“It is the prime function of a really first-rate newspaper to serve as a sort of permanent opposition in politics,” H.L. Mencken once wrote.
Of course, that was in the days before journalists decide to retire from reporting the news to become Democrat operatives with bylines, as PJM’s own Glenn Reynolds has dubbed the MSM. And Bill Clinton himself has admitted as much in one of his more unguarded moments. Which is why it’s so rare and refreshing to see the smoky pitch-black clouds of hate billowing from the ears of the Clintons in response to Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, the new book by Daniel Halper of the Weekly Standard.
As the Washington Times reported late last month, spokesmen for Clinton Inc. are warning their fellow Democrats with bylines that Halper’s book should “neither be allowed nor enabled, and legitimate media outlets who know with every fiber of their being that this is complete crap should know not to get down in the gutter with them and spread their lies.” And to facilitate his blacklisting, the Times added, borrowing from an earlier Washington Free Beacon story, former Clinton administration press secretary Mike McCurry is “quietly waging a campaign to quash coverage on Mr. Halper’s book and has ‘successfully blocked Politico media reporter Dylan Byers from writing about’” Halper’s book.
You know you’re over the target when you start receiving that level of flak. Fortunately, Halper is quite prepared to push back. During our 18-minute long interview, he’ll discuss:
● Why are the Clintons openly trying to block reviews and articles about Halper’s new book?
● How are they using Halper’s interviewees against him?
● Does these tactics indicate that Hillary will run roughshod over the First Amendment if elected?
● How did the Clintons get a fellow Democrat at MSNBC suspended – and possibly, ultimately fired?
● What was the lowest ebb of the Clintons, and how did they recover from it?
● How did Bill Clinton become so friendly with both presidents Bush?
● Can Hillary make the case that she would govern any differently than Barack Obama, despite being his former secretary of State?
● How is Hillary actively undermining her husband’s legacy as president?
● What should we look for in the coming months, and after the 2014 midterms conclude, from the Clintons and their cronies?
And much more. Click here to listen:[audio:http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/files/2014/08/daniel_halper_8-13-14-1.mp3]
(18 minutes, 37 seconds long; 17 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this interview to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 5.32 MB lo-fi edition.)
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Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.
MR. DRISCOLL: This is Ed Driscoll for PJ Media.com, and we’re talking today with Daniel Halper of the Weekly Standard, and the author of the new book, Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine. It’s published by HarperCollins, and available from Amazon.com. And Daniel, thanks for stopping by today.
MR. HALPER: Ed, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
MR. DRISCOLL: Well Daniel, thanks once again for stopping by! We have to wrap the interview up early, as the Clintons have stated, authors like yourself should “neither be allowed nor enabled, and legitimate media outlets who know with every fiber of their being that this is complete crap should know not to get down in the gutter with them and spread their lies.” So I guess we’re not allowed to be even talking with you today!
MR. HALPER: Well, I’m glad you’re listening to the edict given down by the Clintons! You know, many other reporters have, that’s for sure. I’m sort of surprised at the reaction that it’s gotten from Clinton, Inc. I knew that they wouldn’t like it. I knew that they would try in ways to make sure that was old news and in other ways try to encourage people not to write about it. But they did challenge me to give a live polygraph on national television, which I’d be happy to do. I would even encourage Hillary Clinton to be by my side for the challenge, and perhaps take one herself.
MR. DRISCOLL: Daniel, Clinton Incorporated’s furious attacks on authors such as yourself and Ed Klein raise another serious question. Hillary hasn’t even begun her presidential bid yet; what did you make her signaling that she’s more than willing to trash the first amendment if she actually is elected to office?
MR. HALPER: Yeah, look, this is a clear signal to reporters. It’s stay away from these guys, otherwise you’re not going to have access; you’re not going to be in. You want seat on the campaign plane, be careful with what you say, and how you treat these critics.
I don’t think it’s a good sign for the republic, necessarily. And I don’t mean that because of me. I mean, because it’s a weird way to treat people that you might find critical of you.
But I think reporters tend to be a little more more mercenary and understand, sort of, their role.
Look, if you’re a reporter and you want access to the future Clinton White House, if there is one, it’s important to be careful to them. It’s always good to be nice to your sources, reporters learn. But sometimes ‑‑ sometimes reporters tend to be too nice, and sometimes reporters tend to be too concerned about future access. And I think that’s a problem in itself for the republic.
