On Wednesday’s “Hardball” on MSNBC, host Chris Matthews continued his attack on Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, but this time took it a step further.
Matthews had been comparing Cruz to former Wisconsin Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy over the past few weeks based on his looks and demeanor. But Matthews introduced a new description into his attack on Cruz for his suggested tactic of threatening a government shutdown to stop Obamacare — “terrorist.”
“It’s not just the issue of Obamacare and a government shutdown where Cruz and his allies are threatening destruction,” Matthews said. “In addition to their vowel to blow up Obamacare and shut down the American government this September, they’re also moving to block an increase in the debt ceiling. And that means the government wouldn’t be able to pay its bills, wouldn’t be able to pay its debts and would go into default. The consequences would destroy the United States’ credit rating, of course, and send us spiraling into default. This is Cruz’s operation, by the way, and his allies operation. This is more than obstructionism — this is political terrorism. It’s a strategy of mass destruction and demolition with the hope after the rubble is settled they’ll be the ones left around to pick up the pieces.”
Matthews justified the label by saying it was an effort to undermine the U.S. system of government.
“I believe it’s terrorism,” Matthews said. “This is the first time I’ve seen a political party or even a fraction of it saying that their number one goal is A — to shut down the American government, it is the American government. Kill a bill that has already passed by Congress and refuse to pay bills already run up by the Congress in an attempt to basically risk default. This is an attempt to destroy all we know of as the republican form of government in this country with the purpose — I don’t know the purpose.”
Matthews continued with comparisons to McCarthy and indicating he wasn’t going to back off the terrorist label.
“You know, I’ve compared him to McCarthy. Maybe that’s just a look-a-like. I shouldn’t get into what people look like. He reminds me so much when I look at him interrogating a witness on the Hill — he looks like Joe McCarthy. He just acts that way with that somber indicative aspect, like this guy is the evil one. But I will say he’s a terrorist. What this guy has basically done is say my goal is demolition. Blow up health care, blow up the continuing resolution. Bring the government to a standstill. And then make us forfeit on the national debt.”
MSNBC contributor Steve Schmidt, who fancies himself as a moderate Republican, challenged Matthews’ use of the term.
SCHMIDT: Chris, I disagree with your use of the word terrorist in its application to him.
SCHMIDT: He’s a demagogue. He’s irresponsible — because when we use the word terrorist, we apply that to the Boston bombers.
MATTHEWS: A political terrorist. I’ve said political terrorist. That’s what he is.
SCHMIDT: I’m not comfortable with the word. But —
MATTHEWS: OK, don’t use it. Use your words, use your words. I’m comfortable with it.
SCHMIDT: He’s politically — he couldn’t be more irresponsible on this. This is as stupid a political strategy as you could possibly conjure up. It will be a disaster for Republicans who have a great chance I think of picking up seats in the U.S. Senate. Remember, we’ve given up five U.S. senate seats over the last two election cycles by nominating this cast of characters out there that have been rejected in states even Republican states, Missouri with Todd Akin.
Schmidt continued to protest, but also got former Obama adviser and MSNBC contributor David Axelrod to back him up on the ill-advised use of “terrorist.”
SCHMIDT: He is causing chaos. Chris, I’m not going to come off this. I just don’t like the use of the word in the way that you’re — in the way you’re using it.
MATTHEWS: Because he’s a fellow Republican.
SCHMIDT: No, he’s not from my wing of the Republican Party. What I think he’s doing is dangerous and wrong. And I think it will have terrible political consequences for Republicans.
AXELROD: Just to support my friend Steve because we share the same barber, I want to tell you that I also am uncomfortable with the word only out of respect for the victims of violent terrorists.