On the February 15 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews, during a discussion with National Review Washington editor Kate O'Beirne and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon about whether Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) will say her vote for the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq was a mistake, asked: "How come she still pretends that she didn't know [President Bush] was going to war? It's like she didn't know anything about Bill [Clinton] and his behavior. How many times is she going to be confused by men?"
During a discussion of the same issue on the February 14 edition of Hardball, Matthews said to Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and Republican attorney Benjamin L. Ginsberg that if Clinton says her vote was a mistake, "[s]he will be pilloried, not just as a candidate, but as a female candidate, for changing her mind." Matthews added, "The Republicans will kill her, saying, a woman's right is to change her mind, but presidential candidates can't."
Matthews' recent comments are part of a pattern of his pointing to Clinton's gender as a basis for criticism. On July 11, 2005, he claimed that criticizing the Bush administration's homeland security spending priorities a day after a terrorist attack in London made Clinton look "more witchy." And he suggested on March 15, 2006, that the reason Clinton "doesn't admit" that she regrets her Iraq war vote is that her critics would say, "It's a woman's prerogative to change her mind." Additionally, during live coverage of the November 7, 2006, midterm elections, Matthews told Republican pollster Frank Luntz that Clinton gave a "barn-burner speech, which is harder to give for a woman; it can grate on some men when they listen to it -- fingernails on a blackboard."
Matthews has also made denigrating comments about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) targeting her gender. On the November 13, 2006, edition of Hardball, he asked political commentator Mike Barnicle if Pelosi, then the presumptive speaker-elect, was "going to castrate [Rep.] Steny Hoyer [D-MD]" if Hoyer were elected House majority leader in the 110th Congress.
From the February 15 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: We're back with Kate O'Beirne of the National Review and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon.
Steve, let's talk about Hillary Clinton for a moment. Is she going to ever answer the question: Did you make a mistake when you voted for the war resolution? Is she going to stick to that until Election Day?
McMAHON: Well, I don't think she's ever going to say yes or no. I mean, I think she believes what she's said.
McMAHON: That --
O'BEIRNE: It's complicated.
McMAHON: If she knew today -- if she knew then what she knows today --
MATTHEWS: OK. We know that there are if, ands, or buts, woulda-coulda-shoulda. You know, we can do all of that --
MATTHEWS: -- but did she make the wrong vote?
McMAHON: Do I think she did? Yes. And do I think she should say so? Yes. Will she say so? I have no idea. But she seems determined not to.
MATTHEWS: She seems to imply that she didn't know this guy would take us to war. She said, he could -- I gave him the right to do it, but I thought he'd go through sanctions and inspections and all of this.
Everybody in America knew we were going to war with Bush. He made it pretty clear from day one we were going to war. How come she still pretends that she didn't know he was going to war?
It's like she didn't know anything about Bill and his behavior? How many times is she going to be confused by men?
From the February 14 edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews:
SHRUM: I think Hillary Clinton's problem -- and I don't really understand this -- is that she can't simply bring herself to say that the vote for the war was a mistake. I think if she did that, she would be past a lot of this difficulty.
I don't believe, as I have said on this show before, that anybody can be nominated for president in the Democratic Party in 2008 unless they're in favor of setting a definite date for withdrawal from Iraq.
MATTHEWS: OK. You know the answer, Bob. You know the answer to your own question.
The current phrase used by the partisans on the right is: She will be guilty of Kerry-oke -- I voted for the $87 million before I voted against it. I voted for the war before I voted against it.
She will be pilloried, not just as a candidate, but as a female candidate, for changing her mind. The Republicans will kill her, saying, a woman's right is to change her mind, but presidential candidates can't. Am I not right about that, Ben? Won't your side kill her, if she does?
GINSBERG: I think the Democrats will kill her before we ever get a chance to really engage.
MATTHEWS: No, but if she switches to making -- I wish I hadn't -- a mea culpa position, what will you guys do to her?
GINSBERG: We'll point out the vast inconsistencies. Kerry-oke is a nice phrase. I'd never heard that before, but it's pretty accurate.
MATTHEWS: Boy, I'd hate to be here watching it.
GINSBERG: But she'll -- but I think her fellow Democrats will come after, too, as -- as a recent convert.