Part 4—As flailed by Chris Hayes and two guests: As part of her recent iconic text, Krystal Ball discussed Hillary Clinton’s June 12 appearance on the NPR program, Fresh Air.
Gack! In the passage shown below, the highly suggestible, hapless young pundit delivered a succession of time-honored RNC scripts. Over the course of these many years, these scripts have been widely adopted by droogs in the “mainstream press corps:”
BALL (6/17/14): Then there was an uncomfortable exchange with NPR’s Terry Gross in which Hillary struggled at length to sort through her various talking-points on gay marriage to describe how and why her position on the issue changed. She eventually settled on something along the lines of, “The country changed and so did I and as soon as I was done with my non-political job at State I came out with my new position,” an answer that I really take no issue with. I wish more people would have the courage to evolve, and more rapidly.Sorting through her various talking-points, Clinton engaged in a talking-point flail! But then, for Bill and Hillary Clinton, everything is carefully poll-tested! Everything they say is focus-grouped, weather-vaned!
But in her talking-point flail we were reminded of something else—the fact that, for the Clintons, everything is carefully poll-tested, focus-grouped and weather-vaned. If marriage equality was still a drag for Democratic candidates, do you think Hillary would still have come out in support?
Jim Nicholson couldn’t have said it better! Just for the record, Nicholson headed the RNC when these time-honored talking-points were seamlessly transferred from Clinton and Clinton to their chosen successor, Candidate Gore.
This happened in the spring of 1999, when Ball was a highly successful, 17-year-old high school athlete. Because her ambition seems many times larger than her vastly limited insight, Ball may not know that these talking-points sent George Bush to the White House.
Could those same talking points elect a Republican in 2016? Crackers! Of course they could! Only a TV performer like Ball could miss this obvious point.
At any rate, Clinton appeared on Fresh Air on Thursday afternoon, June 12. The “uncomfortable exchange” to which Ball referred occurred midway through the hour.
Different people will have different ideas about this rather lengthy exchange between Gross and Clinton—an exchange concerning Clinton’s position on same-sex marriage.
In our view, Gross’ performance was rather odd in this exchange, substantially more so than Clinton’s. We’ll discuss that view in this afternoon’s post. This morning, we want you to see what was said about that uncomfortable exchange on MSNBC that very night.
The discussion to which we refer occurred on the Chris Hayes program. For starters, though, we have to look at the very first thing Clinton said in her exchange with Gross.
Midway through the program, Gross returned from a break. The “uncomfortable exchange” to which Ball referred began with this Q-and-A:
GROSS (6/12/14): This is Fresh Air. I'm Terry Gross, back with Hillary Clinton. Her new memoir, Hard Choices, is about her four years as secretary of state during President Obama's first term.That was the first Q-and-A in what became a lengthy exchange. The question was somewhat unusual, but perfectly fair: Were there positions concerning LGBT rights that Clinton felt she couldn’t support, for political reasons, when she served in the Senate?
When we left off, we were talking about her efforts to bring LGBT rights into the international community's framework of human rights. She also made it easier for Americans to change their gender on their passports.
Were there positions you believed in as senator but you couldn't publicly support because you felt that it wasn't time yet? That the positions would have been too unpopular? That the public wasn't ready in regards to LGBT rights? And you know, I often think that there are politicians who, you know, in their heart really support it but don't publicly support it.
CLINTON: Well, I was fully on board with ending discrimination in the workplace on behalf of the LGBT community. I did not support gay marriage when I was in the Senate or running for president, as you know, and as President Obama and others held the same position. But it, for me, became an opportunity to do what I could as secretary of state to make the workplace fairer, something I had always supported and spoke out about. And then when I was out of the secretary of state position and once again free to comment on domestic matters, I very shortly came out in favor of fully equality, including gay marriage.
Clinton didn’t answer that question there. But, for purposes of this discussion, please note what she instantly said:
“I did not support gay marriage when I was in the Senate or running for president, as you know.”
That was the first thing Clinton said. By that evening, she hadn’t said it!
