FLEISCHER’S WEAK PITCH…. Rumor has it, a number of the most die-hard loyal Bushies still hope, reality be damned, to rehabilitate George W. Bush’s public image. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is a leader of the effort, and appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball” yesterday to present at least part of the defense.

The whole thing is worth watching, but this excerpt, put together by TPM, helps make clear just how difficult it is for Fleischer. Right off the bat, Fleischer argues that Bush inherited a recession from Clinton. That, at a minimum, is highly misleading. From there, pressed on whether he’s “proud” of Bush’s economic legacy, Fleischer said Americans will remember Bush as a president who “kept us safe.”

When Matthews pointed out that the attacks of 9/11 happened on Bush’s watch, Fleischer responded, “Chris, How dare you.” It’s not at all clear Matthews’ comment was so outrageous to Fleischer.

Also note, towards the end, Fleischer argued, “After Sept. 11, having been hit once, how could we take a chance that Saddam might not strike again?” That man, obviously, is without shame.

I don’t generally care for “Hardball” interviews, but Matthews’ final point was a good one: “I’m proud that we no longer have an administration that uses that kind argument.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.