On MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) "looked more witchy" because she criticized the Bush administration's homeland security spending priorities on July 8, a day after the London bombings.
Matthews and his guests, New York Post Washington bureau chief Deborah Orin and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., were initially discussing Clinton's July 10 comment that "I sometimes feel that Alfred E. Neuman is in charge in Washington," a reference to the Mad magazine mascot and his slogan, "What, me worry?" Discussing those comments, Matthews asked Orin, "Why is she [Clinton] putting the shiv in the very week, weekend and weekday, right now, Monday, when the people are rallying around the president because of the latest terrorism?"
Later, Orin called the timing of Clinton's homeland security criticisms "tone-deaf" because July 8 was "not the day to immediately whack the president," at which point Matthews chimed in: "It's a fact. You look more witchy when you're doing it like this."
From the July 11 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: E.J., let me ask you this. I know this is red meat for you, Deborah. You write for the New York Post. Hillary Clinton yesterday in Aspen, Colorado, at a think-tank thing -- I was at part of it last week -- she came out and said that the president is Alfred E. Neuman, the guy in Mad comics, the idiot guy on the front page of the magazine for all those years, Mad comics, and all he can say is, "What, me worry?" She's apparently been using this as her stock and trade the last week on terrorism.
ORIN: I don't get it. I honestly don't get it. And she is starting to get some firing back. I mean, this is not exactly appropriate stuff --
MATTHEWS: Why is she putting the shiv in the very week, weekend and weekday, right now, Monday, when the people are rallying around the president because of the latest terrorism?
ORIN: I don't know the answer to that. I think it is dumb. She is usually quite smart. And I think it's dumb.
MATTHEWS: OK. Why did she accuse the president of -- here's a smarter one, E.J. She accused the president last Friday of cutting $50 million from subway security. Right at the moment the attack on the subways in England, the underground, she's whacking the president for cutting defense money, security money for our own subways.
DIONNE: And that's true. I talked last Friday to Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican of Maine, the chair of the Homeland Security Committee. She didn't attack the president, but she made the same point, that we have underinvested in mass transit security. We've underinvested in port security. I think this is going to be a big issue in the coming days.
So, I think it is a perfectly legitimate thing to say. Are we spending our homeland security money right? Are we safer now than we were a year ago?
MATTHEWS: And she is safe being this anti-Bush?
DIONNE: She also said, like everybody else, that, of course, our hearts go out to the people in London. You ought to be able to do a couple of things at the same time.
MATTHEWS: You think you can set two different tones at the same time, national solidarity and whack the president in the kneecaps the same day?
DIONNE: Well, no, national solidarity and where do we go from here? How do we protect ourselves?
ORIN: I agree with you, Chris, and I disagree with E.J. I think that was not -- it was tone-deaf. It was a day of tragedy in London. And that's not the day to immediately whack the president, you know, "And if it happens here, it will be your fault" sort of thing.
MATTHEWS: I hate to say this. I'm not going to hate to say it. It's a fact. You look more witchy when you're doing it like this.
Let me ask you about this argument.
DIONNE: By the way, [Sen.] Chuck Schumer [D-NY] was there with her saying --
MATTHEWS: I know. OK. Well --
DIONNE: -- there's a real problem with mass transit and security. And we don't call him a witch.
MATTHEWS: Funny we only heard one of them.