Why does MSNBC continue to invite on Christopher Hitchens to bash Hillary Clinton?

››› ››› BRIAN FREDERICK & MEREDITH ADAMS

MSNBC again hosted commentator and author Christopher Hitchens, who again attacked Sen. Hillary Clinton, President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of state. Hitchens said Clinton "only cares about one thing, namely herself and her own prospects," adding, "After that, her impeached, disbarred husband and the many undeclared interests of his and hers that they nurture for the future."

During the December 1 edition of Hardball, MSNBC again hosted commentator and author Christopher Hitchens, who again attacked Sen. Hillary Clinton, President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of state. Hitchens said Clinton "only cares about one thing, namely herself and her own prospects." He continued: "After that, her impeached, disbarred husband and the many undeclared interests of his and hers that they nurture for the future. Barack Obama has picked someone who will always be thinking about something else as well as her job."

Salon.com editor-in-chief Joan Walsh also appeared as a panelist and repeatedly called Hitchens' assertions "ridiculous." She said of Clinton's nomination, as well as the other nominations announced the same day, "I think this is a terrific appointment. I think it's a terrific set of appointments."

Later in the segment, referring to economic conditions and expected attacks by conservatives, Matthews asked Hitchens if Obama picked Clinton because he "need[s] the Democratic Party united to weather that storm." Hitchens replied: "Well, whatever the answer to that question may be, it still divides us as between those of us who think that a job must be found for Hillary Clinton, that the country would be somehow disgraced if she wasn't in an important position, and those of us who could do without her. And neither answer to that question is going to make any difference at all to where the market performs." Walsh responded to Hitchens by asserting, "[T]hat second group is a very small group, a group of eccentric Clinton haters who have made a career out of trashing the Clintons. It's a small group. It's a small group, it's not -- it's not an important group in American domestic or foreign policy." Hitchens then asked, "Which group are you talking about?" Walsh replied, "The group of people who would rather see Hillary Clinton off the world stage. I don't think Barack Obama was thinking about that at all because that group of people is eccentric, they are devoted to looking at everything the Clintons do in the worst possible light."

Toward the end of the segment, Hitchens asserted, "What you want, as president, is to know your secretary of state spends all her time working to make sure that your policies stick. With this woman, that can't be said. She's always thinking first about herself, second about her husband."

As Media Matters for America has documented, in the context of reports that Obama intended to nominate Clinton, Hitchens repeatedly attacked Clinton's foreign policy credentials during appearances on MSNBC:

  • On the November 18 edition of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Hitchens suggested that Clinton was not "respected in the Pentagon," despite ample evidence that Clinton "has gained a lot of respect among military leadership" and has "built relationships" with military leaders such as Gen. David H. Petraeus and Adm. William J. Fallon.
  • During the November 17 edition of Hardball, as well as the November 18 edition of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Hitchens revived his accusation, which he has yet to source, that Hillary Clinton blocked any action by the Clinton administration in war-torn Bosnia in 1993 because she didn't want it to interfere with passage of her health-care plan.

Further, as Media Matters has noted, MSNBC allowed Hitchens to attack Clinton during the presidential campaign.

  • During the April 5 edition of MSNBC's Tim Russert, Russert asked Hitchens if "we [are] seeing the gender card played" by Clinton in response to calls for her to drop out of the Democratic presidential primary race. Hitchens replied: "Oh, well, if you call it a card. It's just another side of her terrible self-pity and self-righteousness. If it isn't one, it's the other." Hitchens further asserted that "if you think of women who really have been put upon by men and by male supremacy, like [late Pakistani leader] Benazir Bhutto, as well, you can't imagine her resorting to this kind of self-pity or suddenly decide to feminize herself in the most clichéd way, of such -- by welling up and sobbing." Hitchens later added: "I just think that if she knew how it made her look, sort of alternately soppy and bitchy, she'd stop it. But she can't help herself, can she? She just can't."
  • During the September 12, 2007, edition of Morning Joe, Hitchens asserted: "The Democratic candidates are all pretending to be as pious as they possibly can be. You see Mrs. Clinton, looking like the dog being washed, and talking about how her faith got her through the impeachment crisis with her husband." After host Joe Scarborough asked him whether he thought that "Hillary Clinton is pretending to be religious," Hitchens replied: "It can't be that she suddenly decides that she's a person of faith. She has never particularly mentioned it before." Hitchens claimed that Clinton was feigning faith in order to "play to what are called the 'values voters.' " He concluded: "[A]s with everything Mrs. Clinton does, you can see the machinery working, you can see the wheels turning inside her head as she makes her maneuvers." In fact, contrary to Hitchens' claim that she has only recently begun asserting that she is a person of faith as part of her campaign for president, Clinton has publicly discussed her faith for years.

