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Daily Howler: Chris Matthews has a jones about Clinton that just won't let his soul go
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JONES SPEAKS! Chris Matthews has a jones about Clinton that just won’t let his soul go: // link // print // previous // next //

RULE BY THE WRONG, KUCINICH DIVISION: Go ahead! Read Charles Mann’s descriptions of Mayans and Inkas and try not to think of our mainstream press corps! For example, read Mann’s description of the way the Inka treated deceased royals. From 1491:
MANN (page 98): Because the royal mummies were not considered dead, their successors obviously could not inherit their wealth. Each Inka’s panaqa [royal lineage] retained all of his possessions forever, including his palaces, residences and shrines...The mummies spoke through female mediums who represented the panaqa’s surviving courtiers or their descendants.
Female mediums, speaking for mummies? Could anyone not think of our own Maureen Dowd? (Are you sure that similar parts of the brain may not be involved in these common practices?) At any rate, the Inka loved to dote on their mummies. Mann again: “Soon after arriving in Qosqo, Pizarro’s companion Miguel de Estete saw a parade of defunct emperors. They were brought out on litters, ‘seated on their thrones and surrounded by women with flywhisks in their hands, who ministered to them with as much respect as if they had been alive.’ ”

To us, that sounds like a slightly odd practice. But is it stranger than some of our folkways? For example, is it stranger than the way we practice our own puzzling “rule by the wrong?”

In “rule by the wrong,” we only respect a public figure if he’s been wrong on the world’s biggest issues. We shun or ridicule those who were right. Which brings us around to Dennis Kucinich, who, it turns out, was right on Iraq. Uh-oh! Readers, we think you know the rules! So did Henry Grunwald, laughing at Kucinich in Saturday’s Washington Post:
GRUNWALD (12/16/06): Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) appeals to male voters with a guest spot on ESPN's Monday Night Football. Expect Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) to appear soon on Oxygen or Lifetime, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to show up on the SciFi Channel. Kucinich proclaims himself a serious candidate for the Democratic nomination, but refuses to explain why his campaign slogan remains "Just Here for the Bud Light."
Get it? Kucinich was right on the day’s biggest issue. So at the Post, they picture him on the SciFi Channel! After all, as Cynthia Tucker had explained a week earlier, you’re only considered a “serious” Democrat if you were actually wrong on Iraq! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/07/06, to refresh yourself on this strange moré.)

Yes indeed, people—that’s a moré! On Tucker, by the way, Bill Press really got this one wrong. He chatted about Kucinich last Wednesday:
PRESS (12/13/06): Let me tell you something, Dennis Kucinich is not looking so crazy anymore.

CARLSON: Really?

PRESS: We all made fun of him four years ago.

CARLSON: What, the veganism or the war position?
“We all made fun of him four years ago,” Bill said. So Tucker made fun of him again!

It simply doesn’t occur to our pundits to give pols credit for getting things right. Yes, the Inka had their strange folkways too. But to their vast credit, Charles Mann never describes this odd cohort practicing “rule by the wrong.”

NEWSWEEK POLLS—LOST, STOLEN AND STRAYED: We’re thrilled to see Hillary smoking McCain—although she wouldn’t be our first-choice, perfect White House candidate. (Nor are we opposed to her.) This Newsweek poll may be inaccurate, of course, and it is a bit of an outlier. But remember: Two years out in Campaign 2000, Gore trailed Bush by 15-20 points—and after running his “lousy campaign,” he ended up winning the popular vote. In our view, McCain is most likely still riding some buzz from all the Love Boatin’ he’s received through the years—and yet, Big Dems already beat him in several polls! In a campaign, there could be plenty of room to bring him down from his press-inflated position. The fact that these polls are already so close seems like a very good sign.

Meanwhile, pundits have noted an annoying fact; Newsweek simply ignored its own Dem-friendly poll when it wrote its current cover story—the one about Clinton and Obama. Most specifically, it didn’t tell readers that its new poll showed Hillary smokin’ McCain. But then, this isn’t the first time this Post-owned mag “lost” a poll which showed a Dem’s progress. Back in the fall of 1999, Newsweek and its tribune, Howard Fineman, did much the same thing to Al Gore.

