Epilogue—A well-funded Code of Silence: Citizens can get very dumb watching the cable show Hardball.
Concerning our recent journalistic history, a Code of Silence will quickly kick in. The dumbing of Hardball’s unfortunate viewers will be impressively thorough.
How complete is the Code of Silence concerning this recent history? How thorough is the dumbing of viewers?
Consider what happened on March 26, when David Brock played Hardball. To watch the whole segment, click here.
In the early 1990s, Brock was a high-ranking, fully-funded, professional Clinton hater. He worked for the crackpot journal, The American Spectator, as part of the so-called Arkansas Project.
The project was funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, the Koch brothers of that era.
To his credit, Brock had abandoned the crackpot conservative world by at least 1997. In 2004, he founded Media Matters for America, the press watch site he still runs.
Brock had abandoned his Clinton-hating as of 1997. By way of contrast, Matthews continued as a Clinton/Gore hater right through 2008!
We’ll review some of Matthews’ Clinton-hating below. Regarding his Gore-hating, no one slimed and slandered Candidate Gore any more than Matthews did in 1999 and 2000.
His insults were endless; his misstatements were vast. Chris Matthews busted his ass to send George Bush to the White House.
(News flash: Matthews worked for conservative owner Jack Welch at that time. His salary went from $1 million to $5 million as he waged his repellent war against Candidate Gore.)
Brock’s history as an early Clinton hater was discussed on that recent Hardball program. But how strange! Matthews’ much longer parallel history wasn’t mentioned at all!
Indeed, Matthews’ sordid journalistic history was aggressively obscured that night. Hardball viewers were made very dumb as they watched this program.
How thorough was the deception? Almost surely, many viewers got the impression that Matthews was always a Clinton-lover, the role he now plays on cable.
The misimpressions were shoveled out fast. This is the way Matthews introduced his guest:
MATTHEWS (3/26/14): David Brock came to prominence as the right-wing enemy of Bill and Hillary Clinton back in the 1990s. His sole purpose back then in life seemed to be, destroy the Clintons. But he’s now a recovering right-winger, you might say, an ally of both the Clintons.How strange! In its broad design, that description of Brock applies to Matthews quite well.
Last night, he returned to Little Rock, Arkansas, for the first time in over 15 years, delivering an address called “Countering the Culture of Clinton Hating” to the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas. Let’s watch:
BROCK (videotape): I was part of what Hillary Clinton would later call “the vast right-wing conspiracy.” Now, when Mrs. Clinton made that remark about the political opposition back in the late 1990s, insiders scoffed. But she was right. The people I was working with then, they were after the Clintons. We were, and I was.
MATTHEWS: Well, in a twist of fate, Brock now runs a well-funded empire whose main mission is to shield and protect the Clintons from anyone who attacks them, and also attack back. He tried to bring the Clintons down. But now he is building them up to return them to the White House.
He too spent many years as a Clinton/Gore-hater—many more years than Brock did. In a twist of fate (and a race for the money), he too now works as part of “a well-funded [cable] empire whose main mission is to shield and protect the Clintons from anyone who attacks, and also attack back.”
Brock and Matthews share a history, with one extremely important distinction. Starting in 1997, Brock apologized for his prior misconduct in a series of essays about the crackpot conservative world.
Matthews has never even discussed his own reprehensible conduct. Indeed, on his cable show Hardball, he keeps pretending that this disgraceful history doesn’t exist.
Below, you see Matthews’ first questions for Brock this night. Would a cable viewer have any idea that their histories are quite similar?
MATTHEWS: I have always wondered at you. And I wonder this:There you see a slimy person giving his viewers a vast misimpression. To our ear, Matthews was making it sound like he was always aligned with the wonderful Clinton, extending back to teen years.
You know, Hillary Clinton, both of us were young libertarians in our teens, and then because of Vietnam and civil rights and a lot of profound historic events—I think that’s my case, at least; I think for her as well—moved over to the center-ri, center-left, I would say.