From the December 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

CHRIS MATTHEWS (host): But first, President-elect Obama announced his national security team today with Senator Hillary Clinton as his choice for secretary of state. Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair, and Joan Walsh is editor-in-chief of Salon. I want to ask you both about my theory, which is Barack Obama knows he's going to change foreign policy, he's going to take it a notch or two to the left. He needs people a notch or two to the right to cover for him. That explains General James Jones as his national security adviser, Senator Hillary Cinton as his secretary of state, and who else? Robert Gates, the holdover secretary of defense in that same position. Your thoughts, Christopher?

HITCHENS: Well, I think you have the left-right bit wrong. I mean, he -- General Petraeus isn't a right-winger. He's the guy who's defending secular democracy in Iraq. And I think it's tolerably well-known that he hoped very much for an extension for Gates. Susan Rice, who I think should have been nominated for secretary of state -- really do think should have been -- has a long track record of arguing for political and humanitarian interventionism of the sort many of us have advocated in Darfur, in Rwanda --

MATTHEWS: But not in Iraq.

HITCHENS: Not in Iraq, no.

MATTHEWS: Why are you arguing over nomenclature when I make a simple fact, Christopher, that Hillary Clinton was a notch to the right of Barack Obama during the campaign with regard to her position on Iraq and to some extent --

WALSH: A notch --

MATTHEWS: -- with regard with Iran? Why do you not -- why do you challenge that?

HITCHENS: I was hoping you could ask, was Hillary Clinton -- is essentially in this argument, nonpolitical. She only cares about one thing, namely herself and her own prospects, and after that, her impeached, disbarred husband and the many undeclared interests of his and hers that they nurture for the future. Barack Obama has picked someone who will always be thinking about something else as well as her job. That's not a left-or-right question.

[...]

WALSH: I think this is a terrific appointment. I think it's a terrific set of appointments. I'd like to just talk about the whole team up there, Chris. And I'm going to agree with Christopher on one point, which is I'm not sure that the left-right lens is exactly the best lens for analyzing what this team is about. I saw a team of tremendous diversity, not in any kind of cheesy, politically correct way but in terms of ideology, in terms of -- you've got Republicans up there, age, gender, regional diversity as well as race, three African-Americans. That's historic. That's impressive. And then I also saw a team that will clash, that will disagree, and a man of tremendous self-confidence who said, "The buck stops with me. I want clashing ideas. I want differences. And then I'm going to make the decision." So, I think it's a day that people can feel there's going to be a balance -- those people on that stage believe in America's military power, but they also believe in diplomacy, and I think you're going to see a rounding back to -- a balance between those two ways that we operate in the world that should make Americans feel safer.

[...]

MATTHEWS: Christopher and Joan, what do you make of his commitment -- his renewed commitment today, president-elect Obama, to removing our combat troops from Iraq in 16 months, Christopher?

HITCHENS: Well, he's been rescued by the Iraqi parliament. I mean, he's probably the luckiest politician one's ever seen since Kennedy in any case, but real the luck is that the Iraqis are demanding roughly what he's been asking for for a long time, which is a deadline and a date certain.

WALSH: Right.

HITCHENS: The actual date doesn't matter once you start talking about that. Can I just add, though, that I thought Obama's answer just there was incredibly cheap and evasive. I mean, he was right the first time to say this woman doesn't, in fact, have any foreign policy experience. And he could have added -- which also came up in the campaign -- that the experience she has claimed, such as in Bosnia, was fake, was fabricated. And he could also have added that she, like his other nominee for the attorney generalship, main qualification in politics is being a friend of Marc Rich, which I don't think has changed. Now, I do believe --

MATTHEWS: Well, why do you think he made this -- Christopher --

WALSH: That's a ridiculous thing to say.

HITCHENS: There's no change.

WALSH: How is that a main qualification?

HITCHENS: I don't know. Couldn't we have --

MATTHEWS: You make it sound like he's not -- he hasn't got his head together. Why would he make this appointment the most profound appointment so far --

HITCHENS: The best-known -- the best-known -- the best-known decision, the best known - the best-known thing Mr. Holder ever did as a government lawyer, shall we just say, and the biggest intervention in foreign policy made by Mrs. Clinton were both in -- to try and get this crook off in exchange for favors we don't even want to think about.

MATTHEWS: Well, we don't know what they are, do we?

WALSH: I think that's a ridiculous thing to say.

HITCHENS: Call it what you like. It's not change. It's a reminder --

MATTHEWS: Why do you -- Christopher --

HITCHENS: -- of the more sordid -- the more sordid elements of the Clinton era, which was not an era of foreign policy triumph.

MATTHEWS: What's the sordid or any motive behind this appointment then, Christopher?