Fresh Air is broadcast in the afternoon. That evening, Chris Hayes and two pundit guests pretended to discuss the exchange which began with that first Q-and-A.
At the start of their pseudo-discussion, Hayes threw to Dan Savage. For unknown reasons, Hayes and Savage said these things:
HAYES (6/12/14): Before the break, we played a little bit of the incredibly awkward exchange on NPR today between Terry Gross and Hillary Clinton over whether Clinton had always backed same-sex marriage, but kept her support quiet, or whether Clinton legitimately changed her mind on the issue. Have a listen:In that exchange, Hayes and Savage offer grossly misleading accounts of what Clinton actually said to Gross. Eventually, Hayes told Savage that his account of the exchange had been “very well said.”
[Selected excerpts of the exchange between Gross and Clinton]
Joining me now, syndicated columnist Dan Savage; Molly Ball, staffer writer for The Atlantic; and Ezra Klein, editor in chief of Vox.com and an MSNBC policy analyst.
Dan, I will begin with you. I don’t get why she just didn’t say what Barack Obama said, which is like, “Yeah, of course I evolved. Lots of people evolved, and I evolved.” She basically sort of implies that, but never comes forward and says it.
What was your reaction to it?
SAVAGE: I thought it was a hilarious interview because Hillary seemed at once to be angered by the suggestion that she ever opposed it and angered at the suggestion that there was something wrong that she changed her mind.
This is, I think, evidence of how quickly the mood is changing on this issue and how quickly people are marching out in support of marriage equality that Hillary Clinton seems really reluctant to admit that she opposed marriage equality ever. And Terry Gross is trying to pin her down on that, and she just squirmed and squirmed.
Crackers, let’s review:
“I did not support gay marriage when I was in the Senate or running for president, as you know.”
That was the very first thing Clinton said in this “incredibly awkward exchange!” And yet, just a few hours later, the boys were saying something quite different.
According to Hayes, Clinton “never came forward and said” that she had evolved on this issue. According to Savage, “Hillary Clinton seems really reluctant to admit that she opposed marriage equality ever.”
Let’s be excessively fair! Hayes’ statement could be described as technically accurate. Clinton never used the word “evolved” in describing her change in position.
That said, Hayes’ statement was grossly misleading. Savage’s subsequent statement was pretty much flat-out wrong.
Why were the children saying these things? Let’s be fair—it’s entirely possible that Hayes and Savage hadn’t heard the entire exchange between Gross and Clinton.
As always, excerpts flew around the web in the wake of the Fresh Air broadcast. Most of these excerpts didn’t include Clinton’s initial statement. This includes the excerpts Hayes played on his program.
We’ll guess that the children may not have heard the full exchange they were now “summarizing.” Of course, in the realm of Climber Pundit Land, this can’t be allowed to stop privileged beings from pimping their favorite scripts.
Having said that, let’s also say this: Savage worked from a famous old script this evening, a destructive script which resembled the script later used by Krystal Ball. According to his account, Clinton “just squirmed and squirmed” in this exchange, trying to avoid “admitting that she opposed marriage equality ever.”
Had Clinton tried to avoid admitting that she opposed marriage equality ever? Her statement that she had opposed gay marriage was the very first thing she said!
Later, Krystal Ball painted a similar portrait. She said Clinton engaged in a “talking-points flail” during this awkward exchange with Gross. Of course, you can’t believe what the Clintons tell you! They flail around with their talking points, all of which have been focus-grouped!
Crackers, can we talk? The RNC has been pushing this script since the dawn of recorded time! Over the years, they have achieved heavy adoption of this script within the mainstream press corps.
In 1999, the RNC and the MSM joined hands in extending this script to Candidate Gore, who was portrayed as deeply dishonest. After two years of serial deceptions, their efforts sent Bush to the White House.
Savage tickled the keys of this time-honored tune in the wake of the Fresh Air broadcast. Things got worse when Chris Hayes threw to his next pundit guest, The Atlantic’s Molly Ball.