My question, how did you do it so damn fast, to go from a Clinton hater to a Clinton lover? What happened so quickly to you that made you change?
BROCK: Well, actually, it actually wasn’t that quick, Chris. I think, as folks know, I mean I was involved in some things I’m not proud of in the early Clinton years, in the 1993-1994 period, where I was involved with something called the Arkansas Project, which was trying to dig up dirt on the Clintons.
I then did research on a book on Hillary Clinton. And I went into that book, frankly, with a very negative agenda. But I learned a lot about Hillary Clinton as I worked on that book. I saw somebody who was really, had such a strong commitment to public service and was really a good person who cares about people, a forward-thinking progressive—
MATTHEWS: What did you think she was? How did that, why did that— What did you think? I mean, we all knew that she was very focused, from the time we have ever heard of her, on women and children issues. We know she was always a policy wonk, to put it lightly, always concerned about policy and things like that.
What did you think she was interested, before you came with this, to this discovery about her? What was your earlier view of her?
He seemed to be deeply puzzled about how Brock could have been so wrong, about what made Brock change. A cable viewer would have no idea that Matthews made the same reinvention concerning Hillary Clinton, in a much more recent year.
As he continued, Matthews continued misleading his viewers. A person can get very dumb watching this bad person’s show:
BROCK (continuing directly): Sure. Yes. Well, I was really—In 1992, the American Spectator called Hillary Clinton called “The Lady Macbeth of Little Rock.” Of course, Matthews was still calling her “Evita” in December 1999.
Sure. I was inculcated in what the conservative movement believed. At the magazine I worked for back then, The American Spectator, she was on a very early cover called “The Lady Macbeth of Little Rock.” She was seen by us as somebody who was ruthless, out for herself. And you know, the other big thing was, there was a lot of what ended up being empty scandal politics going on at the time.
MATTHEWS: That’s for sure! You’re right about that. Whitewater was nothing. Whitewater was nothing.
BROCK: That’s right.
In the most repellent ways, Matthews was also describing Hillary Clinton “as somebody who was ruthless, out for herself.” Beyond that, he was describing her failed health care plan as a form of socialism.
(For all these examples, see part 2 of this series.)
In fact, when it comes to Matthews and Hillary Clinton, you can pretty much forget the ancient year 1999. Matthews was still sliming Clinton in these ways as late as 2008.
His weird aggression never ceased. Here’s an excerpt from a profile of Matthews by the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz:
KURTZ (2/14/08): [T]he Hardball host has been particularly hard on the former first lady, to the point where some of her advisers have glared at him at parties. And there is a history here. In 1999, amid speculation that Clinton might seek a Senate seat in New York, Matthews told viewers: “No man would say, ‘Make me a U.S. senator because my wife's been cheating on me.’ ”For unknown reasons, this conduct finally produced a (very brief) “counterattack” from the liberal world in early 2008. At that time, this Clinton/Gore-hating had persisted for at least a decade to the sounds of career liberal silence.
The following year, he said: “Hillary Clinton bugs a lot of guys, I mean, really bugs people—like maybe me on occasion. . . . She drives some of us absolutely nuts.”
In 2005, when Clinton criticized the administration on homeland security the day after terrorist bombings in London, Matthews said: “It's a fact: You look more witchy when you're doing it like this.”
In recent weeks, he has asked whether Clinton's criticism of Obama makes her “look like Nurse Ratched.” He has said that “Hillary's loyal lieutenants are ready to scratch the eyes out of the opposition” and likened her to Evita Peron, “the one who gives gifts to the little people, and then they come and bring me flowers and they worship at me because I am the great Evita.”
It was against that backdrop that Matthews sparked a furor last month when he said: “I'll be brutal: The reason she's a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner, is her husband messed around.” The counterattack was fierce.