MR. DRISCOLL: What did you make of the reports from the Washington Free Beacon and the Washington Times that former Clinton administration press secretary Mike McCurry is “quietly waging a campaign to quash coverage on Mr. Halper’s book and has “successfully blocked Politico media reporter Dylan Byers from writing about” your book?
MR. HALPER: Well, look, I spoke with Mike McCurry briefly for my book. And we emailed. And so I was aware of Mike McCurry. And perhaps there’s a bit of buyer’s remorse there. I told Politico when they reached out for comments ‑‑ because they put McCurry’s comments, or his complaints about me into three categories. They said that it’s not a book that deserves to be re-reported by other news organizations, and that I did not write the book Mike McCurry advised me to write, but instead wrote an attack on Clinton, and that Mike McCurry hardly remembers talking to me.
As I said to Politico at the time, I said that Mike, the former White House press secretary, is proving one of the main points of the book, that if you cross Clinton, Inc., and if you’re seen as betraying the company, then you pay a price.
And as I told Politico, I’m sorry if Mike’s paying the price for talking to me. I wish him well. But, you know, it’s a weird way to sort of spread these scurrilous opinions about a reporter that you’ve talked to. And it’s a weird way to try to undermine his own reporting all to save your own skin. But it does prove the central point or one of the central points [of my book] that a lot of people are scared of crossing the Clintons. They’ve seen Clintonian retribution in action, and they’re scared. They don’t want a part of it. They want their current lives the way they have them.
That’s, again, back to why reporters may be friendly, might be inclined to give friendly press coverage to the Clintons. It’s one of the reasons you have Mike McCurry trying to save his own skin or trying to at least protect his own skin.
So it’s kind of bad. And the consequences aren’t good, that’s for sure. But it is a reality of the Clintons. And as Hillary Clinton furthers her foray or her re-entrance into American politics, I think it’s one that we’d all be advised to be a lot more aware of going forward.
MR. DRISCOLL: The implied threat to Dylan Byers is reminiscent of an incident you talk about in the new book, which is how the Clintons got David Shuster suspended from MSNBC in 2008. Could you talk about that?
MR. HALPER: Yeah, that’s a great example. And Shuster himself is a liberal. I mean, there’s no ‑‑ let’s not make ‑‑
MR. DRISCOLL: He’s currently with Al Jazeera.
MR. HALPER: He’s currently at home with Al Jazeera. But at the time he was with MSNBC. And all he did, was he questioned whether or not the usage of Chelsea Clinton in the 2008 campaign where he likened her “to being pimped out by the campaign.” Now, perhaps that’s not an artful [phrasing]. Perhaps it’s offensive to some people. Perhaps he shouldn’t have said that.
We can stipulate all those things. It didn’t mean that they had to call his bosses, not only at MSNBC, not only at NBC, but at the parent company, GE. They called board members of GE, who in turn called the CEO of GE, who in turn, made a phone call to Shuster’s bosses, and said why ‑‑ why are my reporters calling [Chelsea Clinton] a prostitute?
He of course got suspended for two weeks and believes that it affected his reputation in such a negative way that he’s no longer with the network.
Might there have been other things at play? Perhaps. We don’t necessarily know his whole relationship with MSNBC. But it’s clear that the two-week suspension hurt his career in a certain way. And it was clear also that Shuster internally, at the time, was making the case that this was just politics. They’re using him as a political pawn to play Hillary Clinton as the victim, to try to gin up support in 2008.
But it didn’t matter. His career and his reputation suffered as a result of it. And it goes to show ‑‑ it was warning shot, not just to Shuster, but to other reporters, that you better watch what you’re saying when it comes to the Clintons. You have to be careful.
MR. DRISCOLL: Well, let’s step back even further from that. Hillary’s 2008 and likely 2014 campaigns mark, as the subtitle of your book states, an “Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.” What was their lowest ebb, and how did they recover from it?
MR. HALPER: Well, I suggest it was basically impeachment, or the end of the impeachment, and that’s where the book starts. The book tells the story of how they’re in this cloud of impeachment. And people sort of forget, really, how many scandals really engulfed the Clinton White House. You forget, by comparison, for Bush, because you think well, Bush had his scandals. And Barack Obama has his scandals. I mean, it was nothing compared to Clinton ‑‑ the chaos in the Clinton White House and what they had to deal with.