Hayes cued Ball with a startling recollection. The Yale grad took things from there:
HAYES: Molly, it struck me that this was a reminder of some of the ways in which Hillary Clinton, as a candidate, particularly back in 2008, wasn’t necessarily the best at being clear on things. I remember this famous moment with an immigration—driver’s license for undocumented workers, where she got tripped up. She seemed to say in a debate that she was both for and against it, and I immediately flashed back to that moment.With regard to that exchange, we can only say this: Wow.
MOLLY BALL: Absolutely. That’s a great moment to remember.
She seems to be a politician who is always scrambling for the nearest safe patch of land. And in some cases, there isn’t one. And you could see her saying, “No, I’m not saying that, but I’m also not saying the other thing and I’m not saying anything else either.”
At some point, you do have to say something. You do have to say where you stand. And especially—we have been hearing all this hype that she’s more comfortable in her skin now, she’s going to be able to be a more authentic candidate, one that doesn’t sound so calculating. Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case from this interview, where she seemed to be sort of spinning madly in every direction.
Hayes recalled one of the worst examples of press corps misconduct from Campaign 2008—the October 2007 NBC debate in which two stars from his own “news division” staged an hour-long attack on Candidate Clinton. We refer to the late Tim Russert and the handsome Brian Williams, moderators of the debacle.
Hayes is never going to mention the fact that Russert “despised” the Clintons. As we recently noted, truths like that are not permitted within his high-octane guild.
Instead, Hayes recalled the one statement by Clinton that evening on which the press corps descended like wolves. Knowing her place within the guild, Molly Ball quickly praised her millionaire host, saying that appalling 2007 debate was “a great moment to remember.”
Then, Ball ran with the RNC script. Her response to Hayes represents the face of power, married to the clawing ambition of the press corps’ horrible climber kids.
Molly Ball recited perfectly, presenting all the requisite images. According to Ball, Clinton “seems to be a politician who is always scrambling for the nearest safe patch of land.”
According to Ball, Clinton had “seemed to be sort of spinning madly in every direction” during her exchange with Gross. According to Ball, you could see Clinton saying, “No, I’m not saying that, but I’m also not saying the other thing and I’m not saying anything else either.”
“At some point, you do have to say where you stand,” Ball boldly declared, failing to specify where Clinton had failed to do so. But for our money, Ball lowered herself to the last rung of Hell with a pair of brilliant call-backs.
Clinton didn’t seem “comfortable in her own skin,” Ball declared. She didn’t seem “authentic.”
Good lord! These phrases constituted the press corps’ dominant terms of art during Campaign 2000. Candidates Bradley, Bush and McCain were constantly praised for their high “authenticity,” for the way they were “comfortable in their own skin.”
Candidate Gore was constantly trashed for lacking these attributes.
How widespread was this scripting? In December 1999, Walter Shapiro chose these phrases as two of the year’s top buzzwords within the political press.
That said, Walter had arrived at the party late. In U.S. News, Gloria Borger had written a mocking piece on the same subject all the way back in July. Way back then, Borger mockingly summarized what the well-scripted pundit was saying:
BORGER (7/19/99): George W. Bush will win the presidency; Al Gore still insists on running. It is agreed that Bush, having been observed closely for weeks now, is "comfortable in his own skin" and has, sad to say, "charisma" (77 mentions this summer). Gore, having been watched for years, is still "wooden" (414 times, but that's not counting synonyms like "stiff" and "uncomfortable").Fifteen years later, Ball still knows that these scripts should be applied to Hillary Clinton, as they were to Candidate Gore. For a bit more on this fascinating bit of press corps history, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/26/08.
Hayes, Savage, Ball and Ball all worked from time-honored scripts. Unfortunately, these horrible, grasping junior-league hustlers were applying familiar old narratives from the RNC itself.
As they did this, Hayes, Savage and Molly Ball grossly misrepresented what Clinton actually said to Gross. That too is part of a time-honored tradition. It sent George W. Bush to the White House. In 2016, it could function that way again.
