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THE SOUND OF GLOVED HANDS CLAPPING! On Hardball, Matthews is troubled again—by tape of Clinton clapping: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2007

FLIRTING WITH THE TRUTH: It was unwise for Bill Clinton to say it; a candidate, or a campaign, can’t take the lead in such matters. But in Clinton’s ill-advised speech in Las Vegas, he started to tell the actual story of the past fifteen years—the story we liberals have refused to discuss. As best we can currently piece it together, here’s a chunk of what he said:
BILL CLINTON (11/5/07): We saw what happened the last seven years when we made decisions in elections based on trivial matters. We listened to people make snide comments about whether Vice President Gore was too stiff. And when they made dishonest claims about the things that he said that he'd done in his life. When that scandalous swift boat ad was run against Senator Kerry. When there was an ad that defeated Max Cleland in Georgia, a man that left half his body in Vietnam. Why am I saying this? Because, I had the feeling that at the end of that last debate we were about to get into cutesy land again. "Ya'll raise your hand if you're for illegal immigrants getting a driver's license.” So, we then let the Republicans go ahead saying all the Democrats are against the rule of law.
Clinton’s statement was unwise—but important, and accurate. It’s the story we liberals have refused to tell about the politics of the past fifteen years—the period in which (to cite one example) George Bush ended up in the White House when the mainstream press corps spent two years “ma[king] dishonest claims” about the things Gore hadn’t said. And please note: Though Clinton’s statement is now being doctored on cable, he seems to be talking about Russert and Williams, not Obama and Edwards, when he comments on last week’s debate. It was the moderators, not the candidates, who said (in effect), "Ya'll raise your hand if you're for illegal immigrants getting a driver's license,” thereby taking us “into cutesy land again.” In this statement, Clinton came dangerously close to explaining the politics of the past fifteen years.

No, a candidate—a campaign—can’t say such things; the press corps will instantly savage them for it. But Clinton was flirting with the truth in this statement—the truth we liberals have refused to tell, the truth we keep voters from knowing.

THE SOUND OF GLOVED HANDS CLAPPING: Once in a while, the glossy magazines give us a taste of High Insider Washington “Culture.” Vanity Fair offers the service this month, in a long report by Maureen Orth. Orth is Tim Russert’s wife.

In fairness, Orth is serving as the journalist here; she is simply reporting the inanity which forms the heart of her tedious article. But she wastes no time telling us, right at the start, that this is her milieu too. In her first paragraph, she recalls the good old day when she boated with Jackie. Right from the start, we get the message. Orth is a player too:
ORTH (12/07): Red Fay, undersecretary of the navy under John F. Kennedy, was a charming bon vivant, a great pal of the president’s, and the uncle of my roommate at Berkeley in the 60s. So it was my great good luck, on my very first trip to the capital, in May 1964, just six months after Kennedy’s assassination, to have “Uncle Red” invite me to dinner on the presidential yacht, the Sequoia. A few minutes after we arrived on board, I was amazed to see not only Jackie Kennedy but also Bobby and Ethel Kennedy and Jean Kennedy Smith and her husband, Steve Smith, walking up the gangplank. They were followed by George Stevens Jr., the youthful head of the U.S. Information Agency’s motion-picture division; the Peruvian ambassador and his wife; and my roommate’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles McGettigan, of San Francisco. This was one of Jackie’s first nights out since the tragedy, but she greeted everyone graciously. She was in ethereal white and spoke little during dinner, except to the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who was seated to her right.
The descriptions of Orth’s early social successes proceed apace from there. Soon, though, she gets to the consummate nonsense which forms the heart of her piece.

As far as we know, Orth was not to the manor born. (She served in the Peace Corps after college.) And her husband does come from working-class Buffalo—a world whose superior values he flogs in books he writes in his Nantucket cottage, just down the rose-cover ed lane a splash from Jack Welch, his long-time owner. But then, Russert and Orth have worked very hard to become top players in Insider Washington, according to D.C. insider Chuck Conconi. Again, here’s part of that rare, semi-penetrating profile of Russert by USA Today’s Peter Johnson:
JOHNSON (11/1/00): As a child, "I always wondered what it was like in Washington and the world," says Russert, who since Labor Day has shed 20-plus pounds from his bulky frame. But he says he never would have dreamed, helping Sister Mary Lucille put out a mimeographed special edition on President Kennedy's death, that one day he would grill national leaders.

