Tim Russert appears to have lied or at the very least engaged in deception at last night’s Democratic debate. Russert’s target, along with the seven other men on the stage, was Hillary Clinton.
Russert tried to mug Hillary Clinton with his lie.
Russert posed a question premised on a discussion with Bill Clinton on Meet The Press last September 25, 2006. Russert kept hidden that the discussion was with Bill Clinton. Hillary objected to the Russert hypothetical as “dangerous” because it opens “a great big hole in what should be an attitude that our country and our president takes toward the appropriate treatment of everyone”. Russert then, trap baited, went in for the “gotcha” kill.
Russert finally disclosed that “The guest who laid out this scenario for me with that proposed solution was William Jefferson Clinton last year. So he disagrees with you.”
Here is the transcript of Russert’s “gotcha” question:
RUSSERT: I want to move to another subject, and this involves a comment that a guest on “Meet the Press” made, and I want to read it, as follows: “Imagine the following scenario. We get lucky. We get the number three guy in Al Qaida. We know there’s a big bomb going off in America in three days and we know this guy knows where it is. Don’t we have the right and responsibility to beat it out of him? You could set up a law where the president could make a finding or could guarantee a pardon.”
[snip – other candidate answers]
CLINTON: As a matter of policy it cannot be American policy period.
I met with those same three- and four-star retired generals, and their principal point — in addition to the values that are so important for our country to exhibit — is that there is very little evidence that it works.
Now, there are a lot of other things that we need to be doing that I wish we were: better intelligence; making, you know, our country better respected around the world; working to have more allies.
But these hypotheticals are very dangerous because they open a great big hole in what should be an attitude that our country and our president takes toward the appropriate treatment of everyone. And I think it’s dangerous to go down this path.
RUSSERT: The guest who laid out this scenario for me with that proposed solution was William Jefferson Clinton last year. So he disagrees with you.
CLINTON: Well, he’s not standing here right now. (applause)
RUSSERT: So there is a disagreement?
CLINTON: Well, I’ll talk to him later. (laughter)
Did Russert lie to Hillary on national television? Does Bill Clinton in fact disagree with Hillary? Is torture William Jefferson Clinton’s “proposed solution to the hypothetical” scenario?
The Bill Clinton appearance on Meet The Press – September 25, 2006 – full relevant excerpts:
MR. RUSSERT: As you travel around the world, what do people say about the image of the United States?
MR. CLINTON: Well, different people say different things. But I think that the real problem—it’s generally assumed, I think, in Washington, that, that the problem the American image has is that a lot of people disagree with President Bush, and it’s basically about Iraq. I, I think it’s a little more complicated than that. That is, I think it—it’s true that in the Middle East and many places out the un—in the independent, unaligned countries, they don’t necessarily agree with our Iraq policy, but I think it’s more the feeling that that’s just the most severe example of a country that is more committed to doing what it wants when it wants, and not listening to other people and working with them whenever possible. And the bigger you are and the wealthier you are and the more traditional power than you have, the more you have to be sensitive to how you’re perceived by other people, the more you at least have to want to have people think that even if you don’t agree with them, you’re kind of on their side. And I don’t think America has any significant image problems that couldn’t be turned around rather quickly with a different way of dealing with people.
I also believe that, in the Muslim world, at least, if there were a resumption of serious Israeli/Palestinian peace talks, that would help a lot, because everybody knows that in the end, that situation can’t be resolved, in all probability, unless we’re involved in a supportive way in what happens after they sign the deal.
MR. RUSSERT: What did you think when Colin Powell said, “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism”?
MR. CLINTON: I think he was referring to the, the questions that have been raised about the original evidence, which plagues him and in which he was, I think, unwittingly complicit. I don’t think—I think it’s pretty clear, based on what all the people that worked for him have said. I think he was most worried about the question of torture and the conduct of the prisons at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. And of course, he weighed in in this debate about the extent to which the CIA or others could engage in conduct which clearly violates the Geneva Convention.
Now, we—as you and I talk, and we hear that they’ve reached an agreement, the senators and the White House, and I hope they have. But Colin pointed out that, you know, we’ve got soldiers all over the world. If we get a reputation for torturing people, the following bad things are going to happen: We’re as likely going to get bad information is good, just for people to just quit getting beat on; two, we’re likely to create two or three or five enemies for every one we break; and three, we make our own soldiers much more vulnerable to conduct which violates the Geneva Convention. That is, we can’t expect our friends, much less our enemies, to accept the fact that because we’re the good guys, we get to have a different standard of conduct. And most people think the definition of a good guy is someone who voluntarily observes a different standard of conduct, not someone who claims the right to do things others can’t do.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you outlaw waterboarding and sleep deprivation, loud music, all those kinds of tactics?
MR. CLINTON: Well, I—here’s what I would do. I would figure out what the, what the generally accepted definitions of the Geneva Convention are, and I would honor them. I would also talk to people who do this kind of work about what is generally most effective, and they will—they’re almost always not advocate of torture, and I wouldn’t do anything that would put our own people at risk.
Now, the thing that drives—that, that gives the president’s position a little edge is that every one of us can imagine the following scenario: We get lucky, we get the number three guy in al-Qaeda, and we know there’s a big bomb going off in America in three days and we know this guy knows where it is. Don’t we have the right and the responsibility to beat it out of him? But keep in mind, in 99 percent of the interrogations, you don’t know those things.
Now, it happens like even in the military regulations, in a case like that, they do have the power to use extreme force because there is an imminent threat to the United States, and then to live with the consequences. The president—they could set up a law where the president could make a finding or could guarantee a pardon or could guarantee the submission of that sort of thing ex post facto to the intelligence court, just like we do now with wire taps.
