During Tuesday's post-debate coverage of the Democratic debate on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann repeatedly showed fascination with Hillary Clinton's contention that she is best experienced to deal with a potential terrorist attack if one occurs soon after the next President takes office, which the MSNBC host suggested was a "milder Democratic version of the same language that ... has been used by so many Republicans since 9/11," contending that her comments put her "in the position of having to defend herself against charges of some kind of fearmongering a la Karl Rove." (Transcript follows)
The MSNBC host, who once charged that the Republican party is a "terrorist group" in one of his "Special Comment" rants, suggested that Clinton used a "finessed answer" that allowed her to sell herself as "better prepared" while "being able to deny that that was anything in the same league, let alone in the same ballpark as a Republican treatment of the Democrats will let you die and only the Republicans can save you in the event of terrorism." Olbermann further wondered why Barack Obama did not go after Clinton on the subject during the debate, "running right through that door that was opened for him."
Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Tuesday, January 15 post-debate coverage from MSNBC:
DAVID GREGORY: I did think it was striking, though, if Hillary Clinton can be successful at one thing, Keith, she wants voters to be concentrating on this experience question with Barack Obama. He may be exciting, he may make you feel good, but is it all sound and fury? She brought up this issue of al-Qaeda testing Gordon Brown in Great Britain, driving that point home that you got to be ready on day one. Who's ready on day one? It's sort of, what do you want to leave people thinking about as this process moves forward? That's what she wants people to think about.
KEITH OLBERMANN: But even in that context, and some of us were highly critical of her, and that was the tone of Brian's question, I thought, which was: Does this not sound like exactly the kind of politics, in a milder form, that you have so eloquently criticized and so many other Democrats have criticized, done by the Bush administration and by Republicans for, well, really since 9/11 itself. Even her answer about that had been dialed back considerably. And the question becomes: Is this an issue of the three of them saying there are venues in which we can hit each other over the head with big rubber mallets and make as much of an impact as we can, or as much sound as we can, and there are ones that we can't? Or is it something more substantial? Is it listening to the idea that this was, they'd gone too far, that they were perhaps risking a schism in the Democratic party in what is to them a crucial election?
OLBERMANN: But to that point, Howard, at the end of this debate, with about 10 minutes to go, Brian Williams gave Barack Obama, opened the door for him to go after, to go after Hillary Clinton on an issue that has been hugely important and hugely felt personally by most Democrats, and most people who have been critical of the administration, this whole question of reading her quote back to her before the vote in New Hampshire about the so-called Gordon Brown question. The implication, several lengths removed, but the implication nonetheless kind of milder Democratic version of the same language that was used by, has been used by so many Republicans since 9/11, and particularly in the campaigns of 2004 and 2006, why when this issue of, you know, this hint, maybe Obama would not be as ready as Clinton would be to handle a sudden terrorist attack after the inaugural next January, why was Senator Obama's response, I understand why his responses were controlled and statesmanlike on these, you know, personal issues, but why was he somewhat controlled? Why didn't he, you know, take, go run right through that door that was opened for him?
HOWARD FINEMAN: He was sort of tiptoeing halfway through the door. I think he said, boy, it's almost the end of the debate, I can really hit her one before it's over, and I think he wanted to do that, but yet he had in his mind, you know, Axelrod and all the other guys saying, you know, don't go after her too hard, be careful, you're at close range, you've had all those other problems. I think that's a big vulnerability that Clinton has. She can be accused of trying to play the fear card, and I think Obama was afraid to do it too frontally. It's hard to do it in those circumstances. I'm sure you're going to hear it on the campaign trail over the next few days.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, but Jonathan, why, if a candidate says, sitting next to you or a million miles away, Jonathan, if somebody says to you, you know, my implication here, that was in this statement that you would not be ready to deal with this, but I would, on such a vital issue, you have two options. One is to refute that, and refute it strongly. And the other one is just to say, "Listen, never mind what you're saying, this is not the way we should be doing business as Democrats." Why didn't Barack Obama take that opportunity when it was presented to him? [JONATHAN CAPEHART, Washington Post]
OLBERMANN: The Democrats' debate tonight was largely politic, and not in the sense of the politeness of the possibilities between all the candidates, but there was one moment towards the end that might yet haunt Senator Clinton or possibly even Senaor Obama. Our own Brian Williams, towards the end of the debate, reminding viewers that she had commented on al-Qaeda attacks in Britain right after the new prime minister, Mr. Brown, had taken office, and then said, quote, "So let's not forget you're hiring a President not just to do what a candidate says he or she wants to do in an election, you're hiring a President to be there when the chips were down." Putting Senator Clinton in the position of having to defend herself against charges of some kind of fearmongering a la Karl Rove.
HILLARY CLINTON: What I said is what you quoted, and I'm not going to characterize it, but it is the fact, you know, the fact is that we face a very dangerous adversary, and to forget that or to brush it aside, I think, is a mistake.
BARACK OBAMA: When Senator Clinton uses the specter of a terrorist attack with a new prime minister during a campaign, I think that is part and parcel what we've seen the use of the fear of terrorism in scoring political points, and I think that's a mistake.
CLINTON: I think there's a difference between what President Bush has done, which has frankly used fear as a political weapon, and a recognition in a very calm and deliberative way that, yes, we have real enemies, and we'd better be prepared, and we'd better be ready to meet them on day one.
OLBERMANN: Chris Matthews continues to join us from Las Vegas and, for the moment now, we are joined again by MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Air America Radio's Rachel Maddow. And, Rachel, I think you and I have discussed this on camera and off, that whole topic of what Senator Clinton had said before the vote in New Hampshire is the bull in the China shop for me and the red flag to the bull and every other kind of bull we could mention. Was that a finessed version of an already very finessed answer in which she was able to remind people that, yes, maybe I'm better prepared for this than anybody else while, at the same time, being able to deny that that was anything in the same league, let alone in the same ballpark as a Republican treatment of the Democrats will let you die and only the Republicans can save you in the event of terrorism?