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Daily Howler: Long ago, the Post's Sally Quinn explained Matthews' hatred of Clinton
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WHEN SALLY MET KATHY! Long ago, the Post’s Sally Quinn explained Matthews’ hatred of Clinton: // link // print // previous // next //

THE GENTLE SPIN OF CILLIZZA AND HEALY: It’s amazing to watch the Post’s Chris Cillizza decide how much news you’re permitted to hear. In today’s paper, Cillizza “reports” on Hillary Clinton’s trip to South Carolina. We’ll admit it! When we read his first two paragraphs, we puzzled a bit at her odd public statement:
CILLIZZA (2/20/07): Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York courted black voters, considered crucial to securing the Democratic presidential nomination, in a series of campaign stops in South Carolina on Monday in which she cast the 2008 election as a chance to make history.

"I believe this presidential campaign is about breaking barriers," Clinton said at a town hall meeting in the state's capital. "This is the campaign, and I am the candidate."
"This is the campaign, and I am the candidate?” We puzzled a bit at Clinton’s strange, imperial-sounding statement. And then, we read Patrick Healy’s report of the same trip in today’s New York Times. And omigod! Late in his piece, Healy actually told us what Clinton had actually said:
HEALY (2/20/07): ''I believe this presidential election is about breaking barriers—and this is the campaign, and I am the candidate with the experience to break the barriers,'' Mrs. Clinton said.
Oohhhh! “I am the candidate with the experience,” Clinton had said. But with Cillizza, it’s always a case of Pundit Knows Best. Somehow, he knew you didn’t need to hear the actual statement Clinton had made on her own behalf. Result? When Clinton stated her qualification for office, Cillizza dropped it from his report! Post readers were left with a slightly puzzling statement—a statement shorn of the actual claim which Clinton had tried to put forward.

But so it goes as this vacuous boy pretends to “report” this White House campaign. Cillizza is part of the Hardball gang—and the Boys of Hardball don’t care for Clinton (see item which follows). But then, Healy’s no day-in-the-park himself. His reports about Clinton are loaded with spin—and that includes his report today. Here is the fuller context when he “reports” Clinton’s statement:
HEALY: Mrs. Clinton put her own gentle spin on [state senator Robert] Ford's remark at a forum here at Allen University, a historically black institution, by arguing that a candidate could make history by winning in 2008—and that she should be that candidate.

''I believe this presidential election is about breaking barriers—and this is the campaign, and I am the candidate with the experience to break the barriers,'' Mrs. Clinton said.
Healy is the master spinner. In his “reports” about Clinton’s campaign, he is constantly inserting his own interpretations—and they tend to promote a familiar theme. Clinton is constantly “working from talking-points,” making “scripted” remarks, or inserting “her own gentle spin.” This morning, Healy starts by describing a “delicately worded pitch” from Clinton—and the phrase appears in the headline. If you don’t understand the novel Healy is typing, you haven’t lived on this planet for the past dozen years. In Healy’s reports, Clinton is constantly spinning you; she’s scripted, Healy constantly says, she’s reading from her talking-points. In this way, the hapless reporter injects his own “gentle spin”—by pretending that he has spotted Clinton’s.

And yes, we’ve seen this movie before. We saw this film in 1999 and 2000, when spin machines named Seelye and Connolly reinvented everything Gore ever said—while hapless Frank Bruni, covering Bush at the Times, performed like the Texan’s press agent. Who knows? That silly performance by Cillizza today may not even have been deliberate; he may just be that bad a reporter. But once again, this gentle incompetent made a decision—you don’t have to hear what this candidate said. I’m the one with all the experience, Clinton said. Cillizza edited the part about experience!

Yes, we’ve seen this movie before. These boys are empty, hapless, inane—and they’re eager to share their brilliant impressions. Indeed, the Post and the Times seem to have an endless supply of such laughable losers. And make no mistake: The U. S. in Iraq today because of what their predecessors did.

READING ASSIGNMENT: Go ahead—give it a try! See if you can see how Clinton’s statement represented an attempt to “put her own spin” on Robert Ford’s prior remark. Remember the rule for the Times brilliant scribes: You can’t just report the things Clinton says. You have to pre-explain them.

WHAT SALLY MET KATHY: On Hardball, they simply hate Hillary Clinton. Last evening, Chris Matthews seemed to have guzzled the Diet Cokes even more than he normally does (note below). Speaking with dignified Obama aide David Axelrod, he cut loose against Vile Clinton—the sequel:
MATTHEWS (2/19/07): I don’t believe early polls. However, I have spent weeks now listening to women—pretty educated women, in fact, very educated women, East Coast types, very professional, one after another after another says, “I don`t like Hillary Clinton.” They really don`t like her.

