When Bill Clinton’s Administration got hammered during the 1994 midterm elections, many pundits blamed Hillary: it was health care reform, she was too liberal, the was too powerful as first lady, etc. etc.
One of the few who called it correctly was our own hyperventilating Chris Matthews. I personally called Matthews the day after the election. In fairness, he didn’t really know who I was, though the Hillary Clinton Quarterly was certainly well known among most political reporters at the time.
I taped the telephone interview with Matthews: This is what he said, verbatim:
If Zuckerman was wetting his pants with joy over Hillary’s comeuppance, Chris Matthews, a new-Democrat type who writes for the San Francisco Examiner and appears regularly on Good Morning America, was doubled over in pain. It’s true: Matthews often looks like he’s about to pass a kidney stone, but the day after the election his anguish was unusually intense.
Matthews regularly faces off against former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett on Good Morning America. On this particular good morning, we thought we heard Matthews proclaiming Hillary the Guilty One during his post-election tete-a-tete with Bennett, so we got Matthews on the phone.
“Are you blaming Hillary?” we wondered, eager not to misquote him.
There was silence on the other end. Then he sighed. “I’m not saying it. I’m trying to be careful. I’m not giving you new material to exploit. The Clintons hate me enough as it is. You gotta give me a break here. I erupt some times and I say certain things. If you catch me, you catch me. But I’m not saying it.”
“We’re not trying to ‘catch’ you, Mr. Matthews. We’re just trying to check out the story. Were you saying that Hillary Clinton was at fault for getting Bill Clinton to drift away from his more centrist positions?”
“That’s not what I said.”
“Fine. OK. You didn’t say it. But what is your opinion? Did she play a role?”
Long pause. Then Matthews erupted, angrily squeezing out every word.
“Bill Clinton is a grown up. He’s the President, and if he wants a left-wing, socialized-sounding health care plan, he did that. If he wants to let his wife do that, he did that. It’s still him. How are we to interpret this? Is Bill Clinton just a caboose on her train? The whole health care thing was too far to the left. In substance and in selling. Both. The old Eleanor Roosevelt approach, the paternalistic ‘we know better, we’re gonna do this for the little people’ stuff is gone. It’s gone!”
Matthews took a breath.
“I am absolutely convinced that the reason the Administration lost every close race, the reason the Democrats were lambasted, the reason every Republican was reelected is because if the election had been held last year, this would not have happened. I know that, you know that. The economy’s gotten better this year, so what’s changed? The year-long push for a socialistic health care program, which was the showcase of this Administration, which gave it its definition as a left-wing Administration.”
While Matthews didn’t have the stomach to say it outright, he clearly believes that Hillary Clinton — directly or indirectly — was responsible for the gang bang of the Democratic Party. The equation, if we follow his logic, is this: Hillary = Health Care Reform = Left Wing Big Government = Crushing Defeat for the Democrats.
So Matthews placed most of the blame on the president, where it belonged, with Hillary playing a supporting role as the purveyor of left-wing health care reform
Now we have left-wing health care reform — Obamacare — and President Obama has to take responsibility and credit for getting his signature legislation shoved through Congress. Did that play a role in the 2012 debacle? You bet it did! (Whether it should have or not is another question — me? Health care reform was the right, ethical and moral thing to do. But I don’t decide elections.)
Then there is everything else. Obama has the most muddled, confused foreign policy of any president since Herbert Hoover. No one knows what he stands for, what his strategy is, what he sees as America’s role in the world and how he would fulfill that role. The economy bounced back but he deserves little of the credit for that — it’s just the economic cycle we have always seen after a recession. His appointments have been lackluster and uninspired and uninspiring ((where’s Janet Reno or Robert Reisch when we need a little excitement in DC?).
Let’s go on about the failed gun control policy, the flatulent nonsense coming from the Vice President every few weeks, and a first lady who has some partisans but who is basically considered as exciting as drying paint. He’s a photo-op president whose jutting chin in some photos makes him look more like Mussolini than our Democratic standard-bearer.
So it’s Wednesday, November 5, 2014. The heathens are at the gate and ready to take control of the Senate AND the Congress. To take Chris Matthews’ 1994 indictment and update it for 2014, “He did it!” The “he” in this case is not Bill Clinton, it’s Barack Obama. It’s as if all the nightmares we pro-Hillary types had about an Obama presidency have come true. . over, , ,and over, , ,and over!
Yes, let the historians be kind to Barack. Perhaps they will. But in this moment, the day after he lost our Senate and control of the agenda, Barack Obama has given us only one thing to be grateful for: He’s proven that Hillary was right in 2008. Everything we were warned about has come true and she can point fingers directly at the man who stole her presidency.
Obama’s failure is now Hillary’s opportunity. The election is not a reason or a time for her to call it quits. It’s time for her to take charge, play with the boys again, hit the bullies back, and regain control of the Democratic legacy.
I have not always been sure that I wanted her to run again. There’s too much pain, negativity, money, and media for anyone to run for president. And what they dish out to male candidates, they double-down when it’s a tough woman like Hillary.
But now I am convinced that she must run. Obama made her case for her. It’s not liberalism or basic Democratic principles that lost the 2014 elections. Incompetency lost the elections.
Hillary has to run because she is the only potential candidate with the forward thinking vision, historical perspective, and “get it done right competency” that America needs.
If we miss this opportunity — if Hillary decides to play it safe and stay home — it will be generations before we get another chance to control our destiny. She can’t let that happen.
Frank Marafiote, Editor
Hillary Clinton Quarterly