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IF YOU CAN KEEP IT! What really happened on Thursday’s Hardball? Incomparably, we sketch it all out: // link //

IF YOU CAN KEEP IT: Let’s make sure we all understand what happened on Thursday night’s Hardball. We’ll focus on the interview with Swift Boat Veteran Larry Thurlow, not on the nonsense with Michelle Malkin.

Thurlow is an important man because he’s a leading Kerry-accuser. His group is seeking to change the outcome of a White House campaign. You’d think he’d be held to a very high standard. But here’s what happened when Thurlow appeared (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/20/04):

First, Matthews asked Thurlow to “[t]ell me about the time you discovered that [Kerry] wasn't honest about his account of events” in Vietnam. Thurlow was eager to pass on his knowledge. “Well, on a firsthand basis, I understood that the Purple Heart that he received at Cam Ranh Bay was fabricated and wasn't based on any factuality at all,” he replied.

Second, Thurlow was asked how he knew that his charge was accurate. “I learned that from the people who had been with him at that time, when he reported that he received an injury from hostile fire, when in fact, there was none,” Thurlow said.

Then the comedy segment began, as Matthews asked for the names of these people. After a bit of “Who’s On First,” Thurlow gave him a name: Steve Gardner.

But that’s where your system broke down. As anyone familiar with these events would have known, Steve Gardner wasn’t present during any of the incidents the Swift Boat Vets have disputed. In particular, he wasn’t present during the first Purple Heart incident, the one to which Thurlow alluded. In short, Thurlow had no firsthand knowledge of this incident—and neither did the source he mentioned. At best, Thurlow had third-hand knowledge of the event he had come on TV to describe. Thurlow had made a very tough charge—and at best, he had third-hand knowledge.

So how did your system break down at this point? Chris Matthews, Hardball’s host, wasn’t prepared for his job this day. He didn’t challenge Gardner’s name, presumably because he didn’t know the basic facts about these matters. Hardball viewers got the impression that Thurlow had named an actual witness. And they got the impression that Thurlow was a more capable witness than he actually is.

“You have a republic—if you can keep it,” Franklin said. But can Americans keep their democracy when dissembling “witnesses” can come on the air and be confronted by unprepared hosts? On last night’s Hardball, Andrea Mitchell said Matthews was on vacation. Maybe this lazy millionaire can read a few books as he languishes on those white sands.

NOTE TO THE SCRIPTED: Please don’t send e-mails explaining that a “republic” is not a “democracy.”

WHERE IT BEGAN: It was really something to see Michelle Malkin bluster and whine on C-SPAN Friday morning. We hate to see pundits lie right in Brian’s face. But Malkin was up to the task.

More on Malkin’s dissembling on Monday. But can we really keep our democracy when baby-faced assassins like this crawl the land? And how have we reached the perilous point where such questions can even be asked? On Thursday, Malkin provided a clue. Here’s an early part of her session with Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Well, back when we had the Willie Horton ad, back in 1988, all that Jim Baker or anybody at the White House campaign had to do was call on behalf of President Bush Sr., and say stop running that racist ad. Nobody ever did, OK. I'm asking if you're speaking on behalf of President Bush, why doesn't he make a phone call to these veterans, including Mr. Thurlow, and say stop running the ads. Why doesn't he do that?

MALKIN: Well first, I'm not here speaking on behalf of the Bush campaign. Second of all—

MATTHEWS: Well, do you think these guys should be running—

MALKIN: Well, second of all, you brought up Willie Horton. I think that's quite interesting that you did. The underlying implication is that somehow this is a Republican-orchestrated thing, just like the Swift boat campaign. Of course, it was Al Gore who brought up Willie Horton first.

MATTHEWS: No, the ads. No, the ads were run by something called the American Security Council supporting President Bush.

MALKIN: And who made the issue—who made the issue germane? Al Gore and the Democrats.

Can we really keep our democracy with people like this deceiving the public? As soon as Matthews mentioned Horton, Malkin pulled out the scripted response. No, readers—Al Gore never “brought up” or even mentioned Willie Horton. But so what? Every good Republican hack knows what to say as soon as Horton’s name is mentioned. But uh-oh! A bit out of practice, Malkin failed to give the scripted response. As you know, Republican hacks are supposed to say that Gore brought up the “Willie Horton issue” (links below). Scrambling to recover from her mistake, Malkin did say the word “issue” on her next pass. She did this for an obvious reason—she wanted to mislead the public while saying something that was “technically accurate .” To use a word her tribe invented, little Malkin was being “Clintonesque.”

Can we really keep our democracy when people like this are crawling the land? On Friday, she lied right in Brian’s face. Can we really keep our democracy in the face of these skilled anti-democrats?

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: As we have explained in the past, RNC hacks are trained to say that Gore brought up the “Horton issue.” They say that so they can mislead the public. Slick-talkin’ Malkin almost bungled her task, forgetting to say “issue” the first time.

How does this bit of deception work? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/1/02, to recall how this scripted point works.

To see Alan Colmes try to set affairs straight, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/4/02.

To see Cokie Roberts recite this same script, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/13/04. By now, Roberts is a consummate hack. If you doubt that, review this submission.