Colleagues and competitors see it differently. They say that Russert, a lawyer who served as a top aide to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, also a Democrat, before joining NBC in 1984, has always had an intuitive sense of how to get ahead and has worked hard to get there. He is, they say, a player.

"I've never seen anyone work this town the way they did," Washingtonian writer Chuck Conconi says of Russert and his wife, Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth, who live in Washington's tony Cleveland Park in a house that has a media pedigree: Previous owners include PBS' Charlie Rose, NBC's Tom Brokaw and New York Times columnist James Reston.

Conconi recalls a tale about Russert and Orth being spotted at a cheap hamburger joint in Georgetown after an exclusive party at Pamela Harriman's house after President Clinton's first election. "They are masters of the Washington social scene. They know you don't go to parties to eat or drink. You go there to work." The anecdote may be apocryphal, Conconi says, "but I can't think of a story that rings more true.
Sadly, Johnson’s profile—and Orth’s inane report—give us a (partial) picture of our multimillionaire press corps. Liberals need to come to terms—badly—with what this picture means.

For ourselves, we’ve never met Orth; we’ve chatted with Russert a couple of times, and yes, he’s the nicest guy in the world. But multimillions affect even nice people, even those whose spouses started out in the Peace Corps. Human nature makes it plain: You simply can’t have a middle-class democracy with a multimillionaire press corps. That’s especially true when that multimillionaire press corps works the way our current group does, with narratives invented at the top, then parroted by the eager young climbers who hope to be rich players too.

What happens in a middle-class nation when multimillionaires run the press corps? Citizens are handed perfect monstrosities, of the type they were served on last night’s Hardball. Chris Matthews is a Welch-endowed multimillionaire too; he too summers, with Jack, on the Island of Swells. In what follows, we see the kind of brain-rotted swill he dished to the rubes and the peons last night. Once again, Matthews was deeply troubled by videotape in which Hillary Clinton could be seen clapping her hands. He spoke with Julie Mason, Jonathan Capehart and Matt Continetti, a trio of fresh-faced, eager young climbers who would never dream of telling their host that he’s a certified nut-case.

As we start, Mason is displaying her knowledge of current Hardball scripts. She says she still “has no idea” where Clinton stands on the driver’s license matter:
MASON (11/6/07): I still don’t know where she stands on that issue. Do you? I have no idea.

MATTHEWS: I don’t know. I know that she sympathizes with [reacting to videotape]— Well, there she is clapping again! I don`t whether she is clapping— Would somebody please tell me why she claps every time she goes somewhere?

CAPEHART: Maybe she’s responding to the crowd.

MATTHEWS: She’s clapping for them!

MASON: We should clap more.

MATTHEWS: No, I think it`s bizarre behavior. Anyway, I think it has something to do with—men don’t know what to do with their hands. I guess she’s like us. Anyway, we’ll be right back with more of the roundtable. I want an answer—why is she clapping? Matt, please! Tell me! Why does she clap all the time?

CONTINETTI: She’s happy, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, that’s a good answer. We`ll be right back.
This was the second time in the past two weeks when Matthews played tape of Clinton clapping her hands, then told the world how crazy it is that she does such a thing. (For previous transcript, see below.) And as usual, it all came back to gender for Matthews. Last night, it was all about the things men tend “to do with their hands.”

You’re right! Matthews citing “bizarre behavior” is like a chimp saying you live in the trees. But in the past few weeks, Hardball has entered full propaganda mode, trashing Clinton at every turn and begging its viewers to see the greatness of the alternates, Obama and Edwards. Of course, this is precisely what he did in 1999, when he tried to keep Gore from the Dem nomination, before going on to trash him savagely all through the general campaign. Next week, we’ll take you on an historical stroll through some of this fruitcake’s most egregious past work. You might be surprised to recall a fact: We’ve sat through this movie before.

