Daily Howler logo
LET’S PLAY BLUE BALL! A talker’s nose is where it fits best—right inside Bill Clinton’s trousers: // link // print // previous // next //

LET’S PLAY BLUE BALL: After strange conversations with Pat Buchanan and Jack Welsh, a cable talker sat with Howard Fineman—and chatted about his favorite subject. In his very first comment, he showed what was wrong with that New York Times story about Bill-and-Hill having sex:
MATTHEWS (6/5/06): Let me ask you about the Clinton marriage story. Over the weekend, the New York Times ombudsman, Byron Calame, went over it again and talked about different points they thought they shouldn’t have mentioned. They shouldn’t have mentioned the other woman, if you will, in that story, the way it was alluded to...
“They shouldn’t have mentioned the other woman?” If Hardball viewers didn’t know better, they might well think that the New York Times had alleged that some “other woman” was involved with Bill Clinton. The paper didn’t say that, of course—but it did give men like Matthews a way to pretend. Indeed, here was the talker’s next question for Fineman—a question whose insinuations went farther:
MATTHEWS: The rule always was, Howard, that you didn`t write about somebody`s sex life unless it affected their policy making, their job, their responsibilities, unless it involves something like a conflict with a lobbyist relationship or a potential extortion situation or a spying case. But, you didn`t just talk about a guy because he had a one-night fling with somebody or a little affair on the side, if it didn`t involve his job. People tell me that rule is different for Clinton. Because he was impeached on a matter that related to that, Monica Lewinsky, he will forever be judged by a different standard.
Now, the story was getting better. If Hardball viewers didn’t know better, they might even think that the Times report said that Clinton has had “a one-night fling with somebody,” or maybe “a little affair on the side.” In short, this talker’s language is increasingly sliding into the realm of pleasing insinuation. Fineman closed the short discussion with a statement which was wondrously accurate:
FINEMAN (continuing directly): I think that’s true. I think also the Clintons rewrote the book in other ways. They were really the first tag team, I mean the first husband and wife team to sort of advertise itself in that way. The so-called blue plate special from back in the 1992 campaign. Everybody knows that Hillary Clinton was a powerful, influential and important, smart figure, not your traditional political spouse. That was true when Bill Clinton got in the national politics a while back. And it remain true now that the other person is running. So there is a whole different set of rules for the Clintons. That`s been true from the very beginning and it remains true now.
“There is a whole different set of rules for the Clintons!” Finally! A big reporter stepped up to the plate and stated the obvious point.

Of course, Matthews has long had a jones for the Clintons’ sex life—a jones which won’t let his soul go. Here he was on Sunday’s Chris Matthews Show, speaking with CNN’s John Roberts:

MATTHEWS (6/4/06): John, what do you think about the whole week? Big week for women—Hillary, Katie, Condi.

ROBERTS: It was, but I think you saw with Hillary—I know you love this story to death, it looks like she is laying the groundwork, does it not?

MATTHEWS: This is a soap opera that will never be cancelled.

The panel shared a good solid laugh as Matthews said something else which is obvious. This retrograde fellow has no intention of letting his “soap opera” go.

In fact, as Roberts almost seemed to suggest, Matthews has been leering hard—and leering often—ever since that New York Times story appeared. The strange, odd man just can’t seem to get his nose out of certain people’s trousers. He can’t stop thinking about their sexual conduct—real, imagined, embellished or invented. For ourselves, we were most struck by a high-toned remark he offered on the May 26 Hardball. Matthews was lazily rubbing his thigh as he spoke with Anne Kornblut (New York Times) and Jonathan Alter of Newsweek. He began by “bluntly” saying that the Times report had named “a third party:”

MATTHEWS (5/26/06): Well, let’s be blunt about this. Your paper, not your piece, it was Paul [sic] Healy, top of the fold, right at the top of the newspaper, front page this Tuesday, named a third party, the former Canadian minister. I have never—this is a pretty bold statement by the paper of record that there`s a third party in question here, who`s caused concern among Democratic leaders, money people, consultants, that this marriage may be itself the issue going into 2008.

KORNBLUT: Well, look, I mean, it was acknowledging that there had been speculation in tabloids in New York about this third party, but I think what we found is that people were attacking the paper for being too prurient, nosy about their personal lives, but not being prurient enough by not coming out and saying more. It really is a case of you can`t win.

MATTHEWS: Does the public respect the press for keeping stories like this to themselves? After you—you know what I`m asking.

ALTER: No, absolutely not.

MATTHEWS: Nobody gets any Brownie points for saying, “We never told you that this whole marriage is a joke or this guy is a drunk or this guy is taking drugs.” I would like to know when anybody has been given any awards for keeping secrets, because you know what they say then, which hurts me more than anything? “You`re in with those guys.” That`s the worst charge against a journalist that you`re covering them up.

If Hardball viewers didn’t know better, they might even think that the Times had named “a third party” with whom Clinton was involved. (That would be false, of course.) But as Matthews leered and rubbed his thigh, he made an extremely high-minded point. Why, the worst thing you can possibly do is cover up for these big, major players! Why, if you don’t tell the world what you know, others will say that “you’re in with those guys!” Surely, any good citizen ought to step up and report his own brushes with power!

When Matthews said it, it cut to our soul. Should we have reported the weird-ass things a cable talker said to us (and to a second Washington journalist) just last month, after a function? Especially when that cable talker is now spending so much time leering, embellishing, gossiping and spewing his sexual fantasies about the Clintons? Did it mean that we were “in with that guy” when we kept his weird remarks to ourselves? Here at THE HOWLER, we haven’t decided. But Matthews is having a grand old time, doing what he has always done best—sticking his nose in the Clintons’ trousers; “improving” on the facts just a tad; and helping the public spend their time zeroed in on his own sad obsessions.

For all their very obvious abilities, some little boys just never grow up. One such boy is the sex-obsessed Matthews—who offered such wonderfully high-minded thoughts on that inspiring Hardball.

Special report—Frankly, that’s Rich!

A RICHLY-DESERVED DAY OF REST: Frankly, we’ve found it depressing to spend so much time reviewing the work of the hapless Frank Rich. And so, we decided to take the day off. We’ll try to wrap our exploration tomorrow.

In the meantime, remember the question our e-mailer sent us: Why has a fiery liberal like Rich presented so much Grade A bull about Gore? Not being Grade A mind-readers ourselves, we can’t answer that question with certainty. But we think we can give it a start.

For links to all current parts of this series, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/5/06.

One other thought experiment: If you want to know why we’d guess that Gore won’t run again, ask yourself this one simple question: Have you seen anyone else—any fiery liberals—say even one word about Rich’s weird column? We’ve noticed the standard—complete, total silence. As it was in 1999, so it is in 2006.