HITCHENS: I didn't say this is a sordidly motivated act.

MATTHEWS: Well, what is -- what is it?

HITCHENS: I just -- I just think it's very disappointing for those who were hoping for a foreign policy change.

MATTHEWS: Well, what's the motive behind it? What's the motive?

HITCHENS: If you wanted to see foreign policy change, you should have -- you should -- consensual, I suppose. It's party unity, that sort of thing. Probably a gesture to NOW, that no doubt is involved, and so forth. Nonetheless, it's a terrible missed opportunity. Susan Rice would have made a very good appointment, safe to say. You'd have known where she stood, a person who has always approached foreign policy as a matter of principle who doesn't carry any baggage, who hasn't been a servant to special interests, is given a relatively unimportant job -- it's a major job, of course [untelligible] --

WALSH: It's a major job. It's a major job. Susan's a terrific person. She's a friend of mine.

HITCHENS: Hillary Clinton is not qualified in any way to be secretary of state --

MATTHEWS: OK, let me -- Joan --

HITCHENS: -- and she doesn't have any interests but herself and her husband --

WALSH: I think that's absolutely ridiculous.

[...]

MATTHEWS: Christopher, I want to go back to your point that this is a political move by Barack Obama, naming Senator Clinton to be secretary of state, apart from foreign policy. He must know and you all know -- certainly Joan knows, and you and I and Christopher know -- that we're facing a bad couple of years of economic history coming at us, maybe a lot more than two bad years. Not just a deep recession but a prolonged, perhaps something approaching a depression. It could be, does he need the Democratic Party united to weather that storm? Because he's going to get hit like hell by the conservatives and Republicans within about three months.

HITCHENS: Well, whatever the answer to that question may be, it still divides us as between those of us who think that a job must be found for Hillary Clinton, that the country would be somehow disgraced if she wasn't in an important position, and those of us who could do without her. And neither answer to that question is going to make any difference at all to where the market performs. However --

WALSH: But that second group is a very small group --

HITCHENS: -- the president -- the president -- it doesn't -- it doesn't help --

WALSH: -- a group of eccentric Clinton haters who have made a career out of trashing the Clintons. It's a small group, it's not -- it's not an important group in American domestic or foreign policy. And I don't think --

HITCHENS: Which group are you talking about?

WALSH: The group of people who would rather see Hillary Clinton off the world stage. I don't think Barack Obama was thinking about that at all because that group of people is eccentric, they are devoted to looking at everything the Clintons do in the worst possible light. And he's trying to solve problems. And, to you, Chris, I don't think it was done with domestic politics and --

HITCHENS: Christopher.

WALSH: No, I'm sorry, I'm talking to Chris. It's tough here, Christopher, I did call you Christopher.

MATTHEWS: Well, no, I'm looking that the 18 million -- look, I'm looking at the 18 million that voted for her and thinking that if he's looking at Lincoln as a role model, he clearly is looking at bringing in that constituency, not just Senator Clinton, or former President Clinton, but the 18 million working people that voted for him.

WALSH: But Chris --

MATTHEWS: I'm just thinking he might be a politician.

WALSH: Sure.

MATTHEWS: That's not a knock.

WALSH: But quite honestly, he brought them in -- no, and I know you don't mean it as a knock, at all. But he brought those people in on November 4th. For all that you and I spent a year talking every week about what was going to happen to those Clinton voters, and even I had some, you know, some weeks where I worried about it. The fact is, he brought those people in. He's not worried about that. I genuinely think if he's got an eye toward politics, it's global politics. And he wants the strength --

HITCHENS: Yes.

WALSH: -- of the Clinton name, the Clinton brand.

MATTHEWS: OK, let's -- Christopher --

HITCHENS: That's what the secretary -- that's what the secretary of state -- that's what the secretary of state is for. And what you want as president --

WALSH: Right.

HITCHENS: -- is to know your secretary of state spends all her time working to make sure that your policies stick. With this woman, that can't be said. She's always thinking first about herself, second about her husband.

MATTHEWS: What about her husband? [unintelligible]

WALSH: Well, I trust Barack Obama's opinion more than yours.

MATTHEWS: Christopher, last question here --

HITCHENS: -- [unintelligible] always. That's never changed -- that's never changed and it's never going to, so he would have [inaudible], nor would anyone.

WALSH: That's your opinion, Christopher.

HITCHENS: Well, guess what? Guess who's saying it? That's a very clever thing to say. Shall I ask, would you prefer I uttered your opinion? What a fatuous remark.

MATTHEWS: Christopher -- let me ask you, Christopher, let's raise this --

WALSH: You know, I prefer Barack Obama's opinion. Barack Obama is the supremely qualified person whose opinion matters.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Christopher Hitchens
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, Hillary Clinton
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