MSNBC host Chris Matthews' double-standard for former White House officials penning tell-alls when their boss is still in office was on full display this week.
President Obama's former CIA chief and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has written a scathing account of his foreign policy in the memoir Worthy Fights, criticizing Obama's judgment on matters ranging from how he pulled troops out of Iraq to the rise of the terrorist group ISIL to not arming moderate rebels in Syria. Matthews questioned Panetta's loyalty to Obama, his timing and his motives Tuesday on Hardball.
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"Why's he doing this?" Matthews asked.
"Panetta's out there trashing the president on the decisions he's made," Matthews said. "Shouldn't there be a period of loyalty until maybe the election's behind him? Maybe not right before an election? To be supportive of the guy who put you in the cabinet?"
Flashback to 2008, when former Bush administration Press Secretary Scott McClellan ignited Washington with his election-year book "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception." In its pages, McClellan charged that the Bush administration misled the American people about going to war in Iraq.
How did Matthews react to this election-year book by a former Bush ally? He was reminded of Jimmy Stewart's heroic character Jefferson Smith in Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
"When I first heard the disclosures in Scott McClellan's new book, I thought of the scene in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, when that corrupt senior senator runs onto the Senate floor yelling, ‘Everything he says is true,'" Matthews said.
He called it the "inside man's case against the war." And, he asked NBC reporter David Gregory at the time, "Isn't the information, the fact that it comes from the inside, more potent?"
In 2014, he was merely concerned with Panetta undermining Democrats in an election year, this time to David Axelrod, the former Obama administration official and current MSNBC analyst.
"I know you don't want to end up like Leon Panetta tonight and figure the Republicans are going to win," Matthews said. "I'm serious about that. I think you should be a loyalist."