And then I look at the polls, she is up to 40 percent [in polls of the nation’s Democrats]. What is the disconnect? Explain it to me. Why is Hillary doing so well in the general population but the cognoscenti, the people around Washington and New York, the people that really read the papers, really keep up, really follow politics, have this complicated problem with Hillary? What is it about?
Good God, what a fool. What a Diet Coke-driven idiot! What a consummate loser.

First, let’s note the absurdity in Matthews’ belief that the gimlet-eyed harpies with whom he speaks are in fact “the cognoscenti.” We’ve observed his overpaid wife in person, and trust us—it just isn’t so. Matthews speaks to the angry, overpaid, privileged losers who make up the Washington press corps elite. He speaks to his wife—and to Margaret Carlson. These people are not “the cognoscenti.” They’re empty, inane, angry crones.

And that explains the “disconnect” Matthews cited—the disconnect he still can’t grasp. Earth to Matthews: Most Americans aren’t consumed with the anger and envy which drive the souls with whom you have your inane conversations. Many Americans don’t hate Clinton; indeed, many people flatly admire her. In part, they admire her for an obvious reason. They admire her because she has long stood up to ugly, stupid people like you.

Most likely, Matthews really doesn’t understand this simple matter. But this “disconnect” was explained in 1998 by uber-insider Sally Quinn. Quinn described the frenzy gripping “Insider Washington” as the impeachment of Clinton drew near. And yes, she specifically cited that disconnect—the disconnect between normal Americans and Matthews’ multimillionaire class:

QUINN (11/2/98): With some exceptions, the Washington Establishment is outraged by the president's behavior in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The polls show that a majority of Americans do not share that outrage. Around the nation, people are disgusted but want to move on; in Washington, despite Clinton's gains with the budget and the Mideast peace talks, people want some formal acknowledgment that the president's behavior has been unacceptable. They want this, they say, not just for the sake of the community, but for the sake of the country and the presidency as well.

In addition to the polls and surveys, this disconnect between the Washington Establishment and the rest of the country is evident on TV and radio talk shows and in interviews and conversations with more than 100 Washingtonians for this article. The din about the scandal has subsided in the news as politicians and journalists fan out across the country before tomorrow's elections. But in Washington, interest remains high. The reasons are varied, and they intertwine.
In some ways, Quinn went easy on her insider cohort in this detailed piece. But twice, she called attention to a key fact: Average Americans did not share her cohort’s outrage at Bill Clinton. But so what? Eight years later, the dimwit Matthews is still surprised by this ongoing disconnect. He still goes on the air and rants and says that it has him puzzled.

To Axelrod’s credit, he didn’t take Matthews’ bait last night. Like Obama, Axelrod is a dignified person; he refused to be drawn into Matthews’ angry attacks on Clinton. But Matthews is a stupid, nasty man—one of the angriest dogs in the world. Over the past decade, he has been paid many millions of dollars to hate the Clintons (and Gore) at all possible turns. And Matthews has been a very good boy. He had done what he’s been told, for the past dozen years. Two years of his anger sent Bush to the White House—and the U.S. into Iraq.

One last point: In that report from 1998, Quinn was describing the angry, envious, gimlet-eyed women whom Matthews describes as “the cognoscenti.” In short, Quinn was describing Matthews’ gimlet-eyed wife; you might even call it “When Sally Met Kathy.” Quinn described a race of fools; to Matthews, they’re the brightest women on earth. And oh yes—they simply hate Clinton. Why don’t the others? Matthews asks.

FOURTEEN-COKE NIGHT: A note on those Diet Cokes: In the late 1990s, we were told, by a former Matthews producer, that Matthews guzzles a dozen Diet Cokes in the course of the typical day. This explains his over-pepped aspect when he hits the air, we were told. We don’t know if that was (or is) true, but the talker was in rare form last night. As usual, he was jerking hard against his chain because the voters think well of Bill Clinton. More specifically, he ranted and railed about a new Gallup survey; as usual, when people were asked to name the greatest president, they tended to favor the more recent models:
MATTHEWS (2/19/07): At home here, my morale goes down when our mind is so warped about this stuff about Britney Spears that people think that Bill Clinton was a better president than FDR. They can’t remember any of our presidents because we have holidays called "Presidents’ Day" so we can sell mattresses because they don’t want to offend anyone by mentioning the fact that George Washington was our first president.

