unknownAnd so Ari Fleischer and some other well-financed NeoCon fellow travelers have come galloping over the hill with “Freedom’s Watch” (which I originally read as “Freedom Swatch” and immediately thought, “Ooh! I want one!” before I realized my mistake.), another “non-profit” Right Wing/White House propaganda mill like Swift Vote Veterans for “Truth”.

Joan Walsh at Salon:

Just in case you thought the Iraq war was lost, here comes the cavalry! Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, tanned, rested and ready, is returning to public life with a new political action group, Freedom’s Watch, that’s promising to spend $15 million in a five-week advertising campaign designed to convince Americans that the so-called surge is working.

The fist ad is a classic example of White House spin run amok. It features an injured veteran advocating for continued occupation of Iraq, cut in (of course!) with shots of the burning World Trade Center.

“They attacked us,” lies the injured vet in voice-over, “They” being the Iraqis, apparently. Then he goes on to say the usual happy horse-pucky about how if we leave now the terrorists will win and blah, blah, blah…

So, jump forward to tonight’s Hardball where pudding-faced pathological liar Fleischer appeared with guest host Mike Barnacle. Barnacle ran the injured vet clip and immediately fell to his knees to fellate his guest and barrage him with warm, fuzzy softball questions. Except that Fleischer wasn’t even ready to swing for the softballs. In fact, he seemed to have come to the plate without a bat in hand at all.

Think Progress:

On MSNBC’s Hardball tonight, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is leading a White House front group to defend Bush’s escalation, was unable to name the wounded Iraq veteran featured in his organization’s pro-war ad. “I don’t have his name in front of me,” said Fleischer when asked by host Mike Barnicle if he knew the soldier’s name.

It took me and Google under 15 seconds to identify the soldier in the ad as John Kreisel, who lost both legs in Fallujah. But you know, I’m sure Ari’s very busy right now. He might not have had a whole 15 seconds to get ready to pretend to give a shit about anything but providing cover for the White House.

Fortunately, Paul Rieckhoff was on the same program:

Later in the program, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America executive director Paul Rieckhoff ripped into Fleischer’s offensive ignorance. “What bothered me the most is that Ari Fleischer didn’t even know the guy’s name.” said Rieckhoff. “He’s willing to run a multi-million dollar campaign, utilizing the personal story of a soldier, and he couldn’t tell you on national TV what that soldier’s name is.”

Rieckhoff described it as part of “a problematic trend” that Freedom’s Watch is using the soldier’s “personal story” as “a backdrop for political rhetoric”:

People on both sides of the aisle, but especially the president and this administration, have continued to use troops as a political prop. As a backdrop for political rhetoric. It’s why the president gave such an impassionate speech today in front of the VFW. It’s why this ad carries so much weight on a visceral level. And it really bothers me because our troops are not political props and they’re not chew toys.

Mr. Reickhoff, I hate to break it to you, but dogs care a lot more about their chew toys than the Bush administration does about our nation’s fighting men and women. You guys are just wallpaper to politicians. No matter how brave and selfless your service is or was, Republicans are only interested in you as camera fodder for their flowery speeches. The situation at Walter Reed alone should tell you that.

And if you dare to say anything impolitic, people like Melanie Morgan will call you a “cockroach” and a traitor. Or Charles Krauthammer will devote overwrought and under-researched Op-Eds to defaming you and calling your commitment to your country into question. Or they just ignore you completely.

In a perfect world, Fleischer’s transparent disregard for the actual lives affected by the War in Iraq would get him laughed off the “Hardball” set and banned from TV altogether, but of course, even if the viewers have the presence of mind to complain, “Hardball” would just have him back for a full hour to give him another chance to make his case.

Of course, this type of journalistic shoddiness may well be why the only MSNBC prime time show with lower ratings than “Hardball” is “Tucker”, with Dancin’ Fool Tucker Carlson.

We hear that “Hardball” exec producer Tammy Haddad is officially out thanks to Chris Matthews becoming the lowest-rated host on MSNBC primetime. Matthews — a front-and-center face at MSNBC and certainly a go-to pundit on all things political, including election coverage in November and chosen as to moderate one of MSNBC’s two kickoff presidential debates in April, along with NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams — has seen his ratings clock in consistently below Keith Olbermann — who is getting a network try-out this Sunday — and even Dan Abrams, who stepped in for Joe Scarborough amidst some changes to the show, yet still manages to consistently beat Matthews’ ratings. Only Tucker Carlson , who is on at 4 and 6 pm, has lower ratings on the network.

Ouch! Somebody throw Chris Matthews a life-line. Or at least take him aside and politely suggest that sniffing around the Clintons’ underwear drawer and being Babs Comstock’s eager little lap-dog is, like, soooooo 2005. Maybe he could learn a thing or two from Keith Olbermann, who comes in as the most-watched MSNBC host and who is about to get a run on NBC proper thanks to his ratings coming in at 88 percentage points higher than last year.

Who says being a fire-breathing liberal will never get you anywhere? Between the Daily Show and Countdown, it’s starting to look more and more like the only game in town.