Those who use the Neville Chamberlain gambit don’t even know what Neville Chamberlain actually did

This is too hilarious for words. It’s priceless.

It’s Chris Matthews applying a little history smackdown–I mean lesson–to an ignorant right wing talk radio host named Kevin James, who was overjoyed at President Bush’s use of the Neville Chamberlain gambit the other day and wanted to take the opportunity to throw the same gambit around too about the Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular. Bad idea:

My only complaint is that Matthews didn’t deliver what would have been the perfect coup de grâce. That would have been to ask (1) what did Neville Chamberlain do in March 1939 after Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in violation of the Munich agreement of 1938 and (2) who was Prime Minister when Hitler invaded Poland and what did he do in response? Answers: (1) Chamberlain, realizing he had been betrayed, put the British military on a war footing, accelerated rearmament, and took a much harder line with Germany thereafter; and (2) Neville Chamberlain (not, as many think, Winston Churchill) was Prime Minister on September 1, 1939. He asked for and got a declaration of war against Germany on September 3 in response, even though some argued that England wasn’t absolutely bound to go to war for Poland. I’d also quibble with Matthews’ definition of “appeasement” as “giving something away to the enemy.” We give stuff away to the enemy all the time; it’s called negotiations. The difference between negotiation and appeasement is that we get something substantive in return for what we give away. A better definition of appeasement is giving something away to the enemy and not getting anything near the value of what was given away in the hopes that the enemy will be bought off. Chamberlain basically gave Hitler his assurance that he would accept his annexation of the Sudetenland. All he got in return was Hitler’s pledge that that was the end of his territorial ambitions, which was worth no more than the piece of paper it was written on.

If you can’t stand watching a historically ignorant idiot twist in the wind while Matthews cranks up a wind machine (and after a while it does become painful to watch), the transcript is here.

(Hat tip to Jason Rosenhouse. I’ve also written about other fallacious uses of the Neville Chamberlain gambit in other contexts, and Glenn Greenwald has written one of the best deconstructions ever of this particular bit of idiocy. This particular misuse of history is a pet peeve of mine, in case regular readers hadn’t noticed…)