There is sort of an infantilization of this country sometimes, I think. Don’t you think, captain? Why don’t we have “Washington’s Birthday?” That is the name of it. Nobody will call it that.
Matthews attacked these outrages for the full hour. Later, he complained to Ron Reagan about the views of those dumb-ass normal Americans:
MATTHEWS: I just wonder—we just had a poll of our greatest presidents. Your dad did very well, as he should have. But the lack of knowledge voiced in that poll, where the people could only mention the most recent presidents, it seems. They put Bill Clinton ahead of Franklin Roosevelt!
Poor Chris! By the end of the program, Reagan, Howard Fineman and Craig Crawford were looking sideways at each other, hoping to outlast the rants.

By the way: The American citizens polled by Gallup didn’t rank all recent presidents before FDR. For example, neither one of the Presidents Bush earned such meritorious standing; each came in light-years behind FDR. (For full results of the survey, click here.) But uh-oh! Many voters admire Bill Clinton—and many voters admire his wife. And this drives this overwrought talker quite mad. Indeed: Last night, as he angrily jerked on his chain, one of our analysts turned from his carrel and mordantly quipped: “It looks like a 14-Coke night.”

HEALY FALLS FOR THE N-TH TIME: Reading the work of the Washington press corps is often like walking a long hall of mirrors. Consider Patrick “Kit” Healy’s puzzling report in Sunday’s New York Times.

Healy explored an increasingly important political question. Why won’t Candidate Clinton say that her vote for the 10/02 war resolution was, in fact, “a mistake?” This has become the biggest question about the Clinton campaign—but you won’t get it sorted out reading Healy. Fairly early in his report, the sheet-sniffer offered a puzzling presentation—a presentation he ascribed to “several [Clinton] advisers:”
HEALY (2/18/07): Mrs. Clinton believes that reversing course on her vote would invite the charge of flip-flopping that damaged Mr. Kerry or provoke the kind of accusations of political expediency that hung over Al Gore in 2000 and her and her husband, President Bill Clinton, in the 1990s, several advisers said. She has argued to associates in private discussions that Mr. Gore and Mr. Kerry lost, in part, because they could not convince enough Americans that they were resolute on national security, the associates said.
But Clinton has already “revers[ed] course on her vote!” As we’ve noted, she did so long ago. In August 2004, she said that there would have been “no basis” for such a vote if we’d known there were no WMD. There wouldn’t even have been a vote if we’d known about the WMD, Clinton said. In the past few months, she has said, again and again, that she wouldn’t have voted for the war resolution if she’d known there were no WMD. As such, Clinton has already “reversed course on her vote.” But so what? Healy quoted several advisers—and they made a puzzling assertion. But Healy doesn’t seem to notice the problem, and his editor waved his mush into print.

Is Healy really quoting advisers? Or is he just making this bullsh*t up? We don’t have the slightest idea—and knowing the Times, we think anything’s possible. At any rate, Healy’s conceptual confusion had been apparent one paragraph earlier in his hapless report:
HEALY: ''She is in a box now on her Iraq vote, but she doesn't want to be in a different, even worse box—the vacillating, flip-flopping Democratic candidate that went to defeat in 2000 and '04,'' said one adviser to Mrs. Clinton. ''She wants to maintain a firmness, and I think a lot of people around her hope she maintains a firmness. That's what people will want in 2008.''
In this instance, Healy claims to be quoting a Clinton adviser—but, again, he fails to address the logical problem inherent in the aide’s statement. In what way would Clinton be seen as a “flip-flopper” if she said that her vote had been “a mistake?” Clinton has already said that she would have voted the other way if she’d had better information. In effect, she has already said that she cast the wrong vote (due to bad intel on WMD); she has already abandoned her “firmness.” Why would it mark her as a flip-flopper (as a vacillator) if she simply added a locution—if she said her vote had turned out to be wrong/a mistake? In what way would the use of the words in question mark her as a flipper in any way she isn’t a flipper right now? Healy didn’t ask, didn’t tell.

Of course, with Healy you don’t just get puzzling logic—you also get some bogus facts. In this case, you got them right up front. Here are the first three paragraphs of Healy’s report. We highlight a howling misstatement:
HEALY: One of the most important decisions that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton made about her bid for the presidency came late last year when she ended a debate in her camp over whether she should repudiate her 2002 vote authorizing military action in Iraq.

Several advisers, friends and donors said in interviews that they had urged her to call her vote a mistake in order to appease antiwar Democrats, who play a critical role in the nominating process. Yet Mrs. Clinton herself, backed by another faction, never wanted to apologize—even if she viewed the war as a mistake—arguing that an apology would be a gimmick.

