Amid rumors of Clinton nomination, Matthews brings back '90s circus

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

On Hardball, Chris Matthews used reports that President-elect Barack Obama might nominate Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state to "rehash" 1990s-era smears and scandals involving the Clintons. Matthews invoked Linda Tripp and hosted Rep. Dan Burton, whom Matthews asked to discuss the false accusation that Vince Foster was murdered, and Christopher Hitchens.

On the November 14 and 17 editions of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews used reports that President-elect Barack Obama might nominate Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state to "rehash" 1990s-era smears and scandals involving the Clintons. For instance, Matthews invoked Linda Tripp, who was a central figure in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and hosted Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), whom Matthews asked to discuss the false accusation -- previously advanced by Burton -- that White House aide Vince Foster was murdered. Matthews also hosted Vanity Fair's Christopher Hitchens, who has a history of smearing the Clintons, including asserting that by "welling up," Hillary Clinton looked "sort of alternately soppy and bitchy."

On the November 17 edition of Hardball, Matthews said, "Leading off tonight: When I first heard that the president-elect could pick Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, my impulse was trouble. The Clintons are drama. They have ambition and they also have a story to tell, and to be just by themselves. Why, I asked, does Obama -- who has the nickname 'No drama Obama' -- want to marry himself to drama?"

Burton was among the guests Matthews hosted to discuss the "varied consequences" of Obama's potentially nominating Clinton. Matthews began his interview with Burton by stating: "Congressman Burton, you're no fans of the Clinton. [sic] In fact, I think you think the Clintons had something to do with killing Vince Foster. What do you say?" After Burton declined to comment, Matthews repeatedly pressed him to "rehash" the topic. According to The Washington Post, Burton "was so convinced that Vincent Foster was murdered that he launched a private investigation and fired a gun in his back yard in an enactment of his theory that the White House aide was shot." Time magazine and Salon.com have published similar accounts of Burton's attempts to push the thoroughly refuted theory that Foster was murdered.

Later in the November 17 program, Matthews hosted Hitchens, who said of Clinton:

This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consists of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia. This is the woman who, with her husband, have so many connections -- fundraising connections overseas, Indonesia, China. Just look up the Senate report on their fundraising activities, the people they have pardoned, the amazing brothers of hers who nearly got the -- was it the nut monopoly in Kazakhstan or something farcical like that. Just look it up. It's a ludicrous embarrassment for the president and for the country.

During the conversation, Time's Peter Beinart said, "I really don't think most people, besides Chris, with all due respect, are really interested in rehashing all of the scandals of the 1990s," to which Matthews replied: "No, no. It's a question of whether they're all coming back, sir. That's the question. Rehashing or reliving is a bigger question. Do you want to relive them all?"

In addition to his "alternately soppy and bitchy" comment, Hitchens has previously compared the Clintons to zombies, vampires, and werewolves and has questioned Hillary Clinton's faith, falsely claiming that "[s]he has never particularly mentioned it before." On November 18, MSNBC repeatedly aired footage of Hitchens attacking Clinton the night before, including an MSNBC Live segment anchored by David Shuster.

After discussing Clinton's potential nomination at length during the November 14 edition of Hardball, Matthews said, "[H]ere's a blast from the past. Someone tracked down Linda Tripp -- remember her? She's the woman who outed Monica [Lewinsky] and her strange deal with a U.S. president -- to find out what Linda Tripp thinks about the new Democratic president. Tripp says, quote, 'Obama possesses an instantly recognizable purity of soul that brought quite unimaginable and long-awaited magic to the country, transforming red and blue states, quite literally, into the color purple.' Actually, I like what she had to say, especially her read on Obama's 'purity of soul.' "

As Media Matters for America noted, on November 14, Matthews also hosted MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, who said that if Clinton becomes secretary of state, she will run a "parallel government," and Jennifer Donahue, political director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, who suggested Clinton would try to "create only one term for Barack Obama."

From the November 14 broadcast of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Anyway, next: here's a blast from the past. Someone tracked down Linda Tripp -- remember her? She's the woman who outed Monica [Lewinsky] and her strange deal with a U.S. president -- to find out what Linda Tripp thinks about the new Democratic president.

Tripp says, quote, "Obama possesses an instantly recognizable purity of soul that brought quite unimaginable and long-awaited magic to the country, transforming red and blue states, quite literally, into the color purple."

Actually, I like what she had to say, especially her read on Obama's "purity of soul."

Time for the "Big Number" tonight: Secretary of State or not, the Clinton connection certainly doesn't seem to be a deal-breaker. According to the Politico, 31 of the 47 people named to transition jobs by Obama have ties to the Bill Clinton administration. The gang's all here, at least for the transition. Thirty-one Clinton associates have been called into at least temporary service by Team Obama -- tonight's "Big Number."

From the November 17 broadcast of Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews. Welcome to Hardball tonight from Los Angeles. Leading off tonight: When I first heard that the president-elect could pick Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, my impulse was trouble. The Clintons are drama. They have ambition and they also have a story to tell, and to be just by themselves. Why, I asked, does Obama -- who has the nickname "No drama Obama" -- want to marry himself to drama?

My second thought was that Hillary Clinton really did her best for the Obama effort, that she really did give an extraordinary speech in Denver, that her very soul seemed to be, at the end, for his actual election. Finally, I thought, Obama really does want to be Abraham Lincoln and assemble a team of rivals.

Last night on 60 Minutes, Barack Obama was asked if Hillary was on his short list for secretary of state.

