JONES SPEAKS! Chris Matthews has a jones about Clinton that just wont let his soul go: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2006
RULE BY THE WRONG, KUCINICH DIVISION: Go ahead! Read Charles Manns descriptions of Mayans and Inkas and try not to think of our mainstream press corps! For example, read Manns 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 Inkas panaqa [royal lineage] retained all of his possessions forever, including his palaces, residences and shrines...The mummies spoke through female mediums who represented the panaqas 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, Pizarros 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 hes been wrong on the worlds 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 Saturdays 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 days biggest issue. So at the Post, they picture him on the SciFi Channel! After all, as Cynthia Tucker had explained a week earlier, youre 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—thats 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.We all made fun of him four years ago, Bill said. So Tucker made fun of him again!
It simply doesnt 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: Were thrilled to see Hillary smoking McCain—although she wouldnt 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 hes 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.
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], Im so flattered by so much interest? Its like a stripteaser saying shes 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 wont let him go. Just note how many sexist themes he introduced in that one short statement! Clinton is coy, he said—and shes like a stripteaser. And she refuses to admit to ambition! Meanwhile, when Matthews quoted Clinton saying Im 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 hasnt yet formally announced that shes running for the White House. Of course, John McCain hasnt announced yet either—he has said hell 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 Clintons 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 its 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?If it will make you happy, I'll agree, Wolfson said. But no, it didnt make Matthews happy. His hostile questioning switched to other subjects—and seven years later, he was at it again, with his weird comments about Clintons ambition, to which she still wont admit.
Matthews, of course, has a long history of rude conduct toward liberal women. Last night, though, his jones about Clinton just wouldnt let the man go. After speaking with Herbert, he turned to conservative Kate OBeirne—and OBeirne defended Clinton against her hosts continuing nonsense. (OBeirne 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 Jacks 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 hasnt 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 theres not—why don`t they just say, you know, Id 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.In the face of her hosts incoherent assault, even OBeirne was sympathetic to Clinton. Soon, though, Chris was letting us know why women should resent Clinton:
MATTHEWS: Is she a convincing mom?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, its her conduct which wont let Matthews rest! And dont 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—Shes 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: Well be right back with Bob Herbert and Kate OBeirne, he said. Ive got to be careful here.
Good God! The torment! The drama! But this tabloid talker just cant be careful when it comes to Hillary Clinton. His jones about Clinton just wont let him go; it leads him to make instant remarks about strippers, and it leads to his dim-witted memes about Clintons coyness and troubling ambition. When he sees Clinton interviewed by Vieira, something in him just starts rubbing. Although he knows that hes got to be careful, he can see that shes not a real mom.
Weve 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 Rocks famous routine about the two kinds of African-Americans—the kind he loves and the kind he doesnt. 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. Its all those micks I just cant stand! Weve thought of that construct in the past year as weve seen Chris making his striptease remarks. Chris was right about the war. But he just cant let Hillary go.
Miss USA is headed for rehab? Shouldnt 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, Ive been saying the stars have to be perfectly aligned, he extra-sanely explained. Everything has to be just right because I think its tough for a woman to win at all, although I do think that its possible. I dont think the stars are perfectly aligned for Hillary. Really? Its tough for a woman to win? The stars arent perfectly aligned Hillary? Gee! We couldnt imagine what Herbert could mean—until we heard his host talk.