CILLIZZA (2/20/07): Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York courted black voters, considered crucial to securing the Democratic presidential nomination, in a series of campaign stops in South Carolina on Monday in which she cast the 2008 election as a chance to make history."This is the campaign, and I am the candidate? We puzzled a bit at Clintons strange, imperial-sounding statement. And then, we read Patrick Healys report of the same trip in todays New York Times. And omigod! Late in his piece, Healy actually told us what Clinton had actually said:
"I believe this presidential campaign is about breaking barriers," Clinton said at a town hall meeting in the state's capital. "This is the campaign, and I am the candidate."
HEALY (2/20/07): ''I believe this presidential election is about breaking barriers—and this is the campaign, and I am the candidate with the experience to break the barriers,'' Mrs. Clinton said.Oohhhh! I am the candidate with the experience, Clinton had said. But with Cillizza, its always a case of Pundit Knows Best. Somehow, he knew you didnt need to hear the actual statement Clinton had made on her own behalf. Result? When Clinton stated her qualification for office, Cillizza dropped it from his report! Post readers were left with a slightly puzzling statement—a statement shorn of the actual claim which Clinton had tried to put forward.
HEALY: Mrs. Clinton put her own gentle spin on [state senator Robert] Ford's remark at a forum here at Allen University, a historically black institution, by arguing that a candidate could make history by winning in 2008—and that she should be that candidate.Healy is the master spinner. In his reports about Clintons campaign, he is constantly inserting his own interpretations—and they tend to promote a familiar theme. Clinton is constantly working from talking-points, making scripted remarks, or inserting her own gentle spin. This morning, Healy starts by describing a delicately worded pitch from Clinton—and the phrase appears in the headline. If you dont understand the novel Healy is typing, you havent lived on this planet for the past dozen years. In Healys reports, Clinton is constantly spinning you; shes scripted, Healy constantly says, shes reading from her talking-points. In this way, the hapless reporter injects his own gentle spin—by pretending that he has spotted Clintons.
''I believe this presidential election is about breaking barriers—and this is the campaign, and I am the candidate with the experience to break the barriers,'' Mrs. Clinton said.
MATTHEWS (2/19/07): I dont believe early polls. However, I have spent weeks now listening to women—pretty educated women, in fact, very educated women, East Coast types, very professional, one after another after another says, I don`t like Hillary Clinton. They really don`t like her.Good God, what a fool. What a Diet Coke-driven idiot! What a consummate loser.
And then I look at the polls, she is up to 40 percent [in polls of the nations Democrats]. What is the disconnect? Explain it to me. Why is Hillary doing so well in the general population but the cognoscenti, the people around Washington and New York, the people that really read the papers, really keep up, really follow politics, have this complicated problem with Hillary? What is it about?
And that explains the disconnect Matthews cited—the disconnect he still cant grasp. Earth to Matthews: Most Americans arent consumed with the anger and envy which drive the souls with whom you have your inane conversations. Many Americans dont hate Clinton; indeed, many people flatly admire her. In part, they admire her for an obvious reason. They admire her because she has long stood up to ugly, stupid people like you.
Most likely, Matthews really doesnt understand this simple matter. But this disconnect was explained in 1998 by uber-insider Sally Quinn. Quinn described the frenzy gripping Insider Washington as the impeachment of Clinton drew near. And yes, she specifically cited that disconnect—the disconnect between normal Americans and Matthews multimillionaire class:
QUINN (11/2/98): With some exceptions, the Washington Establishment is outraged by the president's behavior in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The polls show that a majority of Americans do not share that outrage. Around the nation, people are disgusted but want to move on; in Washington, despite Clinton's gains with the budget and the Mideast peace talks, people want some formal acknowledgment that the president's behavior has been unacceptable. They want this, they say, not just for the sake of the community, but for the sake of the country and the presidency as well.In some ways, Quinn went easy on her insider cohort in this detailed piece. But twice, she called attention to a key fact: Average Americans did not share her cohorts outrage at Bill Clinton. But so what? Eight years later, the dimwit Matthews is still surprised by this ongoing disconnect. He still goes on the air and rants and says that it has him puzzled.
In addition to the polls and surveys, this disconnect between the Washington Establishment and the rest of the country is evident on TV and radio talk shows and in interviews and conversations with more than 100 Washingtonians for this article. The din about the scandal has subsided in the news as politicians and journalists fan out across the country before tomorrow's elections. But in Washington, interest remains high. The reasons are varied, and they intertwine.
MATTHEWS (2/19/07): At home here, my morale goes down when our mind is so warped about this stuff about Britney Spears that people think that Bill Clinton was a better president than FDR. They cant remember any of our presidents because we have holidays called "Presidents Day" so we can sell mattresses because they dont want to offend anyone by mentioning the fact that George Washington was our first president.Matthews attacked these outrages for the full hour. Later, he complained to Ron Reagan about the views of those dumb-ass normal Americans:
There is sort of an infantilization of this country sometimes, I think. Dont you think, captain? Why dont we have Washingtons Birthday? That is the name of it. Nobody will call it that.
MATTHEWS: I just wonder—we just had a poll of our greatest presidents. Your dad did very well, as he should have. But the lack of knowledge voiced in that poll, where the people could only mention the most recent presidents, it seems. They put Bill Clinton ahead of Franklin Roosevelt!Poor Chris! By the end of the program, Reagan, Howard Fineman and Craig Crawford were looking sideways at each other, hoping to outlast the rants.
