Chris Matthews Panel Stocked With Liberals Piles on Hillary

Hillary's horrible Halloween week from hell got worse Sunday when Chris Matthews and his liberal-stocked panel piled on the Junior Senator from New York fortifying the recent media meme that the Clinton in 2008 inevitability has suddenly become a tad less inevitable.

Adding insult to injury, when you're a Democrat candidate, and press members like Norah O'Donnell of MSNBC, Richard Stengel of Time, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker, and Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution think you've stumbled, you've stumbled.

In a truly surprising opening segment, Matthews set the almost impossible to believe discussion up:

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Turning point? Was this the week Hillary showed her weakness? Or if it doesn't kill her will it make her stronger? Obama time? Will the man from Illinois be the guy that rises after Hillary stumbles?


First up: The '08 campaign may be veering in a new direction. Hillary Clinton's been playing for the general election next year, but that strategy was hit hard this week by those trying to catch up. It seems the clear front-runner is just not being clear.

After showing a clip of Clinton at Tuesday's debate, Matthews played snippets of candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards going after her that evening, as well as a video of Walter Mondale telling the American people in 1984 that he was going to raise taxes.

Then, Matthews asked Stengel:

MATTHEWS: Richard, I don't know here, this is the toughest question of the campaign for Hillary Clinton and whether rivals benefited from. She's been very careful so far not to stake out positions. Is that smart or should she get more candid on the issues to win this thing?

RICHARD STENGEL, TIME MANAGING EDITOR: Chris, you and I have both been on both sides of this in politics and in the media. And there's a lot of hypocrisy here because we in the media ask for specificity. When you're in politics, specificity is a curse. If you are specific about things, you get attacked by your rivals, you get attacked by the media, it doesn't work. We say we want experience and we want candor, but the more experienced you are, the less candid you are and the more candid you are, the less experienced you are.

Imagine that. But that was only the beginning, for just listen to Matthews' next question, and the astonishing responses:

MATTHEWS: Cynthia, for months now the drum roll question, rather the verdict of the press has been, "What a flawless campaign this person has run. She's a pro. She makes no mistakes." Somehow this week did she cross the line from flawless to slick?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: I don't think that was her problem that she didn't give specific answers to questions about the AMT or Social Security. Where she stumbled was at the very end of the debate with her ridiculous answer on whether or not illegal immigrants in New York should be given driver's licenses. It's inexplicable for a woman who's run a campaign such as Senator Clinton has, which has been pitch-perfect until now.

Amazing. Matthews then played a clip of Clinton from the debate Tuesday "straddling both sides of the New York Governor's plan to give illegal immigrants driver's licenses," as well as her opponents attacking the blood visibly in the water as she gaffed.

Matthews continued:

MATTHEWS: Well, not only did she run into trouble trying to define her position - by the way, the next day she did clearly put out a statement saying she goes along with this idea of the governor's to give driver's licenses to people in the country illegally. But that night, her people, right after the debate, Norah, and you know this. You're at NBC. They immediately started blaming the moderators, especially Tim Russert. "It's the moderators that were ganging up on her." What's that about? Why would they do that?

NORAH O'DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, sometimes as what's important as what you say is how you spin a story. So, they were trying to blame the men for piling on. They put out a web video which made the cable networks play it over and over again to suggest that they were piling on her because she's a front runner rather than addressing the specifics of the charge that she is unspecific. There are real questions because there might be a narrative now that the opponents of Hillary Clinton are coalescing around. Remember the narrative "flip-flopper" that killed John Kerry? Obama and Edwards have now congealed along this narrative that she's not straight, she's not truthful, she's not honest. And all of those hit to the one weakness that Senator Clinton has had, and that is authenticity. And that's why that's a trouble for the campaign. While most people, the polls have shown, are willing to vote for Senator Clinton, one of her weaknesses is on authenticy.

MATTHEWS: Does everybody agree with that?