But in his current crackpot displays, Matthews shows us what occurs when a middle-class democracy is run by a multimillionaire press corps. Matthews, like Orth, once served in the Peace Corps. Today, he plays the clown on national TV; for her part, Orth prances about, recording the pensees of the world’s biggest swells. And Orth’s gruesome husband joins with Matthews, reciting the lies of the right-wing tanks. Once again, here are Welch’s made men on Monday’s Hardball, reciting those decades-old lies—the ones our big plutocrats paid money to craft:
RUSSERT (11/5/07): If you’re going to make tough decisions as a president, you have to answer tough questions. What are you going to do? Show us how you’re going the lead us. Everyone knows Social Security, as it’s constructed, is not going to be in the same place it’s going to be for the next generation [sic]. Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives.

MATTHEWS: It’s a bad Ponzi scheme, at this point.

RUSSERT: Yes.
Do you think these guys really believe that? No, Russert’s statement didn’t parse, but his sentiment was perfectly clear. “Everyone knows” that Social Security is in trouble for the next generation, he clearly was saying. (After that, he joined Matthews in saying that the whole thing is a big ponzi scheme!) But as a reader reminded us yesterday, that “everyone” doesn’t include Alan Greenspan, who told Russert on Meet the Press, in September, that Social Security’s modest (projected) shortfalls just aren’t that big a deal. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/28/07, to see Russert told this by Ayn Rand’s best friend. But then, this isn’t the first time Russert has “forgotten” things he was told on his famous TV show. Next week, we’ll remind you of that history too, when we review the past work of these men.

But this is what you’re going to get when you tolerate a multimillionaire press corps. In the past two weeks, Matthews has gone into over-drive; on two occasions, he has even played tape of Clinton clapping her hands, bitching about it to the wide world while compliant young climbers look on. On Hardball, we’re now seeing press-as-propaganda to a truly astounding degree.

But one last question does have to be asked: Why have we liberals put up with this nonsense? Yesterday, via a series of links, we encountered this previously-unread, ten-month-old post by Joan Walsh, in which Joan said how she “happens to love Matthews on Hardball.” The time has come to ask why that is. Let’s face it: Matthews is a semi-sane, multimillionaire hit-man. Why do our leader endorse this conduct? Why do our leaders support this?

TOMORROW: Delayed! Pimping Russert!

WHEN FRUITCAKE MET SALLY: Matthews’ previous problem with Clinton’s hand-clapping occurred on October 26, as the loathsome socialite, Sally Bedell Smith, sat purring beside him on Hardball. In this same session, Matthews went on, at considerable length, about the Cubs and the Yankees—about what a big “fraud” Clinton is.

As we start, Smith—a masterful fabricator—is complaining about Freedom of Information requests. But uh-oh! Tape starts to play of someone clapping her hands, and her host is fatally distracted. Note the way the purring Smith plays along with her host’s lunacy. Darlings, this is the way it’s done inside Maureen Orth’s finest salons:
SMITH (10/26/07): You know, there have been Freedom of Information requests that began to pile up there starting in January of 2006. And when I was in there in 2005 and said I had a deadline of the spring of 2007, [the curator] said, Forget about it. You know, maybe—you know, maybe 10 years away, you might be able to find something like that.

MATTHEWS (reacting to videotape): What’s with her clapping? Why is she always clapping? There we see her—I don’t know any—is this a Chinese thing? What is this clapping? She doesn’t clap like you do at a movie you like or something. She claps when she meets people. She claps—is that Tom Friedman? I mean, she claps when she stands at a luncheon. What is all the clapping about?

BEDELL SMITH: Well, it’s—it’s funny you should say that because that`s the image on the cover of the book, of the two of them clapping, but—

MATTHEWS: What?

BEDELL SMITH: But the wonderful sub-text of that is they’re clapping, but they’re not really paying attention. She’s whispering something to him and he’s listening intently. And it`s just another sort of visual image of—

MATTHEWS: Is this show business, this thing we’re watching?

BEDELL SMITH: Mike McCurry said one thing to me that I thought was fascinating, which is that they have mastered the science of public interaction. So when they’re out there, they know exactly what to do and what plays.

MATTHEWS: Is it for show?

BEDELL SMITH: Well, they’re performing. All of, all of—what a lot of politicians do on the stump.

MATTHEWS: Do they live together?
“Is this a Chinese thing?” Matthews asked. Next week, we’ll see him making similar fruitcake remarks—about Gore, in 1999.

The depth of stupidity to which these people will stoop is truly a wonder to see. But isn’t it time we asked a question: Why have our leaders accepted this conduct? Why do our leaders applaud this?