On The Situation Room, Carl Bernstein accused Hillary Clinton of "dissembling" in her response to a question during an October 30 Democratic presidential candidate debate regarding the release of records from Bill Clinton's presidency, asserting that her response was "the opening" the other "candidates have been looking for." But Bernstein didn't note that the question, by moderator Tim Russert, was based on a falsehood. Bernstein has previously claimed that Hillary Clinton was "disingenuous" in her answer to the question.
On the December 3 edition of CNN's Situation Room, CNN political commentator Carl Bernstein responded to CNN commentator Jack Cafferty's question -- "[W]hat led to the problem in the Clinton campaign?" -- by citing a question by NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) during the October 30 Democratic presidential candidate debate about "the records in Arkansas." Specifically, Russert asked Clinton during the debate: "[T]here was a letter written by President Clinton specifically asking that any communication between you and the president not be made available to the public until 2012. Would you lift that ban?" In fact, President Clinton's letter did not ask that such communications "not be made available" but, rather, listed them as documents to be "considered for withholding." Bernstein accused Clinton of "dissembling" without noting that Russert's question was based on a falsehood, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted (here, here, here, and here). Bernstein asserted that her response to the question was "the opening" the other "candidates have been looking for."
This is not the first time Bernstein has been critical of Clinton's response to Russert's question while failing to note that the question was based a falsehood. As Media Matters of America documented, Bernstein said on the November 2 broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition that Clinton was "disingenuous" in responding that "it's all up to the archives."
From the December 3 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BERNSTEIN: I don't think Obama needs the advice of Karl Rove. Right now, the real news in Iowa is that Hillary Clinton and her campaign are in terrible trouble. They know it. They're looking for a magic bullet. They're trying to get the endorsement of the Des Moines Register or some of its columnists. They need something that's going to throw some change their way into this campaign because they know they're sinking in the polls and they have a real weakness in terms of her being perceived by voters as being less than truthful and trustworthy.
CAFFERTY: I just wonder, Carl, what led to the problem in the Clinton campaign? We were getting ready for the coronation here.
BERNSTEIN: Well, I'd say part of it has to do with the media, that the media was ready for the coronation. But also, the candidates got rough on Hillary Clinton at the debate several weeks ago in Philadelphia. And Tim Russert came up with this question about the records in Arkansas. And from there on in, it was about dissembling. And that's the opening I think these candidates have been looking for. And it registered with a lot of voters.
From the November 2 broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition:
BERNSTEIN: Now she's got herself in the position where she has been apparently, again, disingenuous by saying, "Oh, well, it's all up to the archives." It's not all up to the archives. It's up to her husband. I would think that she certainly has the wherewithal to say, "Hey, Bill, why don't we put these records out there?"
MARA LIASSON (NPR political correspondent): In fact, the National Archives is ready to release 26,000 pages of Bill Clinton's records, but it's waiting for the green light from Clinton's lawyer, Bruce Lindsey, who has not finished his review of the papers. So the delay is not, as Senator Clinton claimed on Tuesday, completely beyond her control.
Clinton's opponents were quick to predict that the flap over the archives would dent her claim to electability. They say it was deja vu all over again, recalling fights during the Clinton administration over access to documents like the couple's tax records or Mrs. Clinton's law firm billing records. As if on cue, The Wall Street Journal editorial page wrote that her answers in the debate were, quote, "Clintonesque." Carl Bernstein doesn't think we've heard the last of this particular issue.
BERNSTEIN: In that debate the other night, the issue was finally raised: Hey, what do we want? Do we want another president that is not candid, that is not committed to openness? Do we really want another one after the Bush presidency? And that is what's going to haunt her, I suspect, through this campaign, and it has changed the dynamic.
LIASSON: It changed the dynamic from what was looking like a preordained coronation to a vigorous fight for the nomination. The debate on Tuesday was the first time that Clinton's Democratic rivals were able to shine a spotlight on some of the weaknesses of a candidate who, until now, has been an unscathed front-runner.