OBAMA [video clip]: She is somebody who I've needed advice and counsel from. She is one of the most thoughtful public officials that we have. Beyond that, you're not getting anything out of me.

MATTHEWS: Not much of a clue there. Much more on the possible pick of Hillary Clinton for secretary of state and all its varied consequences, in a minute.

[...]

MATTHEWS: Congressman Burton, you're no fans of the Clinton. In fact, I think you think the Clintons had something to do with killing Vince Foster. What do you say?

REP. DAN BURTON (R-IN): Well, I'm not gonna go back and rehash that again, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, rehash it for a minute, sir. You do --

BURTON: No, no, no.

MATTHEWS: -- believe they had something to do with it.

BURTON: No, I'll be glad to answer questions from you about --

MATTHEWS: Well, it does give me a sense --

BURTON: -- how tough she is and --

MATTHEWS: -- of what you think of the Clintons, that you won't even say they're free of a murder charge. Won't you do that at least?

BURTON: Chris, I know you -- you want me to be controversial. Let me just say, she's a very talented woman.

BURTON: No, you're the controversy, sir. Let me ask you this: Do you believe the Clintons are innocent of any foul play with regard to the death of Vince Foster? Let's start from there and we'll move on to your bona fides in this topic.

BURTON: Chris, you heard what I said. I'm not gonna go back and cover that ground again.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we just did.

[...]

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Congressman -- Congressman Burton, should Bill Clinton be allowed to take money in the world from any source while his wife's secretary of state?

BURTON: I don't think there's any rule that I know of that would prohibit him from giving speeches --

MATTHEWS: You just can't --

BURTON: -- around the world and --

MATTHEWS: -- you're -- this is entrapment. You guys, like [former Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger and [Sen.] Jon Kyl [R-AZ], can't wait for the Clintons to come aboard so they'll be pot shots. You'll be shooting at them like cantaloupes. They will be your target zone again. You can't wait, Congressman, to get them in the target zone, can you? Be honest.

BURTON: My -- our target zone will be --

MATTHEWS: You want them there.

BURTON: Our -- well, they were always entertaining. Let me just say this: Our target zone is lowering taxes and keeping spending down and getting the economy moving again. And as far as the Clintons concerned, if Barack Obama hires her to be his secretary of state, he's gonna have to deal with her, and we're going to have to deal with Barack Obama and his policies, Chris. He's going to --

MATTHEWS: What were you --

BURTON: -- be the boss.

MATTHEWS: What were you -- Congressman, what were you shooting in the backyard? Were they cantaloupes or pineapples? What were they, you were shooting? Is it something to do with the Vince Foster case?

BURTON: No, no. All right.

MATTHEWS: You were shooting at something.

BURTON: All right, Chris. I figured you'd want to go there again. I love you, man. I'm not gonna talk about that.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, I just wonder whether you're shooting fish in a barrel here. You can't wait to get the Clintons in that -- look at you. You're laughing your butt off. You can't wait to get the Clintons in the target zone.

[...]

MATTHEWS: What do you make of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Mr. Hitchens?

HITCHENS: Look, this is the woman who played the race card on Barack Obama. This is the woman who, if you were for change that you can believe in -- whichever change it was -- you were voting against. This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consists of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia.

This is the woman who, with her husband, have so many connections -- fundraising connections overseas, Indonesia, China. Just look up the Senate report on their fundraising activities, the people they have pardoned, the amazing brothers of hers who nearly got the -- was it the nut monopoly in Kazakhstan or something farcical like that. Just look it up. It's a ludicrous embarrassment for the president and for the country. But it should even be discussed?

MATTHEWS: Well, why is he -- why is he -- look, we all know that Barack Obama's got a lot of candlepower. He's a smart guy. He's politically adept. He won the presidential election as the first African-American.

HITCHENS: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: He's gone over hurdles nobody thought anybody could do. And, yet, here he is with his biggest news story since his election. Everybody's buzzing about it. Why would he let this toothpaste out of the tube if he's not gonna do this thing?

HITCHENS: Well, he -- it's clear from what we've can glean that it's -- the job is hers if she wants it.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

HITCHENS: So it's Clinton re-do, not just Rahm Emanuel. Whatever this is, it's not change.

[...]

HITCHENS: We'd also like a full accounting from all the Chinese and Indonesian witnesses, who were fugitives from justice rather than testifying in the last Clinton fundraising hearings.

MATTHEWS: Well, Marc Rich is still a problem.

HITCHENS: We need to know -- we need to know what happened to that money now.

BEINART: I really don't think most people, besides Chris, with all due respect, are really interested in rehashing all of the scandals of the 1990s.

MATTHEWS: No, no. It's a question of whether they're all coming back, sir. That's the question. Rehashing or reliving is a bigger question. Do you want to relive them all?

HITCHENS: Yeah. And who owes who for what? We now need to know.

MATTHEWS: It's a good question.

From the 4 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on November 18:

SHUSTER: Julie [Menin, Women's Campaign Forum], I want to get your reaction in particular to something that Christopher Hitchens said on Hardball last Friday about Hillary Clinton. Watch.

HITCHENS [video clip]: This is the woman who played the race card on Barack Obama. This is the woman who, if you were for change that you can believe in -- whichever change it was -- you were voting against. This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consists of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia.

SHUSTER: He goes on to say that Hillary Clinton's appointment would be a "ludicrous embarrassment." Your reaction?

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Past Politicians, 2008 Elections
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