In that case, the poll concerned the New Hampshire primary race between Gore and fellow Dem Bill Bradley. The press corps had sanctified Bradley, of course, and was busily trashing Gore for his wardrobe—for his boots, his polo shirts, his three-button suits, his brown suits and his troubling earth tones. (And for the fact that he hemmed his pants too high. Three major news orgs complained about that.) So uh-oh! When a Newsweek poll showed that Gore had gone back ahead of Saint Bradley (by ten), the pundit gods surely roared with displeasure. Result? Fineman went prancing all over cable, insisting that Bradley was just on a tear. Gore’s ten-point lead in Newsweek’s poll found its way down the memory hole. Soon, three separate polls showed Gore back ahead—but good pundits still knew not to tattle (links below).

Brian Williams played a key role in pimping this bullshit on cable. But then, Williams’ Gore-trashing conduct in the fall of 1999 was really a sight to behold. At this distance, we’ll at last take a guess—MSNBC’s boy-toys were working hard to make Jack Welch happy. (There are reasons why we’ve finally been drawn to such musings—but this remains speculation.) But whatever the explanation might be, Williams persistently turned day-into-night in his presentations on Gore. He baldly misstated poll results and offered absurd accounts of pundits’ published opinions. We’ll offer you the links below. Unless Williams is the world’s dumbest man, he was simply lying in the faces of MSNBC’s viewers.

At any rate, this isn’t the first time Newsweek “lost” a poll—when it had good news for a disfavored Dem. To appearances, the magazine is developing a nasty habit—a habit of disappearing good news for Big Dems. Want to see Jon Meacham explain it all away? Just click here for his mumbling “explanations” (great work by Greg Sargent). We’re very glad that Clinton’s campaign has already told them: This bullshit must stop. Our age of insanity may be nearing its end. Dems have to help it along.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Gore was ahead by ten in Newsweek’s new poll—and Fineman disappeared it. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/16/99.

Gore was now ahead in three polls—and pundits still knew not to tell you. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/19/99.

In October, Brian Williams turned night-into-day concerning Zogby’s poll numbers. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/5/99. Scroll down to “Anchor’s away.”

A string of observers praised Gore in the Times—but Williams told viewers that they had trashed him. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/12/99. Scroll down to “Life of Brian.”

Bonus: Williams was deeply troubled by Gore’s polo shirts. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/11/99.

Bonus: Like Williams, Ceci Connolly turned night-into-day, discussing a new poll in the New York state race. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/3/99.

Summary: Are Connolly and Williams the world’s dumbest people? If not, both were deliberately misleading voters. Both of them should have been fired.

JONES SPEAKS: Chris Matthews has a jones about Hillary Clinton that just won’t let his soul go. But on last night’s Hardball, he set a new world land speed record in the expression of same. Just look how quickly he got around to describing Clinton in an inappropriate sexual way! What follows was the talker’s first comment in his segment on Clinton’s presidential chances. After playing tape of Clinton’s recent interview with Meredith Vieira, he turned to the Times’ Bob Herbert:

MATTHEWS (12/19/06): Bob, I know you`re a liberal, but when is a politician like Hillary Clinton or anybody else going to admit they have the "A" word—ambition—and stop with this coy thing about [fluttering eyelids], “I’m so flattered by so much interest?” It’s like a stripteaser saying she’s flattered by the attention. Hillary is running for president. She wants to be president. What`s wrong with saying it?
Wonderful speed! It took the talker exactly 13 seconds to compare the senator to a stripper. Even by his own tawdry standards, that was lightning-quick work.