Even on the way out the door, there’s this pardon scandal, where Bill Clinton pardons a couple people like Marc Rich, whose ‑‑ whose support for pardon is being paid to Hillary Clinton’s brothers, that they’re being paid to lobby for his release. He gets released. And it looks terrible for Bill Clinton, rightfully so.
And so Bill Clinton leaves the White House. He’s personally depressed. And yet, here they are sitting atop the political world, and instead of putting their heads down in shame and walking away, they’re doing great. They are threatening a return to the White House in 2016. So that’s basically what I try to chronicle.
MR. DRISCOLL: Daniel, you made a great observation in your book that in 2005, President Bush asked his father and Bill Clinton to be fundraisers for the Katrina relief efforts, and despite the fact that the most famous statements from both men – “read my lips, no new taxes” and “I did not have sex with that woman” turned out to be lies, by 2005, they were two of America’s most revered elder statesmen. Bill Clinton’s presidency is bookended by Bush administrations; how did he become so friendly with the Bush family?
MR. HALPER: Well, with these politicians, there’s always an element of political expediency. And it’s certainly the case that both have benefited tremendously from their relationship.
On a more human level, on a more granular level, it happened simply because they were both kind to each other. And that’s all it really took. On a political level, on a politically calculating level, they both realized this would be very helpful, and so they both made an attempt, I believe, to be friends with one another, to be seen doing philanthropic work for the American people with each other. That makes both of them look good. They both are aware of those things.
And so I do chronicle that relationship. I think it’s fascinating. I think a lot of people on both sides of the relationship go out of their way to say that they are just personally very, very close with one another. I also think that when you sort of look back behind the curtain a little bit, you see that they aren’t really that friendly with one another, especially because Bill Clinton himself doesn’t have that many friends.
It’s certainly a politically expedient relationship of some sort or another.
MR. DRISCOLL: Once they deemed Barack Obama as having a genuine shot at the White House in 2007, the left began to treat Hillary and her supporters pretty savagely, ultimately calling Hillary, her husband, and their Democrat supporters racists and wishing to see them tossed into the dust heap of history. Will all of this bad blood from the 2008 election be forgotten on the left in the coming months and years?
MR. HALPER: Well, that’s a good question. I make the case in the book that it was basically like this. They leave the White House amid scandal and impeachment, and the realize they have a problem with Republicans. So what do they do? Bill Clinton goes to the people who impeached him and he wins them over, one by one, on an individual level.
But what they don’t realize, is that a lot of Democrats were upset with the way Clinton left the White House. They were not just upset with the way he left the White House; they were upset with his conduct in the White House. They blamed him and his conduct for eight years of George W. Bush. So in 2008, they go with the person they don’t know, Barack Obama, over the person they do know, Hillary Clinton. And that’s a huge slap in the face.
I think Hillary Clinton joining the Obama administration, being a loyal foot soldier in the Obama administration, helps to soften that. You can already see some of the senators, some female senators and whatnot, sort of coalescing around Hillary Clinton.
I think that’s a big testament to her going into the Obama administration. But I also would suggest that it’s a little bit fragile, that while she’s obviously the prohibitive frontrunner, I think if Democrats found a viable alternative, they’re not necessarily attached at the hip with Hillary Clinton, and they could find their fortunes elsewhere.
MR. DRISCOLL: John McCain was defeated in 2008 in part because he couldn’t make the case that he would govern much more differently than his predecessor, whose poll numbers had collapsed in the wake of Katrina. Can Hillary make the case that she would govern any differently than Barack Obama, despite being his former Secretary of State?
MR. HALPER: That’s a little harder. I mean, she has the benefit of being married to a President who governed pretty drastically different, I’d say, than Barack Obama. So that bolsters her case. But at the same time, it’s a tension, because she’s also trying to suggest that she would be a continuation of Barack Obama, at least for now.
So that’s really a great question. And it’s one I don’t really know the answer to. And frankly, I’d venture to guess she doesn’t know the answer to it, as well. And she’s just waiting to see where the winds blow. She’s waiting to stick her finger up in the air and see which way she needs to go in order to help win, or in order for her to think that she can help herself win.
MR. DRISCOLL: Given all of the headlines in the news recently, how does Hillary overcome Benghazi, Isis, and other Middle Eastern disasters, and Vladimir Putin’s aggressions, all of which are based on decisions or moments that happened on her watch as Obama’s Secretary of State?
