Drudge, MSNBC "fact-checker" Warren detect Clinton contradiction in completely consistent statements

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

Referring to a statement by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) during the July 23 CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate, Internet gossip Matt Drudge posted two links, one on top of the other: "JULY: Clinton slams Obama for willingness to meet with troublesome world leaders..." and "APRIL: Clinton would begin diplomatic discussions with troublesome world leaders..." -- suggesting that Clinton had contradicted herself. But there is no inconsistency between the comments Clinton reportedly made in April and her July 23 statement. During a July 24 appearance on MSNBC, Chicago Tribune managing editor Jim Warren echoed Drudge by asserting that Clinton's statements are contradictory.

Clinton reportedly told an audience in Iowa on April 22, "I would begin diplomatic discussions with those countries with whom we have differences, to try to figure out what is the depth of those differences."

During the July 23 debate, the candidates were asked, "Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?" Clinton responded:

Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.

I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don't want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration.

And I will purse very vigorous diplomacy.

And I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.

Drudge posted the links by 8:40 a.m. ET. During the 10 a.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live, NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert said that "in April in Iowa, at Luther College, she said it was a terrible mistake for George Bush to say he would not talk with bad people and that she would begin diplomatic discussions with countries like Iran and Syria around the world." But there is no inconsistency in pledging to "begin diplomatic discussions" and refusing to commit to face-to-face meetings between her and foreign leaders during the first year of her presidency. Indeed, as noted above, while Clinton said during the debate that she would not commit to face-to-face meetings in her first year in office, she said, "I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort." Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson explained to Russert: "We don't want to continue the path that President Bush has put us on. We don't want to say that we're not going to have diplomatic relations with countries. But that's a very different thing from putting the power and prestige of the United States president on the line by pre-committing, without any preconditions, to meeting in person with these dictators."

From the 10 a.m. ET hour of the July 24 edition of MSNBC Live:

RUSSERT: And yet, if you go back and read some of Senator Clinton's comments, for example, in April in Iowa, at Luther College, she said it was a terrible mistake for George Bush to say he would not talk with bad people and that she would begin diplomatic discussions with countries like Iran and Syria around the world. So what's the difference what she said in April and Barack Obama said last night?

WOLFSON: Well, I would be concerned that there are people who don't understand the difference. The difference is, we should have diplomatic conversations with countries. You don't make peace with your friends. You make it with your enemies.

But that doesn't mean that you, as a candidate, commit in the first year of your presidency to meeting without any preconditions a rogue's gallery of the world's dictators. That is very different. I think foreign-policy experts certainly understand the distinction between someone running for president committing, within the first year of their presidency without any preconditions, to meeting with these dictators and someone saying, "Well, yes, let's have diplomatic relations."

We don't want to continue the path that President Bush has put us on. We don't want to say that we're not going to have diplomatic relations with countries. But that's a very different thing from putting the power and prestige of the United States president on the line by pre-committing, without any preconditions, to meeting in person with these dictators.

Further, during the 3 p.m. ET edition of MSNBC Live, Warren asserted of the debate, "I just wish there was some journalistic, old-fashioned journalistic component following up on some of the answers." He then cited a "perfect example": "[I]f you would just check the record, as recently as April in Iowa, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton castigated President Bush by saying she thought it would be a, quote, 'terrible mistake' to announce that you wouldn't talk to bad guys." But Talking Points Memo blogger Greg Sargent had already refuted the notion that Clinton had contradicted herself during the July 23 debate. MSNBC anchor Chris Jansing responded to Warren's assertion by calling him a "fact-checker," to which he replied, "So anachronistic, but I try."

From the 3 p.m. ET hour of the July 24 edition of MSNBC Live:

WARREN: I just wish there was some journalistic, old-fashioned journalistic component following up on some of the answers. A perfect example: If you look at a lot of the coverage this morning, everyone was saying, "Boy, Hillary really stuck to Obama on that question" -- remember that question about, would you talk in your first year to the leaders of some of these countries like North Korea and Iran. And he said he definitely would, and she said, "Oh, no no no. I'm not gonna legitimize those folks."

Well, if you would just check the record, as recently as April in Iowa, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton castigated President Bush by saying she thought it would be a, quote, "terrible mistake" to announce that you wouldn't talk to bad guys.

JANSING: See, that's why you're important. Fact-checker Jim Warren, among his many other duties.

WARREN: So anachronistic, but I try.

Byron York, White House correspondent for the conservative National Review, responded to questions posed by National Review Online readers about Clinton's July 23 comments, writing, "Is that a flip-flop from what she said in April? I don't see it."

From the National Review Online blog The Corner:

Far be it for me to be Sen. Clinton's chief defender, but the issue last night was whether the president himself, or herself, would meet, "separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration ... with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea."

[...]

Is that a flip-flop from what she said in April? I don't see it.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC, The Drudge Report
Person
Matt Drudge, Jim Warren
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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