But then, Matthews has long had a jones about Clinton—about liberal women generally—that just won’t let him go. Just note how many sexist themes he introduced in that one short statement! Clinton is “coy,” he said—and she’s like a “stripteaser.” And she refuses to admit to “ambition!” Meanwhile, when Matthews quoted Clinton saying “I’m so flattered,” he did the kind of mock-female voice that nightclub comics luv doing. (Helpfully, Herbert laughed.) For the record, this tirade was triggered by the fact that Clinton hasn’t yet formally announced that she’s running for the White House. Of course, John McCain hasn’t announced yet either—he has said he’ll make a statement next month, just like Clinton has done—but the talker regards that as perfectly normal. With Clinton, though, it sets off his soul. Something starts to eat at the man.

But then, Clinton has been expressing his jones about Clinton’s “ambition” ever since 1999, when she announced her race for the Senate. In December of that year, her spokesman, Howard Wolfson, appeared on Hardball. We discussed that appearance earlier this year. But, with apologies for the length of this excerpt, we think it’s important that you see the demons locked inside Matthews’ tortured head. Try to believe that this actually happened—that this weird discussion really occurred on an actual cable “news” program:
MATTHEWS (12/7/99): Well, let me ask you this: Is Hillary Clinton ambitious?

WOLFSON: Well, I think anyone who is running for office has an ambition. She has an ambition to do the right thing. She's ambitious to make positive change in the United States Senate.

MATTHEWS: Why are you hesitant to say she's ambitious?

WOLFSON: Well, I'm—I—

MATTHEWS: She wants to be the senator from New York, and you don't—you don't seem to be comfortable in saying that she's ambitious.

WOLFSON: Well, I'm saying—

MATTHEWS: That's a political ambition.

WOLFSON: Well, I'm saying that she's motivated by issues. She's—

MATTHEWS: She's not motivated by personal ambition?

WOLFSON: That may be what you would, would characterize.

MATTHEWS: I'm just asking.

WOLFSON: No, I—she—

MATTHEWS: I'm just asking. Does she have personal ambitions to rise into her chosen field of politics?

WOLFSON: She believes in public service, wants to be a public servant, wants to represent the people of New York to the, to the best of her abilities in the United States Senate.

MATTHEWS: It just seems like she want its both ways. She wants the position, but she doesn't want to admit to the ambition. That is a real conflict here, because she wants to be a politician and have all the benefits of political power and all the perks that go with it, but she doesn't even want to admit that she's a politician or someone with ambition. Neither—these are obvious and you can't admit them.

WOLFSON: Well, I don't think it's necessarily relevant. I think what matters is that she's running for office because she believes in better health care for—for folks, better schools for our children, the future of Social Security and Medicare. Those are the issues that she cares about. Those are the issues she spent a lifetime working on, and those are the issues that New Yorkers care the most about. What else—

MATTHEWS: What do you—

WOLFSON: What else, what else do you need to know?

MATTHEWS: I'd like to know what her ambitions are.

WOLFSON: Well, her ambitions are to go to the Senate and help every family get quality affordable health care.

MATTHEWS: But all those arguments that you give me would be an—would be justifications for a further run for the White House at the time when she also denies having any ambitions. I mean, at what point is she going to admit that she’s going where she’s headed, which is to get political power? People who seek political power are ambitious by definition. Do you agree?

WOLFSON: Well, if you—if you—if you say so. If it will make you happy, I'll agree.
“If it will make you happy, I'll agree,” Wolfson said. But no, it didn’t make Matthews happy. His hostile questioning switched to other subjects—and seven years later, he was at it again, with his weird comments about Clinton’s “ambition,” to which she still won’t admit.

Matthews, of course, has a long history of rude conduct toward liberal women. Last night, though, his jones about Clinton just wouldn’t let the man go. After speaking with Herbert, he turned to conservative Kate O’Beirne—and O’Beirne defended Clinton against her host’s continuing nonsense. (O’Beirne was quite fair about Clinton throughout.) Hillary could never be like sainted Jack Kennedy, the addled talker complained to his guest. And, of course, he worked in a reference to Jack’s wondrous sexual exploits:
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Kate, just looking at this—I know you`re a conservative, but this coyness, which I pointed to here, about ambition, not that she hasn’t announced, but she says—she acts as if her ambition isn`t relevant here. Jack Kennedy, to his credit, said, “I want to run for president because that`s where the action is. He probably meant it a number of different ways, but there’s not—why don`t they just say, you know, I’d really like to run this country, it would make me feel great to be president of the United States, to be on that short list.

