWS: We start with the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero. Joining us right now is former New York congressman Rick Lazio, who’s running for governor of New York. Here’s your new TV ad. I want to show it, first of all, Rick to everybody. Let’s watch it. Caused a lot of stir.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK LAZIO (R), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: New Yorkers have been through enough. Now a terrorist-sympathizing imam wants to build a $100 million mosque near Ground Zero. Where’s this money coming from? Who’s really behind it? Incredibly, Andrew Cuomo defends it, even though this imam said America was an accessory to 9/11. Andrew Cuomo is very, very wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call Andrew Cuomo and tell him a Ground Zero mosque is very wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A lot of people watching this ad would say it’s really a political ad. It has nothing to do with religion or 9/11 or anything else. It has to do with the fact that you’re down about 30 points in what looks to be your upcoming general election fight with Andrew Cuomo for governor. Your reaction to that.
LAZIO: My reaction to that, Chris, is that this is an issue that two thirds of Americans, two thirds of New Yorkers care deeply about. This is certainly not about religion. This is about the security and safety of the people of New York. And in my mind, some of the points that are made in this commercial are very valid points. Listen, the imam who -- Rauf -- who is spearheading this effort did, in fact, say that American policies were an accessory to the crime of 9/11, this the very same month as the attacks on 9/11 2001.
MATTHEWS: Why don’t you give us the full -- why don’t you give us the complete sentence that he gave? That’d be more helpful.
MATTHEWS: Repeat the whole sentence.
LAZIO: As I recall, he said American policies were an accessory to the crime of 9/11. And people can --
MATTHEWS: That’s not the sentence.
LAZIO: People can go to --
MATTHEWS: That’s not what said. He said, "I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory." We can argue about the word "accessory," but he didn’t say we deserved to be hit.
LAZIO: Then he goes on --
LAZIO: Then he goes on and says that Osama bin Laden, in a very real sense, was made or created in the USA. These are not -- this is not the voice of a bridge builder. You know, this is a guy --
MATTHEWS: OK --
LAZIO: -- these are developers --
MATTHEWS: Why did he go to -- why did he go to Danny Pearl’s funeral? Why did he stand up and say, I’m a supporter of the state of Israel? Why did he say, I’m a Jew, I identify with Judaism? Why did he make those comments if he’s a hater?
LAZIO: I’d like know why --
MATTHEWS: Is he a hater?
LAZIO: -- why they refuse to say whether or not they’re going to take money from Iran. This is only a few years ago. One of the developers of this project didn’t answer, in fact, didn’t say that he wouldn’t -- they wouldn’t --
MATTHEWS: OK --
LAZIO: -- take money from Iran. Doesn’t that trouble you? It should trouble most people.
MATTHEWS: It troubles me that you’ve just changed the guy’s sentence when he said, I wouldn’t say that" --
LAZIO: Listen --
MATTHEWS: -- "the United States deserved what happened." That is not the language of a hater. That’s a guy who perhaps used the wrong word in terms of "accessory."
LAZIO: No, you’re --
MATTHEWS: Clearly, what he was trying to say is, obviously, a lot of people in Middle East; especially the Saudis on those planes, hijacking those planes don’t like our policy. Clearly. It’s not saying that they’re right. But he certainly isn’t saying we’re guilty. He certainly isn’t saying it’s our fault. And you’re making it sound like this guy --
LAZIO: Here’s --
MATTHEWS: -- sounding like you’re saying this guy is blaming Americans --
LAZIO: Chris --
MATTHEWS: -- for the World Trade Center horror.
LAZIO: If you want to apologize for a guy who --
MATTHEWS: No, I know you do this --
LAZIO: If you want to apologize for a guy who -- who said --
MATTHEWS: I know what you’re doing here.
LAZIO: -- this is -- this is --
MATTHEWS: I know your tactics, Rick. Let’s take a look at your tactic. Let’s take a look. First of all, the uniformed police officers -- you said this is a security issue.
LAZIO: Union! Union!
MATTHEWS: If it’s a security issue --
LAZIO: Unions! Unions! Unions!
