Chris Matthews introduced the "Hot Topic" for the December 20 edition of Hardball: "Is the Hillary Clinton campaign trying to obliterate [Sen. Barack] Obama's candidacy? Not just beat it, but strangle it in the crib before there's any chance he catches on?" Matthews used imagery of Clinton murdering an infant Obama several times during the show, including saying that "the goal is to smother the young senator in his crib."
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During the December 20 edition of MSNBC's Hardball host Chris Matthews introduced as the "Hot Topic" for that night's show -- "Is the [Sen.] Hillary Clinton [D-NY] campaign trying to obliterate [Sen. Barack] Obama's [D-IL] candidacy? Not just beat it, but strangle it in the crib before there's any chance he catches on?" Matthews then asserted there were "[m]ore efforts today by the Clinton people to smother the Barack Obama campaign in its crib" and went on to say, "The picture is not pretty, but it could very well be deadly. The goal is to smother the young senator in his crib." In fact, during the one-hour show, Matthews invoked imagery of Clinton murdering an infant Obama on four occasions, noting in a later discussion, "My conjecture here, which I opened the show with, was the Clintons believe they have to stop Obama early. They want sudden infant crib death, is what they want. They want this guy to die before Iowa," and asking Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, "Everybody's got a job in mind [in a Hillary Clinton administration], and they're willing to put the knife in this guy in the crib to get that job. Is that too strong a language?" Scarborough responded, "No, it's not."
Matthews later suggested that Clinton's surrogates were "attacking Obama, so that she gets the knife into Obama without her fingerprints on it," and he asked, "Is this an attempt to basically get a preliminary shot against this guy? Kill him early. Before Christmas." NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell responded, "Kneecap him, I mean, if you have to." He then asked Mitchell "[W]ill she continue to have surrogates drop these little poison pills in the public reservoir of public opinion?" Mitchell replied by asserting: "Absolutely." Matthews then described the "poisons" he associated with Clinton's surrogates: "Hussein, Muslim, blah, blah, blah, coke, all kinds of stuff. Will they continue to drop these poisons in the water?" He concluded by saying, "She needs Luca Brasi to do this stuff for her," referring to a Mafia enforcer in the Mario Puzo novel The Godfather.
As Media Matters for America has documented, media figures frequently portray the Clintons and their staff as ruthless and even violent.
From the December 20 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews. The "Hot Topic" tonight: Is the Hillary Clinton campaign trying to obliterate Obama's candidacy? Not just beat it but strangle it in the crib before there's any chance he catches on? That's our "Hot Topic" tonight.
On the Republican side, thrice-married Giuliani loses his once commanding lead nationally, and the Reverend Huckabee is ascending. And speaking of Huckabee, is he the affable Midwestern pastor, or is there a reason to be afraid of his candidacy? So who's afraid of Mike Huckabee? We'll debate that tonight.
And we'll ask you -- we'll give you, rather, our daily "Political Fix" with Joe Scarborough, Andrea Mitchell and John Harwood.
But first, the "Hot Topic." More efforts today by the Clinton people to smother the Barack Obama campaign in its crib, as I said. One, a letter attacking Obama's health care plan pretending to come from John Edwards but actually set up by a pro-Clinton union. Two, the launching of two websites specifically targeting and attacking Barack. Suddenly, the campaign for president on the Democratic side is dominated by this dark struggle to hold power.
The Clintons -- Hillary, Bill, the whole universe of advisers and backers known as Hillary-land -- have targeted its enemy. The Clinton order comfortable at the center of Democratic power for a full generation is on the attack. The target: the junior senator from Illinois who dares to challenge the former first lady for commander-in-chief. The weapons being wielded against him are the wide-ranging regiments of Clinton people.
A Clinton surrogate attacks Barack for saying he'd like to be president back when he was in kindergarten. In New Hampshire, the husband of a former governor talks up what Republicans would do with Barack's admission of using drugs as a teenager. A former senator from Nebraska talks up Barack's middle name and the religion of his forebears, a comment for which he later apologized.
