Concern over Romney’s neocon advisers went mainstream Thursday night when Chris Matthews put them front and center on Hardball. In a segment titled Return of the Neo-cons? he interviews author and journalist Tom Ricks and former Colin Powell aide Col. Lawrence Wilkerson. Matthews launched off a clip of Powell‘s endorsement of Obama on CBS in which Powell cited Romney’s “strong neoconservative views.”
Matthews opens by juxtaposing “far right..hawkish.. neocon” views against “the moderate,” and the conversation quickly morphs into a one about war. By the end of the segment he asks Wilkerson, ‘Do they want war with Iran? Just period, do they want war with Iran no matter what Iran does henceforth, Colonel? The Neocons?‘
Matthews: What do you think he was saying about the Neocons?
Tom Ricks: I think he was saying —
Matthews: I’m talking to Tom Ricks now.
Tom Ricks: I think he was saying if you want to know where Romney is going to be going with foreign policy, look to the people around him. What you see is a lot of people who are the neoconservatives who did advise going into Iraq. So he’s saying effectively if you like the war in Iraq, Romney is your guy.
Matthews: It just seems — without being in any way comical about, because it’s nothing to laugh about, people die in wars, and you ruin things forever with these wars ..there’s always a war that the neocons are looking forward to. They’re always pushing — they never settle down and say ‘let’s take time out for a decade without a war’ and now it’s Iran. We all know that neither party can go to war but the way they go to war, what conditions they set and how they deal with the consequences are really critical and it seems to me the President is more to be trusted for understanding the consequences.
Check out of Wilkerson’s pluralizing and Matthews’s “deal breaker” reference to Israel.
Charlie Rose: Are you concerned about the people that are advising Governor Romney?
Powell: I think there’s some very, very strong neoconservative views that are presented by the Governor that I have some trouble with.
Matthews: Colonel Wilkerson, let’s talk about that. Secretary Powell, when he looks back at the Iraq war and his role in justifying it before the United Nations, what do you think he’s thinking right now?
Wilkerson: Well, Powell and I have seen these people before, the John Boltons, the Doug Feiths, even the Donald Rumsfelds and the Dick Cheneys. And we’ve seen them with an inexperienced President and we’ve seen what they can do, lead the nation to a war that was unnecessary as Richard Haass characterized it. I’m very worried as I think Powell was saying and I’ll say it even more candidly and frankly than he did. I’m very worried about these people with the new, that’s what it is, inexperienced, fresh President, and their experience at bureaucratic inplay and so forth and leading this President down to war most likely with Iran. and that’s why I’m going to vote — I’m a Republican just like Powell, and I was looking for a good, solid Republican candidate so I could vote for him. I will not vote for Romney. I’m voting for Obama.
Matthews: I watched Romney the other night in that debate, the third one on foreign policy, and I heard strange words coming out of his mouth. Now he’s a business guy, obviously he’s a successful businessman, made a quarter billion dollars. He doesn’t have any interest in the world, never shown any interest in the world beyond that.
My question, where did he get that thing about how we’re going to charge Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, with genocide for the words he’s spoken, not what he’s done, but the words he’s spoken about Israel. His attitude towards Israel that would seem to be a deal breaker. You start charging the guy with genocide, you’re not going to cut a deal with the guy. Do they want war with Iran? Just period, do they want war with Iran no matter what Iran does henceforth, Colonel? The Neocons?
Wilkerson: I think the question you ask has to be answered yes. There are gradations between the different neocons but i think ultimately they want to paint the president, whoever it is, into a corner to say all options are on the table, including the military option, and then milk out all the other options,
Wilkerson: No diplomacy, No solution, and then have to use the military. I can see it, it’s the same sheet of music, the same sheet of music.
Matthews: I know. they didn’t tell Saddam he had a way out they wanted that war anyway.
Matthews kicks it with his straightforwardness in this interview.
(Hat tip Mondoweiss commenter Kathleen)