CROWLEY (1/29/07): The question was about her ability to stand up to dictators.What did Clinton have in mind? Empty pundits—people like Matthews—were instantly sure that they knew. The war in Iraq continues to rage—but this was Matthews first topic last night. Who was Clinton joking about? He asked Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times—and Sweet embarrassed herself:
CLINTON (videotape): And, in the gentleman's words, we face a lot of evil men. You know, people like Osama bin Laden come to mind. [Pause] And what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men?
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
CROWLEY: Why were they laughing? And what did she have in mind?
SWEET (1/29/07): Well, what I think they were laughing at is the thought that cropped into my mind, Chris, and that is Bill Clinton`s name did come into my mind. There are some people who I interviewed, and that`s what they said. Its a Rorschach. And what is interesting here—I dont think it matters so much what she was thinking. I think what was instructive for all of us is what people who were out there were thinking. Thats whats the key here.What a perfect press corps moment! Bill Clintons name came into Sweets mind! And not only that—she also interviewed some people who had the same reaction. (Were these people other journalists? Sweet didnt specifically say.) To Sweet, this pretty much settled the matter. Good God! It doesnt matter what Clinton was thinking, Sweet told her host; what really matters is what occurred to Lynn Sweet! Let us translate: Sweet wants to talk about Bill Clintons d*ck, and because that d*ck came into her head, she assumed that it came into everyone elses—and she says, therefore, that this is whatmatters. Obviously, Sweet doesnt know what the other thousand people in that crowd were actually thinking. But its perfect! Because Bill Clinton popped into her head, she says that is what is interesting.
From that point on, Matthews built the entire discussion around the Lewinsky narrative—the theme he finds most exciting. Sadly, the Wall Street Journals John Harwood also said that he assumed that Clinton had referred to her husband. Only David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register refused to express a view on the plainly unknowable matter. But then, Yepsen is a dignified man, not a Washington media nutcase. Its sad to see him lower himself on Hardball every four years.
Was Clinton talking about her husband? Matthews proceeded as if she was, and so did fatuous frat boy Tucker Carlson, one hour later on Tucker. (It was his first topic, too.) It was sad to see his guest, Rosa Brooks, play along with his frat boy follies. Sadly, people like Brooks will play along with any damn-fool thing to get on TV—to make themselves famous. Brooks embarrassed herself last night. We expect that shell do so again.
Was Clinton joking about her husband? Matthews, who scans the horizon for hookers, was eager to assume that she was. But just for the record, other observers thought something quite different. On Fox News Channels Special Report, Mara Liasson said this notion struck her as nuts. Liasson had a different reaction when she heard Clintons joke:
LIASSON (1/29/07): Wait a second. Are you assuming that she was making a joke about her husband?Well, thats the press, Liasson said—hitting the nail on the head.
BRIT HUME: Well, who do you think she was taking about?
FRED BARNES: Well, yeah.
LIASSON: Well, I think all the people—all the men who have attacked her and tormented her. That's just as plausible.
BARNES: No, the press—no, please, please, please!
LIASSON: Wait a minute, you think that's what she meant? Because I don't think that's how people in the room took it.
BARNES: Well, why was she laughing? She laughed even before the crowd did, it looked like. [Note: On the tape, this is plainly false. Not that it would matter.]
LIASSON: I think she was thinking of Newt Gingrich and Republicans.
MORTON KONDRACKE: The press thought that she was dealing with, she was reflecting on the bad Bill, you know, that that's who she was talking about. That's who they all—
LIASSON: Well, that's the press.
UPPITY WOMEN: Matthews seems to make it a point to aim some gender-based insult at Clinton just about every evening. Last Thursday night, direct from Las Vegas, he stopped leering at college-age girls long enough to offer the following puzzler. He spoke with the Las Vegas Suns Jon Ralston:
MATTHEWS (1/25/07): Can [Clinton] beat him on—can she beat a John McCain in Nevada?We were puzzled. Had Clinton called his wife an uppity woman? Had he made that remark about somebody else? We werent sure, but one night later, the leering old basket-case went there again. He spoke with Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman—and again, he served up his insult:
RALSTON: Well, I think Hillary could win anywhere. But I think the problem in Nevada is that...so much of the rural vote is still significant here. They turn out much more.
MATTHEWS: Traditional wives?
MATTHEWS: And they dont—do they like, what Bill Clinton calls, "uppity women," like his wife?
MATTHEWS (1/26/07): Let me ask you about this part of the country. My colleague Tim Russert says—and he tries to be smart about these things—he said this is the new Florida, the new Ohio. Out here, this array of states, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, are going to be in play [in 2008], more so perhaps I would argue than the south, which tends to be Republican, or the industrial midwest, which may have a problem with a modern, as Bill Clinton would say, uppity women like his wife. Out here, it seems more friendly to women.Those are the transcripts as they appear on the MSNBC web site. Yes, we watched both programs.
THE LARGER PICTURE: As weve said, cable TV was driven last night by fatuous discussions about Clintons joke. But that is precisely what well get as long as we have a press corps like this one—a press corps in which billionaire owners hire boys to peddle their upper-class messages. In the case of Matthews, a near-billionaire named Jack Welch could see that Matthews was a man on the make. He gave him millions; let him move to Nantucket; even let him pal around at the club. And Matthews has repaid these favors for years. His sneering, gender-based insults of Clinton will continue—until theyre stopped.
NOTES ON AN EMPTY OLD FIXER: Last night, of course, this laughable loser was on Country Music Television, judging the Miss America contest. Well spare you his most embarrassing moments, such as when he shared his thoughts about the meaning of the swim suit competition. But if you want your cheeks to rouge in embarrassment, read the last two segments of last nights Hardball, where Matthews fawns to wealthy Las Vegas mogul George Maloof, then to superstar Hollywood agent Sam Haskell, board chairman of the Miss America contest. At some length, Haskell explains that McCain will beat Clinton in California because of his centrist views. This is the foolish-but-wealthy type to whom losers like Matthews are drawn.
Indeed, this is all completely predictable. You simply cant have a multimillionaire press corps without what we have come to see—the fatuous, empty, vacuous world-view, the pandering to corrupt, throwback values. Uh-oh! Progressives face a long, hard road—helping the public understand the shape of its modern mainstream press corps. One night in October 2005, we thought we saw a bit of its soul as Matthews scanned a block-long lobby, hoping to spot some outstanding prostitutes. This is the empty, worthless man who aims nightly insults at Clinton.
She reminds him of a strip-teaser, he once said. But then, that pretty much figures.