MATTHEWS: Well, why are --
LAZIO: Let’s be fair about this.
MATTHEWS: -- why are the uniformed fire officers, firefighters, why are the police officers all saying they disagree with this ad?
LAZIO: These -- these are the union -- these are the union leaders that support Andrew Cuomo. Let’s be fair about this, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you mean -- you mean the cops and the firemen are saying this because they’re Democrats and you’re a Republican.
LAZIO: Those are your words. I’m just saying these are union members --
MATTHEWS: Well, I’m asking for your words.
LAZIO: These are union leaders, and they support -- they support Andrew Cuomo. I’m just saying, listen, this is -- from this imam --
LAZIO: -- he says -- he has said -- he’s compared America unfavorably to al Qaeda. He has said that --
MATTHEWS: Why would he say, I am a Jew, I identify with Judaism, I am a supporter of the state of Israel? Why would he be at the funeral service for Daniel Pearl, who was a Jewish -- he happened to be a Jewish guy was killed, basically, and beheaded because he was Jewish. He’s at that funeral --
LAZIO: Chris --
MATTHEWS: -- to show honor to that guy. Why would he do that if he was a hater?
LAZIO: Chris --
MATTHEWS: Just tell me!
LAZIO: Here’s -- here’s what I’m saying. Let’s get -- let’s get to the bottom of this and have a --
MATTHEWS: The bottom of it is you’re running for governor.
LAZIO: -- a full accounting of where this money is coming from. Don’t you want to know whether Iran --
MATTHEWS: Well, they have to raise the money first.
LAZIO: -- is giving money here? Don’t you -- don’t you --?
MATTHEWS: I do -- would like to know. I would like to know --
LAZIO: Don’t -- don’t you --
MATTHEWS: -- but I want to know why we’re talking about this in a race for governor. Let’s take a look at what you did when you last ran for office back in 2000. Here’s a bit of your debate with Senator Hillary Clinton. I want to show the way you operate and see if this isn’t more of that. Let’s watch and let the voters and the viewers decide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAZIO: Let’s sign it. It’s the New York Freedom from Soft Money PAC. I signed it. We can -- we can both sit down together. We can all get all the media in here. We will make sure it’s an iron-clad deal. And I’m happy to abide by anything that we all agree on. But let’s get it done now. Let’s not get any more wiggle room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Clinton, you want to respond?
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, yes, I certainly do. You know, I -- I admire that. That was a wonderful performance, and I --
LAZIO: Why don’t you sign it?
CLINTON: And you did it very well.
LAZIO: I’m not asking you to admire it; I’m asking you to sign it!
CLINTON: Well, I would be happy to when you give me signed letter --
LAZIO: Well, right here. Right here.
CLINTON: When you give me --
LAZIO: Right here! Sign it right now!
CLINTON: Well, we’ll shake -- we’ll shake on this.
LAZIO: No, no. I want your signature because I think everybody wants to see you signing something that you said you were for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this is your aggressive kind of campaign tactic I know you do when you’re behind. You’re 30-some points behind. There you went over and practically served papers on Hillary Clinton. I don’t think the public liked that very much. Why do you persist in this kind of campaign tactic --?
LAZIO: Hey, Chris -- Chris --
MATTHEWS: -- which has earned you the criticism of the police, the firefighters?
LAZIO: Chris --
MATTHEWS: You said this is an issue of security. Well, they don’t agree with you.
LAZIO: How about Howard Dean? How about Harry Reid? They’re taking the -- the Anti-Defamation League, former mayor Rudy Giuliani, former governor George Pataki, two thirds of the American people, 70 percent of New Yorkers. You know, you can try and smear me, if you want, but --
MATTHEWS: No, I --
MATTHEWS: You were the one using --
LAZIO: But all these people --
MATTHEWS: -- using the language about this imam --
LAZIO: Chris, Chris --
MATTHEWS: -- who is portrayed at a bridge builder and you’re --
LAZIO: Chris, I’m trying to --
MATTHEWS: -- out there basically calling him a terrorist.