So I, I don’t think that hard case justifies the sweeping authority for waterboarding and all the other stuff that, that was sought in this legislation. And I think, you know, if that circumstance comes up—we all know what we’d do to keep our country from going through another 9/11 if we could. But to—but to claim in advance the right to do this whenever someone takes a notion to engage in conduct that plainly violates the Geneva Convention, that, I think, is a mistake.
Bill Clinton on Meet The Press told Tim Russert that it “is a mistake” to have an advance policy of torture. Hillary said about torture “As a matter of policy it cannot be American policy period.” There is no difference between Bill and Hillary Clinton on torture policy, contrary to Russert’s assertions. In fact, Hillary seemed to track closely Bill Clinton on the mistake that is torture. Hillary noted her conversations with various military generals (as did Obama), all of whom stated to her that regarding torture “there is very little evidence that it works”.
Having failed to “gotcha” Hillary with his smarmy schoolboy stunt of not revealing the source of the quote as Bill Clinton, Russert went for his second “gotcha” – an outright misrepresentation of Bill Clinton’s position on torture. Hillary was no fool ready to fall for Russert’s trap. Hillary answered honestly. Having been told on national television, that Bill Clinton disagreed with her, a weaker person would have melted. Hillary struck back and now the “gotcha moment” is Russert’s Hall of Shame.
Russert also repeatedly tried to force his narrow view of the world and policy issues on Hillary and the other Democrats on the stage. On Social Security, “dynasty”, torture, and a hypothetical attack by Israel on Iran, Russert tried to break Hillary. The most noted battle between Hillary and Russert was the battle over torture as captured in the above video. In that exchange Russert appears to have misrepresented Bill Clinton’s words.
On the foolish “Dynasty” question Hillary answered “I thought Bill was a pretty good president” – a not unexpected answer after the same dumb question was asked at an earlier debate. But then Hillary delivered the coup de grace “I know how to find common ground and how to stand my ground.” Wow! Hillary stood her ground and more last night.
The more substantive battle between Hillary and supposed non-candidate Russert was on the question of Social Security. Russert repeatedly demanded that Hillary and the other Democrats accept his formulations on Social Security which lead to “accepted” Social Security “solutions” by the wealthy elite of elites of Big Media.
Hillary, wise woman that she is, firmly focused on her wiser policy of ‘first things first’. First, you adopt fiscal responsibility – then you see the results of fiscal responsibility. Only after that post-fiscal responsibility accessment do you begin to devise solutions to the situation. Russert was a glum plum.
Russert and the elites of Big Media do not understand the need for the universality of Social Security. Presumably, Russert would rather raise the retirement age than raise taxes on all income – most of Russert’s income is not taxed for Social Security.
Russert, because he has a cushy job performed on padded chairs and in front of computer monitors, has no fear of retirement at the age of 80. For elite Big Media types the fear is forced retirement. Early retirement to Big Media elites is inconceivable. For a mine worker or a laborer, retirement is welcome relief from a life of punishing the body with hard work. When Russert discusses raising the retirement age he sees it as an actuarial shuffling. Hillary sees raising the retirement age in all its vast complexity in this diverse nation.
Last night Hillary was challenged by 8 men. Only 7 are running for President.
Great Hillary Reviews:
MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST PAT BUCHANAN — ‘HILLARY WON TONIGHT’ [MSNBC, 9/26/07]
NBC NEWS’ CHUCK TODD — HILLARY ‘CONTINUES TO SHOW COMMAND… IN CHARGE OF THIS CAMPAIGN’: “She continues to show command on the stage; it’s subtle things but there’s no doubting who’s in charge of this campaign right now, it’s Hillary Clinton.” [NBC News First Read, 9/26/07]
ABC NEWS’ RICK KLEIN — HILLARY WAS AT A ‘HIGHER LEVEL THAN HER RIVALS’: “And, of course, Clinton is again playing at a higher level than her rivals.” [ABC News Political Radar, 9/26/07]
ATLANTIC’S MARC AMBINDER — ‘THOROUGH AND CAREFUL, CAME OFF AS INTELLIGENT AND PRUDENT’: “Clinton was solid…She was thorough and careful, came off as intelligent and prudent, and really didn’t take a nick tonight. She did unleash the night’s best jab, and she displayed a genuine sense of humor, one that the audience seemed to appreciate and acknowledge.” [Atlantic, 9/26/07]
NBC NEWS’ DOMENICO MONTARO — HILLARY SOUNDED ‘PRESIDENTIAL’: “Clinton sounded her best tonight… her talking about a president’s role sounded presidential.” [NBC News First Read, 9/26/07]
ABC NEWS’ JAKE TAPPER — ‘NO ONE HAS REALLY LAID A GLOVE ON CLINTON’ [ABC News Political Radar, 9/26/07]
AMERICAN PROSPECT’S DANA GOLDSTEIN — ‘HILLARY CLEAREST, MOST CONCISE ON IMMIGRATION’: “Hillary clearest, most concise on Immigration. No, she says local police shouldn’t be made to enforce federal immigration policy: ‘It’s not their job.'” [American Prospect blog, 9/26/07]
NEW YORK TIMES’ KATHARINE SEELYE — HILLARY ‘CONTROLLED THE QUESTIONING’: “Wow. Quick arms race between Mr. Russert and Mrs. Clinton over what she said was a hypothetical question — whether Israel would be justified in launching an attack against Iran if it felt its security was threatened. She controlled the questioning…” [New York Times Caucus blog, 9/26/07]