Wishfully thinking Hillary Clinton may have an easier than expected path to the White House, this morning's Today show asked are: "Conservatives Softening On Hillary?" Clearly lifting generously from David Kirkpatrick’s New York Times story, NBC's David Gregory examined the theory that "Clinton-haters are mellowing." Leading off the piece Gregory portrayed those who opposed the Clintons during the '90s in the kookiest light possible as he cast them as mere, "attention-seekers" and then ran a clip of the infamous Clinton Chronicles video. After the clip, Gregory ran a soundbite from a clearly bored with the topic- Christopher Ruddy, as he asserted that among conservatives: "There's a view now that Bill Clinton was not only not so bad, he was pretty good," and that they "don't have the same level of anger towards her that they once had towards him."
Gregory also quoted unnamed conservatives: "Some conservatives credit Mrs. Clinton for working to shed her liberal image dating back to her push for universal health care. They also note her stand on the Iraq war which has made her a target for liberals, not conservatives. Her aides insist something else is going on." Gregory then threw it to Clinton aide Howard Wolfson to brag that the Clinton years were "a whole lot better" than the Bush years.
Eventually, at the end of the piece, Gregory did air a more accurate reflection of conservative sentiment towards Hillary. NBC's new political director Chuck Todd noted that "anti-Hillary fervor is hibernating," and conservative fundraiser Richard Viguerie claimed a Hillary candidacy "would focus our mind and attention."
The following is a complete transcript of the segment as it occurred during the 7am half-hour on the February 20th, Today show:
Meredith Vieira: "Let's turn to the race for the White House now. Senator Hillary Clinton has always been a favorite target of the right but now some prominent critics may be reconsidering. NBC's chief White House correspondent David Gregory takes a look. Good morning, David."
[On screen headline: "Decision 2008, Conservatives Softening On Hillary?"]
David Gregory: "Good morning, Meredith. Well opponents are counting on the idea that Hillary Rodham Clinton is too polarizing to be elected President but are the Clinton-haters mellowing? At the height of her husband's impeachment scandal Hillary Clinton labeled the movement aligned against him."
Hillary Clinton: "-is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for President."
Gregory: "That movement targeted both Clintons and included investigations and attention-seeking claims from corruption to murder. Some aired in films like The Clinton Chronicles."
Judge Jim Johnson, former Arkansas State Senator: "I've never felt that Clinton consciously or unconsciously was hemmed in with morality."
Gregory: "A lot of the money behind efforts to discredit the Clintons then came from Richard Mellon Scaife, the heir to the Mellon banking fortune. Chris Ruddy, who co-owns an online magazine with Scaife, Newsmax.com, says there has been a reappraisal of the Clinton years, particularly on domestic policy."
Christopher Ruddy: "There's a view now that Bill Clinton was not only not so bad, he was pretty good."
Gregory: "What does that mean for the potential second President Clinton?"
Ruddy: "They don't have the same level of anger towards her that they once had towards him."
Gregory: "Some conservatives credit Mrs. Clinton for working to shed her liberal image dating back to her push for universal health care. They also note her stand on the Iraq war which has made her a target for liberals, not conservatives. Her aides insist something else is going on."
Howard Wolfson, Clinton Communications Director: "The whole country's looked at the Clinton years, they've looked at the Bush years and they found the Clinton years to be a whole lot better in many areas."
Gregory: "But is Senator Clinton really any less polarizing than before?"
Chuck Todd: "I think the anti-Hillary fervor is hibernating and I think right now until the conservatives get their house in order and feel like they can be on offense again, right now they've been on defense and that's why it feels like it's gone."
Gregory: "Conservative fundraiser Richard Viguerie insists the vast right wing conspiracy lives."
Richard Viguerie: "The conservatives would see the possibility of a President Hillary Clinton as a impending hanging and it would definitely focus our mind and attention."
Gregory: "But the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency raises questions about what the former President would do. Some of his friends are speculating publicly, according to reports, that he, the former President Clinton could actually take over her Senate seat. We'll see, Meredith?"
Vieira: "Alright David Gregory, thanks a lot."