19 February 1999
Smile-a-while: Remembering Lou Cabrazzi
Synopsis: The Hardball gang got its shorts in a wad when someone piped up about Linda.
Commentary by Chris Matthews, Susan Molinari, Tony Blankley, Charles Lane, Steve McMahon
Hardball, CNBC, 2/16/99
Commentary by Linda Tripp, Jamie Gangel
Today, NBC, 2/12/99
You may have thought we were kidding, in yesterdays HOWLER, when we said anyone can say anything they want about Clinton. But there were the pundits, playing some Hardball, and really just letting er rip! Chris ran tape of Linda Tripp, telling Jamie Gangel that Bill wanted to kill her; and the gang began trying to figure out if stuff like that really goes on.
Chuck Lane spoke first. Hes a softy:
LANE: Look, people are afraid that something will be done to them politically. Bill Clinton--Im sorry, maybe Im hopelessly naïve, but I dont think that Bill Clinton puts out contracts on people like Linda Tripp, and for her to say that on national television is delusional and self-serving.
And maybe Chuck is a little naïve, if he thought that stuff would wash. Chris and Susan Molinari gave the gab just a little more bite:
MATTHEWS: Well what about the Terry Lenzner stuff of going around, and Ive used the phrase, the reference to Lou Cabrazzi, the tough guy that goes around and says, Your brains or your signature are going to be on that table...
And sad to say, he has used that phrase; hes the master of mafia metaphor. Chris continued:
MATTHEWS: All of these affadavits that were miraculously provided during the course of this guys presidency, the guys in the affadavit business, everybodys signing affadavits because theres been some kind of intimidation.
Chris, of course, hadnt named any cases. Molinari took care of that:
MOLINARI: And it has not been disputed that Kathleen Willey had a private investigator come after her.
Somehow wed gotten from brains on the table to someone allegedly checking Kathleen Willey's phone records (see below). Tony Blankley offered perspective:
BLANKLEY: I dont think theres any doubt that there are people who have loyalty to the president who go around acting like thugs...
MATTHEWS: You dont mean Carville, though. You dont mean rhetorical thugs. You mean real thugs.
BLANKLEY: No, real thugs. Not my friend James, who is only a rhetorical thug. But clearly there are people around him who will do that sort of thing. Now, he may not know about it. He may not want them to be doing it. But theres a reason why people have these intimidation threats.
The gang had turned in a disgraceful performance, one that is all too familiar on Hardball. Wed heard about thugs, intimidation, and Lou Cabrazzi; wed been served up images of brains on the table. All without anyone citing a specific case of someone whod been dealt with this way. (For further discussion of Willey, see below.)
But then someone made a remark about Tripp--actually spoke against an accuser--and civil libertarian instincts emerged all over the scrum. Heres what Democratic consultant Steve McMahon had said:
MC MAHON: Lets remember who were talking about here. Linda Tripp went on television and she said that she believes that she saved Monicas life. She said that the president threatened her life, and further, she said that she may have to write a book so that the true story may some day be told. I mean this woman is a delusional--shes delusional, lets just put it that way.
Them thars fightin words:
MATTHEWS: Well, wasnt that the charge coming out of the White House against Monica, that she was delusional?...Are you saying Linda Tripp is delusional?...This is like Soviet politics, where if you dont agree with someone, you say they have a psychological problem.
Or you say that they remind you of Lou Cabrazzi. Tony Blankley was especially ticked:
BLANKLEY: I think we ought to be pretty careful about how we characterize, on national television, the state of mind of a political figure.
Where had those scruples suddenly come from? And then, the magic moment occurred. Lane made the obvious point:
LANE: Then Linda Tripp should be careful when she goes on national television and insinuates the president is trying to kill her!
Olé! Hed hit the nail on the head. But Blankley began to back-pedal:
BLANKLEY: No, that, she said, thats what she thought. I, we dont know what the truth is, but to just go on television and say shes delusional, that strikes me as pretty close to defamatory. [His emphasis]
Almost thuggish, like something Lou Cabrazzi would do, if he ever got on TV.
No specific cases: Molinari said no one has disputed that Willey had a private investigator come after her. But its also true that no one has established that anything untoward has occurred. Was Willey threatened by a mysterious jogger? So far, that claim turns on Willeys word. If there was a threat, who was its author? No one knows that either. Nonetheless, we were told that thugs who are around Clinton have made intimidation threats. If the pundits know what theyre talking about, they ought to be more specific.
Brains on the table: Heres the segment from Tripp and Gangel that played at the top of the segment:
TRIPP: And beyond that, lets face it, there were threats. And did I take them seriously? Absolutely.
GANGEL: What kind of threats?
TRIPP: Threats to my life. Threats to the lives of my children.
GANGEL: Who made those threats?
TRIPP: Monica made those threats and passed them along to me, I believed, from the president. I believed I was in jeopardy.
GANGEL: You believed that the president was threatening your life?
TRIPP: I believed that that was the message I was supposed to receive. Be a team player, or else.
We repeat the comment we made about Larry Kings interview (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/18/99). Told that Tripp believed that Clinton had threatened her life, Gangel never asks Tripp what had actually been said. The public is given no opportunity to evaluate Linda Tripps judgment.
We think, when people make such serious claims, they need to be questioned about them carefully. Otherwise, the weak of mind start to spread them around, as we saw Wednesday night on Hardball.