“The question is not how dumb he is, but how dumb he thinks the rest of us are to listen to this drivel,” wrote Susan Estrich, a former Democratic strategist. Salon's Rebecca Traister denounced what she called his “drooling excitement at the prospect of her humiliation.”
Today, the career liberal world works very hard to disappear this history. Matthews’ sliming of Candidate Gore was even more consequential than his sliming of Hillary Clinton. But we know of no time when the career (and careerist) liberal world ever complained about that, even for a couple of weeks late in a failing campaign.
On March 26 of this year, Brock lamented the way The American Spectator slimed Clinton in 1992. He was speaking to a Welch-owned multimillionaire who continued to slime her, in similar ways, right through 2008.
Hardball viewers were given no sense of that obvious parallel history. “Whitewater was nothing! Whitewater was nothing!” the excitable Matthews exclaimed.
We defy you to find him saying such things when it would have mattered. Go ahead! Try to find any record of any interviews with Gene Lyons, who wrote Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater, building on an earlier article in Harper’s.
The book was published in 1996, when it really mattered. Matthews continued name-calling the Clintons and Gore, and watching his salary rise.
A remarkable con was performed all through that recent segment with Brock—an act of deception at the expense of Hardball viewers. In our view, the next exchange between Matthews and Brock was especially striking.
Brock raised a very good question. He wondered what might have happened in the 1990s if organizations like Media Matters had existed then.
Here’s one thing that would have happened—they would have been attacking Matthews every day of the week, as we did at the time! But viewers were given no sense of this fact as the discussion continued
For amusement purposes, note the first highlighted statement by Matthews, a clownishly dishonest life form. Then note which presidential campaign Matthews forgot to mention:
BROCK: ...Back in the 1990s, had there been some of the kinds of organizations that can push back on the misinformation coming out of the right wing, you know, you might have a different outcome to some of these scandals. And I think we probably share that view.Amazing! At the start of that exchange, Matthews tells Brock that he appreciates Brock’s current work, “given your past.”
MATTHEWS: I agree with you. Let me ask you:
I mean, generally, you are very focused on the Clintons now, and I completely appreciate that, given your past.
But I’m looking at whether Mike Dukakis could have used you, David. Or whether the Swift-boating of John Kerry, which I thought was awful— This very tough, beyond war room approach you take, which is almost like SDI, don’t shoot missiles at us because we knock you out of the sky—tell us about that. That approach to political fighting.
BROCK: Yeah. Well, I think you’re absolutely right that certainly, Michael Dukakis and— You know, we saw what happened to Al Gore when the Republican National Committee was able to put words in his mouth, and what they did to the war hero John Kerry. That was sort of one of the fundamental principles when we started the work we do was that those kinds of charges would not remain unanswered.
Matthews’ history as a Clinton/Gore-hater extended much longer than Brock’s and was much more consequential. Here again, this basic history was disappeared at the expense of Hardball viewers.
And please note—when Matthews thinks about past campaigns, he remembers Candidates Dukakis and Kerry. He doesn’t remember the War Against Gore, the war in which, for twenty long months, he played the leading role.
For his part, Brock refers to “what happened to Al Gore when the Republican National Committee was able to put words in his mouth.” He doesn’t mention a fact he surely understands: Matthews played a much larger role in the sliming of Gore than the RNC ever did. The RNC was a two-bit player in that war as compared to his own Hardball host.
Viewers were being played for fools as Matthews conducted this discussion with Brock. Brock, whose organization is political, played along with his host.
Today, Matthews is being paid to promote the Media Matters line. Media Matters will not report what he did in the past.
A person can get extremely dumb watching the cable show Hardball. People are dead all over the world because of Matthews’ reprehensible conduct in the years which followed Brock’s conversion. But no one, not even Brock, is going to tell you that.
Instead, Matthews plays the role of Brock’s confessor. Brock allows him to do it.
We rubes get made very dumb in these ways. But this is the way the political world of “well-funded empires” works.
Monday: Rebuking the unworthy Joan