In today’s supplemental post, we’ll show you why we think Gross’ conduct was stranger than Clinton’s this day. But as we close this post, we want you to see what none of these horrible pundits remembered to tell you as they blathered about Clinton’s hour on Fresh Air.
On June 17, Krystal Ball went on TV to say that she has no idea what kind of president Clinton would be. “There’s no clues in the bland safety of her State Department record,” Ball said, between dazzling smiles.
Ball condescended about Clinton’s stance concerning same-sex marriage that day. Here’s the part of the interview with Gross this horrible climber left out:
GROSS (6/12/14): I want to move on to LGBT rights, which was very important to you as secretary of state. You made it one of your priorities. In fact, you gave a speech at the headquarters of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva with the goal to place LGBT rights in the international community's framework of human rights. In that speech, you said, “Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”Does any of that provide any clues as to what sort of president Clinton would be? Not when the horrible Krystal Ball starts spewing those RNC points!
I found it very interesting that you decided to not limit what you were saying to gay rights but to include transgender people. There are parts of the world that are still imprisoning or even executing people for being gay. Being transgender is probably, like, way off the map for them. Was it difficult to decide to include transgender, which would strike some people as being more radical than including—than just including gay and bisexual people?
CLINTON: Well, LGBT includes the T, and I wanted to stand up for the entire community. I don't believe that people who are the L, the G, the B or the T should be persecuted, assaulted, imprisoned, even killed for who they are. And this was the debate that I was having with leaders in many parts of the world who first denied there were any such people in their communities, that it was all an invention and export of the West and then would change the argument to they didn't want people being proselytized. They didn't want children being abused.
And I said well, there are laws against that that are certainly appropriate. No one should be coerced. No one should be abused. But you're talking about the status, the, you know—the very core of who a person is. And it has become, and I think will continue to be, a very important issue for the United States to combat around the world and to stand up for the rights of all people. And as I said, not just women, religious, ethnic, tribal—all people, including the LGBT community.
GROSS: You added gender identity to the State Department's Equal Employment Opportunity policy, and you made it easier for Americans to change their sex on their passport. Did you have to sneak that in without a lot of attention?
I can—I mean, I didn't know you'd done that. But I have a feeling, if a lot of people had known you'd done that, you would've gotten a lot of pushback for that. I mean, because there's still a lot of people in our country who oppose gay rights and would probably even more so oppose, like, any recognition of the transgender community. So did you do that on (laughing) the quiet?
CLINTON: Well, I don't know how quiet it was. Even before I did that, I spoke to the LGBT employees at the State Department. I was aware of their hopes for some changes that might make it easier for them to be the professionals that they had signed up to be. And I don't think it was any big secret. I think it was part of the overall efforts to try to treat people with dignity and equality.
And certainly the Obama administration made some of its own moves at the same time with respect to the larger federal employee pool. And when I had responsibility for the well-being of the 70,000 or so employees around the world who worked for the State Department and USAID, I had an opportunity, through executive action, to recognize that there were barriers and vestiges of discrimination that had no place in a moderate American workplace and so I acted.
It’s very hard for many liberals to grasp the following key point: Ball, Hayes, Savage and Ball are in many ways horrible people.
Yes, they vote the same way you do, at least in the end. But they are very aggressive, grasping climbers. They are getting wealthy within a corporate press structure, and they’re willing to work it.
That program by Hayes involved some gruesome journalistic work. Five days later, Ball flashed her dazzling smile and her perfect hair and made things that much worse.
To state the obvious, the smile and the hair explain why Krystal Ball is on the air, forgetting to tell you about Clinton’s record at State. Serious liberals will perhaps be troubled by this obvious fact, which reflects the corporate values of the corporate suits who manufacture our consent to their corporate version of “progressive values.”
Breaking! In the year 2525, anthropologists, working in caves, are going to explain this. They're going to say that Krystal Ball delivered an iconic text.
Later today: Terry Gross’ peculiar second question