Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and David Gregory are among the best in class in asking intelligent, probing and penetrating questions, even of talking heads with whom they might agree.
But somehow, Hardball host Chris Matthews is morphing into the network’s Bill O’Reilly, trying to out-stink Mr. Orally (as Olbermann calls him). His dislike of Bill and Hillary Clinton was obvious throughout the primaries, whether through comments, questions or being written all over his potato-like face whenever they were a topic of discussion.
Now, he’s dragging himself back into the Fox-like dirt again with Sen. Clinton widely expected to be Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of State. As Media Matter’s Eric Boehlert and Jamison Foser write today, twice in the past week Matthews dragged up old stories about the Clinton’s that were thoroughly discredited 15 years ago, trying to egg guests into repeated old smears.
Without any logical segue, he brought up Linda Tripp – the woman who was tried in Maryland of secretly recording Monica Lewinsky’s confessions of having sex with Pres. Clinton. Matthews then went on to ask Rep. Dan Burton, a Republican congressman from Indiana who insisted for a time that Bill and Hillary killed White House aide Vince Foster, "Congressman Burton, you're no fans of the Clinton(s). In fact, I think you think the Clintons had something to do with killing Vince Foster. What do you say?"
Although you couldn’t prove it by his behavior back when he was pushing the theory back in the 1990s, Burton is not entirely a fool and deftly sidestepped the question by saying he has no interest in re-hashing old news. The exchange went like this, according to an MSNBC transcript:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Congressman Burton, you're no fans of the Clinton. In fact, I think you think the Clintons had something to do with killing Vince Foster. What do you say?
REP. DAN BURTON: Well, I'm not gonna go back and rehash that again, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, rehash it for a minute, sir. You do –
BURTON: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: – believe they had something to do with it.
BURTON: No, I'll be glad to answer questions from you about –
MATTHEWS: Well, it does give me a sense –
BURTON: – how tough she is and –
MATTHEWS: – of what you think of the Clintons, that you won't even say they're free of a murder charge. Won't you do that at least?
BURTON: Chris, I know you – you want me to be controversial. Let me just say, she's a very talented woman.
MATTHEWS: No, you're the controversy, sir. Let me ask you this: Do you believe the Clintons are innocent of any foul play with regard to the death of Vince Foster? Let's start from there and we'll move on to your bona fides in this topic.
BURTON: Chris, you heard what I said. I'm not gonna go back and cover that ground again.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we just did.
Another guest, Time magazine’s Peter Beinart said, "I really don't think most people, besides Chris, with all due respect, are really interested in rehashing all of the scandals of the 1990s."
Matthews jumped in to say, "No, no. It's a question of whether they're all coming back, sir. That's the question. Rehashing or reliving is a bigger question. Do you want to relive them all?"
Only Vanity Fair’s Christopher Hitchens would play Matthews unseemly game, stating that naming Hillary Clinton as Secretary of state would be a tragic error:
This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consists of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia. This is the woman who, with her husband, has so many connections – fundraising connections overseas, Indonesia, China. Just look up the Senate report on their fundraising activities, the people they have pardoned, the amazing brothers of hers who nearly got the – was it the nut monopoly in Kazakhstan or something farcical like that. Just look it up. It's a ludicrous embarrassment for the president and for the country.
Of course, Mathews never bothered telling viewers that Hitchens has a long history of Clinton-baiting, comparing them to zombies, vampires, werewolves and the faithless.
Not content with watching Hitchens bite off the head of a live chicken on air, Matthews dragged MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard into the mess. The GOP’s token black woman commentator said that if Clinton became secretary of state, she will run a "parallel government." Jennifer Donahue, political director of the very conservative New Hampshire Institute of Politics think tank, added that Clinton would try to "create only one term for Barack Obama."
It was learned today that Bill Kristol’s Op-Ed contract with the New York Times is up for renewal and both sides are considering whether they want to continue the association. For the Times, Kristol turned out to be an unmitigated disaster; Chris Matthews is having the same affect on MSNBC. Its management might want to re-assess his value to the network when his contract is expiring.