In the end, she settled on language that was similar to Senator John Kerry's when he was the Democratic nominee in 2004: that if she had known in 2002 what she knows now about Iraqi weaponry, she would never have voted for the Senate resolution authorizing force.
But Kerry and Edwards didn’t say that when they ran in 2004. They persisted in saying that they still would have voted for the war resolution even if they had known all the facts. We know—it’s easy to repress such bad memories. But here was Edwards, with Tim Russert, in October 2004:
RUSSERT (10/10/04): If you knew today—and you do know there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—

EDWARDS: Yes, sir.

RUSSERT: —would you still vote to go to war with Iraq?

EDWARDS: I would have voted for the resolution knowing what I know today, because it was the right thing to do to give the president the authority to confront Saddam Hussein.
Ugh! Moments earlier, Edwards had told Russert this: “It was important to continue to wage an aggressive war against terrorism, to win the war against terrorism, and also to confront Saddam, who was a serious threat and that's why, the vote on the resolution, both John Kerry and I still stand behind it.” We know—it’s painful to remember these things. But Healy just flat had it wrong.

So let’s see. Healy is weak on his logic, and he bungles his facts. But readers, he’s good at sniffing those sheets! At the Times, they still put first things first.

WHAT WE MIGHT SAY IF WE WERE CLINTON: Clinton’s view seems to be something like the following: “I never would have cast that vote had I known about the lack of WMD. But I didn’t know, so it wasn’t the wrong judgment given what was known at the time.” All of that is well and good. But given what Clinton has already said, we don’t see why she doesn’t add this:

CLINTON EXTENDED: That said, I think my vote did turn out to be a mistake, and I very much regret it. I chose to believe the president when he said he’d do everything he could to avoid a war—when he said he’d insist on full inspections. This was his pledge, in public and private; I don’t think he honored that pledge. As I’ve said, I never would have voted “yes” if I’d known there were no WMD. But I think that many of us made a mistake when we trusted the president to do what he promised. He promised that he’d conduct full inspections. I think he walked away from that pledge.
That echoes things Kerry and Edwards did say during Campaign 04.

SEQUEL—THREE AMIGOS DON’T KNOW MUCH EITHER: Are members of any real profession as clueless as our millionaire pundits? On last night’s Tucker, three big pundits seemed deeply clueless about what Clinton has said. Tucker Carlson, Pat Buchanan and “Democratic strategist” Peter Fenn fumbled, flailed, finessed and floundered as they tried to report Clinton’s statements about her 10/02 vote:
CARLSON (2/19/07): Hillary and many of the opponents of the war, have never repudiated the ideology that led to the war in the first place. They still say, well, it was a good idea to take Saddam down. They’re still, in a sense, neo-cons. They’re still nation-builders. And the root cause of this disaster has not been defeated or repudiated or even thought through, it seems to me, and that’s a huge topic.

BUCHANAN: That’s what you and I believe, correctly. But if she comes out and says that, again, she’s got to start answering why she made this blunder and she has got to start repudiating the ideology.

CARLSON: Yes, and she should repudiate the ideology of the neocons. No, she hasn’t.

FENN: Yes, now, Tucker, come on. Let`s back off here. To call Hillary Rodham Clinton a neocon is crazy.

CARLSON: What has she repudiated?

FENN: Well, she has repudiated going to war and occupying a country, and leading to a civil war.

CARLSON: Maybe over dinner with you she has said that, but she has not said that in public. She has not said, “I don’t think we ought to be occupying countries,” or “I don’t think we ought to be invading countries to depose evil dictators.” She still believes that.

FENN: No, no.

BUCHANAN: What was her mistake, are you saying? Are you saying her mistake was she’s going to say, “Look, we should never have invaded that country. They didn’t do anything to us. We should never have gone in. I was wrong?” She’s not saying that, is she?

FENN: No, she is saying—

CARLSON: That’s what I’m confused by. What the hell is she saying?
“What the hell is she saying?” the head Frat Boy asked. Sadly, there was little sign that Fenn really knew. Read the transcript if you want to see his hapless, fumbling answer.

As usual, the boys dreamed up things Clinton hasn’t said, but failed to report her actual statements. “What the hell” has Clinton been saying? Clinton has said, again and again, that she would have voted against the resolution if she’d known there were no WMD. She hasn’t just “said that over dinner with [Fenn];” she has said that in public, again and again, for more than two years—since August 04. But none of these three overpaid amigos seemed remotely able to say this. Is there any real profession where losers like these could possibly maintain their tenure?