But the attacks refuse to stop. Keeping up the beat, a group of back-bench congresspeople held a press conference today -- actually, a conference on telephone to call reporters to attack Senator Obama for voting president -- present -- as a state legislator back in Springfield. A friendly labor union is now putting out an attack on Barack's health care plan, making it appear to be from John Edwards. And according to ABC's Jack Tayper [sic: Jake Tapper], the Clinton troops have now set up two different websites with the expressed mission of destroying Obama. Tapper says it's the first case, at least in this campaign, of a candidate setting up websites with the single purpose of attacking another candidate.
The picture is not pretty, but it could be very well be deadly. The goal is to smother the young senator in his crib. Whether it's right or wrong is, as in much of politics, a matter of how you look at it. A lot of true believers, the young and idealistic at heart, will find it -- let's agree on this thing -- dispiriting.
MATTHEWS: Is there a smart political tactic here, Mark [Green, president of Air America Radio]? You've been in some campaigns. You've won a lot of them. Is there a smart political tactic here -- if you're a Clintonite, saying, "Wait a minute, don't let this guy land on the beach"? It's like the Germans when they saw us coming in Normandy -- "Don't let them land on the beach because once they're on the beach, they're going to break out." Are the Clinton people afraid that if Barack does well in Iowa and New Hampshire, he will be unstoppable, therefore, they've got to throw every trash can they got at him right now?
GREEN: I agree with everything --
MATTHEWS: Is that the strategy?
ED SCHULTZ (liberal radio host): Absolutely.
GREEN: One second.
MATTHEWS: OK --
GREEN: I agree with everything you just said except for the word "trash." Ed, there's no serious evidence --
MATTHEWS: Trash can.
MATTHEWS:. Let's talk about this fight here. My conjecture here, which I opened the show with, was the Clintons believe they've got to stop Obama early. They want sudden infant crib death, is what they want. They want this guy to die before Iowa. And they are unleashing everybody they've got, everybody who wants -- every meal ticket they've got, everybody that wants to be a cabinet member, a VP, a staffer. They're all out there -- [former Sen.] Bob Kerrey [D-NE], [former Iowa governor Tom] Vilsack, [former Clinton campaign New Hampshire co-chairman] Billy Shaheen, [Clinton campaign strategist] Mark Penn, [Clinton campaign spokesman] Phil Singer.
Everybody's got a job in mind, and they're willing to put the knife in this guy in the crib to get that job. Is that too strong a language, Joe Scarborough?
JOE SCARBOROUGH (MSNBC anchor): No, it's not, because if she wins Iowa, she walks toward the nomination. The problem is, they're trying too hard. I can't help but go back -- and I know you were there, too, Chris -- in 2004 in Iowa, and you had all these people shipped in from out of state and it ended up making the Iowans just roll their eyes and toss Howard Dean to the side and go with John Kerry.
No, I think actually the person who is damaged goods right now is Hillary Clinton. If you look at the latest NBC poll, which shows that Obama does much better in general election match-ups, and Hillary's negatives are above her positives now.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to the question of tactics here. She is using things like having AFSCME -- the union, the federal, the state and county employees -- put out a letter that looked like it came from John Edwards, apparently, attacking Obama, so that she gets the knife into Obama without her fingerprints on it.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Andrea, again, about this way this campaign has to be run. The traditional way of an incumbent to defeat a challenger, in any congressional race we've ever covered or seen, you try to, first of all, check their petitions and make sure there's no names wrong, use every trick in the book to get them out of the race. Is this an attempt to basically get a preliminary shot against this guy? Kill him early. Before Christmas.
MITCHELL: Kneecap him, I mean, if you have to. The whole point is to get him out by Iowa so that she doesn't have to face him in New Hampshire, because what she's seeing is that her New Hampshire firewall, what was to be the firewall, has eroded. And that depending on the poll, they're either dead even -- he's ahead in some, she's ahead in others. So she no longer can count on New Hampshire, where the Clintons have a record.
MATTHEWS: Will she continue -- Andrea, you first. Will she continue to have surrogates drop these little poison pills in the public reservoir of public opinion?
MATTHEWS: Hussein, Muslim, blah, blah, blah, coke, all kinds of stuff. Will they continue to drop these poisons in the water?
MITCHELL: I think it will continue to be this kind of tough, nasty campaign. The difference is that it was a big mistake for her to do some of the negative stuff. She is going to be all warm and fuzzy.
MATTHEWS: She needs Luca Brasi to do this stuff for her.