LAZIO: I’m trying to -- I know you -- you’re talking over me. I’m trying to explain what my position is. I’ve said that I believe that this imam has made a number of comments that I find alarming and concerning. I believe that he has shown certain sympathy with radical organizations. I think that, in fact, when he dodges the question of whether Hamas is a terrorist organization and he compares America to al Qaeda unfavorably --
LAZIO: -- and -- and they say -- and they’re leaving open the possibility of taking money from Iran, that it requires, at the very least, the Andrew Cuomo, who’s the attorney general of New York, who’s got jurisdiction over this, to sort of say, Let’s have a fair and open accounting. I think when other people are coming to this -- this imam and to these developers and say, Let’s explore other alternatives, and they -- they give a straight-arm and say --
MATTHEWS: Oh, you’re moderating your voice here, sir. That’s not what you’re calling this guy. "The New York Times" editorial page has said you were operating hysterically here. And I’m going to ask you about why, if this guy is such an enemy of the peace, why is he used by the United States State Department to go around the world on, apparently, a half dozen trips around the world, trying to build bridges between the East and West? If he’s the bad guy, why is our government using him to bring peace? Answer that question.
LAZIO: I -- I think it’s -- its alarming. In fact, I don’t know why the State Department --
MATTHEWS: That’s alarming, too?
LAZIO: -- is using somebody who won’t criticize Hamas, who won’t call Hamas, who the U.S. government has classified as a terrorist organization - - why dodge that question, if you’re really a peace builder -- peace maker and a bridge builder?
MATTHEWS: Well, let me just ask you because I’ve asked you five times. Why he say something -- well, why would he go to the funeral for Daniel Pearl? Why he would say, I am a Jew, obviously in a passionate manner, perhaps hyperbolically saying he’s Jewish because he is Islamic? Why would he say, I’m a supporter of the state of Israel? Why would a gentleman publicly make those kinds of statements, obvious in a way that would -- would put his life in jeopardy, you could argue, if he’s such an enemy of peace?
LAZIO: Why wouldn’t you call Hamas a terrorist organization? Why would you compare --
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) answer my question.
LAZIO: Why would you compare the U.S. -- U.S. with --?
LAZIO: -- with al Qaeda? Why would you say that American policies are an accessory to the crime of 9/11? That’s what this guy is all about.
LAZIO: I mean, those are his words. And I would invite, by the way, your listeners to go -- don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to you. Go on line. Google it. Look for yourself. Explore this yourself.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
LAZIO: You know, let’s -- they should get the facts. I think people --
MATTHEWS: Jeffrey Goldberg was on --
LAZIO: That’s why 70 percent --
MATTHEWS: -- "MEET THE PRESS" recently, and he’s with "Atlantic," of course, magazine, an expert on the Middle East. And Jeffrey Goldberg, who studied all of these issues, thinks this man is a bridge builder. And I just want to go back to where you distorted a sentence. You said he said the United States was an accessory, its policies -- you’re changing the words, by the way, over the days here -- to what happened on 9/11.
Here’s what he said in the sentence that you keep corrupting. Quote, "I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory."
Obviously, we have unpopular policies in the Arab world. Everybody knows that. You know that. Why do you keep denying the truth here? He’s trying to explain why we have enemies, because they don’t like our policies. But at the same time, he’s saying they’re wrong to attack us. They’re wrong to attack civilians. They were committing a sin against Islam.
All this is on the record, Rick, and you keep denying it. In fact, you keep dancing around it because --
LAZIO: Those are --
MATTHEWS: -- it’s not part of you’re --
LAZIO: -- your words, Chris. Those are your words, not his words. You put up --
MATTHEWS: They are his words!
LAZIO: If you would show his exact quote --
LAZIO: -- and the following quote that Osama bin Laden --
MATTHEWS: Let’s agree. Let’s agree, Rick. We’re going to ask everybody out there to do some homework on this --
MATTHEWS: -- and study what this man actually said, not what you put in your ad.
LAZIO: Please do.
LAZIO: Please do.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Rick Lazio, running for governor of New York --
LAZIO: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: -- in a tough race. Thank you for joining us.
LAZIO: Thank you.