O’BEIRNE: Chris, I’m sympathetic here with Senator Clinton. We`re going to hear from her early in the year. This is like the last level of control she may have, I mean, once she jumps into that field. She knows; she`s been there. So she`s got to control her announcement. I don`t fault her for that. She`s running.
In the face of her host’s incoherent assault, even O’Beirne was sympathetic to Clinton. Soon, though, Chris was letting us know why women should resent Clinton:
MATTHEWS: Is she a convincing mom?

O’BEIRNE: She’s certainly trying to be. I think she appreciates that a whole lot of women who aren’t all that liberal and maybe don’t—are not necessarily on board because of her role model aspect of this—are distrustful of Hillary Clinton. I think they might—

MATTHEWS: Well, should they be?

O’BEIRNE: I think—

MATTHEWS: She lets he husband get away with what he’s gotten away with? Don’t women resent that?
Yep! For mixed-up boys like the thigh-rubbing talker, it always gets back to the sex! By the way, note the peculiar reasoning here. It was amusing when Kennedy went after “the action.” But when Hillary Clinton has to deal with a similar problem, it’s her conduct which won’t let Matthews rest! And don’t worry—the talker can pretty much speak for all women! Try to believe that he actually engaged in the following exchange:
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about image, iconic image. A suburban mother, a swing voter, putting her kids in the back seat of the car with the safety seat, buckling them in, doing things that are really hard and complicated and require a lot of focus in your life. You gotta be really—

O’BEIRNE: What does Hillary Clinton know about what I’m doing?

MATTHEWS: “Is Hillary Clinton looking up to me or looking down at me?”

O’BEIRNE: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: And you answer?

O’BEIRNE: I think she runs the risk of having been seen as looking down. And I think she`s going to be awfully careful—and we saw that in talking with Meredith Vieira—to try to—

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think she’s got to admit that giving speeches at lunches is no better and probably a lot less important than raising kids.
She’s got to admit, Matthews said, perhaps revealing the ancient script which lies beneath all his conduct. Remarkably, Matthews had a palpable tone of grievance as he made that last absurd statement. Then: “We’ll be right back with Bob Herbert and Kate O’Beirne,” he said. “I’ve got to be careful here.”

Good God! The torment! The drama! But this tabloid talker just can’t be careful when it comes to Hillary Clinton. His jones about Clinton just won’t let him go; it leads him to make instant remarks about strippers, and it leads to his dim-witted memes about Clinton’s “coyness” and troubling “ambition.” When he sees Clinton interviewed by Vieira, something in him just starts rubbing. Although he knows that he’s “got to be careful,” he can see that she’s not a real “mom.”

We’ve actually seen this retrograde fellow talk about women when no women were around. That helps lead us on to the following comment, which we adapt from Chris Rock’s famous routine about the two kinds of African-Americans—the kind he loves and the kind he doesn’t. It takes us back to our own sainted mother—and yes, we grew up Boston Irish ourselves. “I love the Irish,” we can almost picture her saying. “It’s all those micks I just can’t stand!” We’ve thought of that construct in the past year as we’ve seen Chris making his “striptease” remarks. Chris was right about the war. But he just can’t let Hillary go.

Miss USA is headed for rehab? Shouldn’t Chris get some needed help first?

FAMOUS FIRST WORDS: Herbert, of course, noticed none of this nonsense, politely explaining, as if from Mars, why it may be hard for Clinton to win. “I mean, for any woman to become president, I’ve been saying the stars have to be perfectly aligned,” he extra-sanely explained. “Everything has to be just right because I think it’s tough for a woman to win at all, although I do think that it’s possible. I don’t think the stars are perfectly aligned for Hillary.” Really? It’s tough for a woman to win? The stars aren’t perfectly aligned Hillary? Gee! We couldn’t imagine what Herbert could mean—until we heard his host talk.