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Chris Matthews: Why are we being so mean to Putin?

MSNBC host Chris Matthews berated those Americans advocating a harsher response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of southern Ukraine, claiming that even President Obama “went too far” with his tepid condemnation of the occupation last Friday.

Matthews spoke with Russian Studies professor Stephen Cohen and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, both of whom largely agreed that the United States should tone down — not ratchet up — the rhetoric against Russian aggression.

In fact, Cohen repeatedly suggested he believes Putin’s actions are justified.

“We crossed his red line,” he said. “We’ve been crossing red lines ever since we began to move NATO towards Russia in the 1990s. Clinton began it. Bush continued it. Obama, rhetorically, has continued it.”

Matthews mocked those advocating consequences imposed by the West against Russia for its aggressive actions. “I don’t understand these people,” he said. “They’re like — remember that old character on ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’ running up and down the stairs thinking he was Teddy Roosevelt on San Juan Hill? That’s what they remind me of! They’re going through some weird kinda flashback!”

The MSNBC host also attacked The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol for his statement that the United States should seek to “humiliate” Putin for his actions, claiming it was “rubbing it in their noses.”

“We want him to be humiliated, no off-ramp, no reason for diplomacy here, we want to rub it in his — what is Kristol’s problem?” Matthews snarled. “What is this neo-con brain soup that encourages them to think like this?”

“You’ve got two things going on at once,” Cohen responded. “You’ve got Putin-bashing and Obama-bashing going on here. And they’re not exactly sure which one they want to bash more.”

Cohen went on to claim that Obama “has not conducted himself well in the Russian matter.” And good conduct, for Cohen, means avoiding that crazy new Ukrainian government. “What’s driving this crisis now — whatever you think of Putin — is the insurrectionary, revolutionary, extreme politics in Ukraine.”

Matthews largely agreed, even blaming Obama for encouraging the crisis. “I think the president went too far on Friday,” he said. “I think the president played a part in this escalation on Friday.”

That was a bridge too far, even for Robinson. “I don’t think the president necessarily did anything wrong,” the confused-sounding columnist claimed. “I think what Putin did was — was an aggressive move.”

But Matthews still wasn’t done, offering up one final gem of moral relativism before the segment’s end.

“The hardest thing for us to realize,” he preached, “is that other people’s nationalism is their patriotism as well.”

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