RYAN LIZZA, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I do agree with that. And the great irony of this exchange is that this is the one issue where she was actually being pretty honest. Look, the cheap political thing to do on this issue is just come out against it. She was actually trying to say, "You know what, the best thing is comprehensive immigration reform. Short of that, fine. If the Governor wants to do this, it's not the worst thing in the world." So, she had this sort of muddled but very responsible position, which it was not a cheap political position, but it played into the narrative that Norah was just talking about that Obama and Edwards were pushing.

STENGEL: It's a complex issue, and she dealt with it in a complex manner, and then we chided her for it. But what you're saying, Norah. But it reminds everybody of the Bill Clinton answer on the first Iraq war, "Yes, I was for it but I would have voted against it." That's the problem.

MATTHEWS: Or, "It depends what your definition of ‘is' is." That kind of squirming away from authenticity.

Incredible. But there's more:

TUCKER: But she contradicted herself right there as we just saw. It wasn't just that she tried to blame the moderators. When Chris Dodd called her on it, instead of sticking with a responsible answer, saying, "I'm not going to say anymore than that, I stand by what I said," she said, "No, Chris, I didn't say that."

Remarkable, wouldn't you agree? But, the hit's kept on coming as Matthews posed the following:

MATTHEWS: Well, here's the great question. The most prepared candidate we've seen in history. I mean, she really is prepared. She's so smart. She's so academic. She's so careful. Why wasn't she ready on this one?

O'DONNELL: Remember, her birthday party was Thursday night. She had no public schedule Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Bob Barnett who is doing her debate prep, he spent a lot of time doing debate prep. And what was most remarkable to me was the thought among some her supporters that she didn't study that question or would not have had an answer to that question. Number two, from the very beginning that her tone was off. She immediately appeared that she was playing from the defensive. She had that tone that she's been trying to slough off lately.

LIZZA: Well, she seemed worn down by the time this question came along. I mean, remember, this was late in the debate. Everyone was going after her for the entire debate. And she just seemed like she had had enough and she was worn down.

Yep. And, miraculously, Matthews saw this as a serious problem:

MATTHEWS: Cynthia, this whole thing raises the question about electability. Because if everybody is going to jump on Hillary like they did this week, including the press, including us here, about being consistent or inconsistent or flawed or whatever, doesn't this raise the issue of the electability of this person? If she's going to have a hard time over what was sort of a mediocre week at worst and everybody is going to jump on her like she blew it, is this a sign of things to come?

TUCKER: Well, of course it is. And, in a way, this debate was good practice for Senator Clinton because if in fact she becomes the Democratic nominee, the Republicans certainly aren't going to play by the Marquess of Queensberry rules, Chris. She's going to be roughed up much more by the Republican nominee, whoever he is. So, she needs to get used to being a punching bag, because she has much more of that to come. And it's already true that her negatives are high. So, that's already an issue for her.

MATTHEWS: What's going to hurt her most in Iowa, coming up in that first big test January 3? Is it this sense of trying to have it both ways on the war, have it both ways with the hawks and the doves, have it both ways on Iran, have it both ways on Social Security? Or, is it this problem, this particular problem of illegal immigrants in Iowa? I heard the other day that there's a growing concern among Democrats too many people coming into that state illegally.

LIZZA: Yeah, and the people that are most concerned about immigration in Iowa are the downscale Democrats. That's sort of her base right now. Those people are not with Obama and Edwards. So, I think she's a little bit more safer with those folks because they're her hardest core supporters right now. But it's authenticity. The entire frame that Edwards and Obama have decided on is authenticity. It's re-raising those doubts that she has done a great job of putting to rest all year long.

Maybe even more shocking, Matthews ended the segment with this almost astonishing observation:

I think she made her first general election mistake this week, because I think this illegal immigration issue's gonna hurt her in the general. People don't like the lawmakers bending the law for people that have broken the law to come in this country.

Wow. Do you get the feeling that Hillary and Company might have made a huge mistake blaming the debate moderators - especially Tim Russert - for her poor showing Tuesday evening?

Is this indeed a sign of things to come, or just a temporary bludgeoning by media members a tad bored with a campaign absent any entertaining bloodletting or juicy controversy, as well as defense of one of their own?

Campaigns & Elections 2008 Presidential Cynthia Tucker Richard Stengel Ryan Lizza
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