MR. HALPER: Well, you can see her doing it already a little bit. She’s already said, well, I was already the most skeptical of Putin in the Obama administration. Is that really true? I don’t know. And why would she hand over this reset button to the Russian foreign minister, if that were true? But you can see her doing it.
The advantage she has is that foreign policy tends to not matter too much in presidential elections. The disadvantage she has is that the world’s blowing up and she was the Secretary of State while it happened.
Now, I make the case in the book, based on my reporting, that she was basically put in a bubble, and that she didn’t really have that much say in American foreign policy; that Barack Obama is a micro-manager; Barack Obama wanted to run foreign policy himself, and so she gets on a plane and she travels the world, and she meets new friends, and she sees old friends. But she wasn’t really leading foreign policy.
But that’s not the case that she makes for herself in her book. That’s not the case she’s been making in her interview trail, though I believe that’s more accurate.
So how she reconciles wanting, on the one hand, to be separated from Obama’s foreign policy, but also wanting to have been a leader and somebody who restored America’s standing in the world, that’s a lot harder of a case.
I think if she adopted my reading of her term as Secretary of State, it would be a lot more favorable to her case. But that’s not the one that she has adopted, and I don’t see her doing so in the future.
MR. DRISCOLL: Also, in order to demonstrate her socialist bona fides to Elizabeth Warren’s potential supporters, Hillary will effectively be running against the policies of her husband in the 1990s, even as conjures up nostalgic memories of that period and America’s happy fun time, in-between the Cold War and War on Terror. How does she square that circle?
MR. HALPER: You know, this is somebody who was on the corporate board of Wal-Mart. It’s somebody who is, to this day (I don’t know about within the last couple months) accepting speeches for $200,000, $250,000 a pop, at places like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. And now she wants to be the income inequality queen?
The advantage she has is that she’s a Democratic politician. And Democrats, everybody assumes, for a complex series of reasons, the Democrats are the party of the poor and that Democrats care about these sorts of issues.
I think a tough populist like Elizabeth Warren, or frankly even a Rand Paul or a Ted Cruz, if they can tap into this populist string, it doesn’t matter really what party they’re from, I think they could really exploit that weakness in her. I think they could portray her as the corporatist, her as the crony capitalist, and themselves, whether they’re a Democrat or the Republican, as the populist. And I think that’s a path to victory, perhaps, against Hillary Clinton.
MR. DRISCOLL: And Daniel, last question: any other thoughts on what should we look for in the coming months, and after the 2014 midterms conclude, from Team Clinton?
MR. HALPER: Well, I think instead of the midterms, I think a more indicative search for solutions is their own family structure, I would suggest. So I basically point to three major problems that they have.
You know, the other issues ‑‑ the Russian reset, those are problems. I don’t think they’re existential problems. Though of course, it could be exploited in certain ways that could hurt them. I think the existential problems are basically that Hillary Clinton isn’t a very good politician or candidate in general. She’s not a good “grip and grinner.” She’s not a very good politician on the stump. That’s a problem she has to overcome somehow.
Number two, Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton is her biggest asset, but also her biggest liability. He’s enormously reckless. He poses massive problems to her, and she needs to figure out a way to control him or at least to get him to step aside or at least to get him to help, and I don’t know whether she can do that.
And the third problem, as I outlined in the book, is her daughter, Chelsea Clinton. Chelsea Clinton has taken a much larger role in the family business. And that has really unsettled the family business in ways that loyal aides are now questioning whether Clintonian loyalty exists. And aides there are sort of wondering whether or not she’s playing too big of a role for the campaign to really build itself up and run on a national level in fifty states and ‑‑ by 2016.
So those are, I think the three biggest concerns. 2014, she can sort of divorce herself from a little bit. And I’m sure she will. We can learn something from that. But I think those are the three big issues that will tell us the most about whether or not Hillary Clinton will become the next President of the United States.
MR. DRISCOLL: This is Ed Driscoll, and we’ve been talking today with Daniel Halper of the Weekly Standard, and the author of the new book, Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine. It’s published by HarperCollins, and available from Amazon.com and your local bookstore. And Daniel, thanks once again for stopping by PJ Media.com today.
MR. HALPER: Thanks so much. It’s been great.
(End of recording; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.)