HEALY (2/18/07): Mrs. Clinton believes that reversing course on her vote would invite the charge of flip-flopping that damaged Mr. Kerry or provoke the kind of accusations of political expediency that hung over Al Gore in 2000 and her and her husband, President Bill Clinton, in the 1990s, several advisers said. She has argued to associates in private discussions that Mr. Gore and Mr. Kerry lost, in part, because they could not convince enough Americans that they were resolute on national security, the associates said.But Clinton has already revers[ed] course on her vote! As weve noted, she did so long ago. In August 2004, she said that there would have been no basis for such a vote if wed known there were no WMD. There wouldnt even have been a vote if wed known about the WMD, Clinton said. In the past few months, she has said, again and again, that she wouldnt have voted for the war resolution if shed known there were no WMD. As such, Clinton has already reversed course on her vote. But so what? Healy quoted several advisers—and they made a puzzling assertion. But Healy doesnt seem to notice the problem, and his editor waved his mush into print.
HEALY: ''She is in a box now on her Iraq vote, but she doesn't want to be in a different, even worse box—the vacillating, flip-flopping Democratic candidate that went to defeat in 2000 and '04,'' said one adviser to Mrs. Clinton. ''She wants to maintain a firmness, and I think a lot of people around her hope she maintains a firmness. That's what people will want in 2008.''In this instance, Healy claims to be quoting a Clinton adviser—but, again, he fails to address the logical problem inherent in the aides statement. In what way would Clinton be seen as a flip-flopper if she said that her vote had been a mistake? Clinton has already said that she would have voted the other way if shed had better information. In effect, she has already said that she cast the wrong vote (due to bad intel on WMD); she has already abandoned her firmness. Why would it mark her as a flip-flopper (as a vacillator) if she simply added a locution—if she said her vote had turned out to be wrong/a mistake? In what way would the use of the words in question mark her as a flipper in any way she isnt a flipper right now? Healy didnt ask, didnt tell.
HEALY: One of the most important decisions that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton made about her bid for the presidency came late last year when she ended a debate in her camp over whether she should repudiate her 2002 vote authorizing military action in Iraq.But Kerry and Edwards didnt say that when they ran in 2004. They persisted in saying that they still would have voted for the war resolution even if they had known all the facts. We know—its easy to repress such bad memories. But here was Edwards, with Tim Russert, in October 2004:
Several advisers, friends and donors said in interviews that they had urged her to call her vote a mistake in order to appease antiwar Democrats, who play a critical role in the nominating process. Yet Mrs. Clinton herself, backed by another faction, never wanted to apologize—even if she viewed the war as a mistake—arguing that an apology would be a gimmick.
In the end, she settled on language that was similar to Senator John Kerry's when he was the Democratic nominee in 2004: that if she had known in 2002 what she knows now about Iraqi weaponry, she would never have voted for the Senate resolution authorizing force.
RUSSERT (10/10/04): If you knew today—and you do know there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—Ugh! Moments earlier, Edwards had told Russert this: It was important to continue to wage an aggressive war against terrorism, to win the war against terrorism, and also to confront Saddam, who was a serious threat and that's why, the vote on the resolution, both John Kerry and I still stand behind it. We know—its painful to remember these things. But Healy just flat had it wrong.
EDWARDS: Yes, sir.
RUSSERT: —would you still vote to go to war with Iraq?
EDWARDS: I would have voted for the resolution knowing what I know today, because it was the right thing to do to give the president the authority to confront Saddam Hussein.
WHAT WE MIGHT SAY IF WE WERE CLINTON: Clintons view seems to be something like the following: I never would have cast that vote had I known about the lack of WMD. But I didnt know, so it wasnt the wrong judgment given what was known at the time. All of that is well and good. But given what Clinton has already said, we dont see why she doesnt add this:
CLINTON EXTENDED: That said, I think my vote did turn out to be a mistake, and I very much regret it. I chose to believe the president when he said hed do everything he could to avoid a war—when he said hed insist on full inspections. This was his pledge, in public and private; I dont think he honored that pledge. As Ive said, I never would have voted yes if Id known there were no WMD. But I think that many of us made a mistake when we trusted the president to do what he promised. He promised that hed conduct full inspections. I think he walked away from that pledge.That echoes things Kerry and Edwards did say during Campaign 04.
CARLSON (2/19/07): Hillary and many of the opponents of the war, have never repudiated the ideology that led to the war in the first place. They still say, well, it was a good idea to take Saddam down. Theyre still, in a sense, neo-cons. Theyre still nation-builders. And the root cause of this disaster has not been defeated or repudiated or even thought through, it seems to me, and thats a huge topic.What the hell is she saying? the head Frat Boy asked. Sadly, there was little sign that Fenn really knew. Read the transcript if you want to see his hapless, fumbling answer.
BUCHANAN: Thats what you and I believe, correctly. But if she comes out and says that, again, shes got to start answering why she made this blunder and she has got to start repudiating the ideology.
CARLSON: Yes, and she should repudiate the ideology of the neocons. No, she hasnt.
FENN: Yes, now, Tucker, come on. Let`s back off here. To call Hillary Rodham Clinton a neocon is crazy.
CARLSON: What has she repudiated?
FENN: Well, she has repudiated going to war and occupying a country, and leading to a civil war.
CARLSON: Maybe over dinner with you she has said that, but she has not said that in public. She has not said, I dont think we ought to be occupying countries, or I dont think we ought to be invading countries to depose evil dictators. She still believes that.
FENN: No, no.
BUCHANAN: What was her mistake, are you saying? Are you saying her mistake was shes going to say, Look, we should never have invaded that country. They didnt do anything to us. We should never have gone in. I was wrong? Shes not saying that, is she?
FENN: No, she is saying—
CARLSON: Thats what Im confused by. What the hell is she saying?