Daily Beast's Avlon Sees 'Iron Lady' Hillary in Contentious NPR Interview

On the June 13 edition of CNN Newsroom, Carol Costello and company defended Hillary Clinton from the media’s criticism of her interview with Terry Gross of NPR. John Avlon of The Daily Beast cheered that “you got a glimpse of authenticity from Hillary Clinton” in the exchange.

Costello took a different route for defending Hillary [MP3 audio here; video below]:

“But I don't really know how you could argue, [CNN media correspondent] Brian [Stelter], that politics doesn't play into decisions that politicians make because they have to.” It’s unlikely one would ever hear such an excuse from the mainstream media, if say, Mitt Romney were to flip-flop on an issue in the lead up to yet another presidential bid.

Avlon noted that, at the end of the day, Clinton’s flip on the issue was justified because her decision to support same-sex marriage “was part of that larger sea change” in the American political culture. Costello shrugged off the idea that Mrs. Clinton may not be ready for a presidential run, citing her experience as first lady, senator, secretary of state, and her previous presidential run.

Avlon responded with more effusive praise for Ms. Clinton, hinting she’s an American Margaret Thatcher:

I mean, again, I think because she's so unruffleable and so professional– sort of presenting herself as our version of the Iron Lady in some respects, that because we got a really authentic push-back, that’s one of the things that made news. But I think it's also fair to say that she for the last four years has been almost entirely focused on foreign policy...Very much above the domestic political fray and now with this book tour we're starting to see those domestic issues that come up in presidential campaigns intrude and she–she probably doesn't have her full judo back on that sort of footing.

An odd comparison to make, especially when one of Lady Thatcher’s most famous lines is “The lady’s not for turning.”

The relevant portion of the transcript is below:

CNN
CNN Newsroom
June 13, 2014
9:56 a.m. Eastern

CAROL COSTELLO, host: Okay, so Brian I want to start with you, media man. How would you characterize Clinton's response?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN senior media correspondent: I'm a little hesitant to use the word testy because of the gender context that word sometimes has. I love it when a guest, when an interview subject challenges the interviewer, when they get into a conversation the way that she did with Terry Gross. If you think a question is off base and you think it's wrong, you should push-back if you're in the hot seat. I also love, however, that Terry Gross kept going, kept asking it for seven minutes and we learned about Hillary Clinton through that exchange.

COSTELLO: How would you characterize Hillary Clinton's tone, John Avlon?

JOHN AVLON, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast: Well, you know, we criticize politicians a lot for being plastic, for being canned, for being inauthentic. One of the reasons this made news is in her push-back, you got a glimpse of authenticity from Hillary Clinton. Um, when Terry Gross, a phenomenal reporter, asked a question ten times, it's gonna get under your skin, particularly the implication that a civil rights evolution, which I think is a fair term, is done for purely political calculation. You know, Hillary Clinton got criticized for being liberal in the 1990s and she was–came late to this issue. As she pointed out in the interview, we’ve had a sea change in this nation over the last 20 years and Hillary Clinton was part of that sea change. Slightly ahead of the curve but not at the front of the parade and that seems to be the liberal criticism of her position.

COSTELLO: But I don't really know how you could argue, Brian, that politics doesn't play into decisions that politicians make because they have to.

STELTER: And I think we saw that in this exchange. Clearly Terry Gross wasn't buying what Hillary Clinton was selling and that's what made it such an important exchange.

COSTELLO: To those who say she's rusty and doesn't know how to handle the media, I mean this is a woman who has been first lady, a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, she's run for President. How can anyone say that, John?

AVLON: I mean, again, I think because she's so unruffleable and so professional– sort of presenting herself as our version of the Iron Lady in some respects, that because we got a really authentic push-back, that’s one of the things that made news. But I think it's also fair to say that she for the last four years has been almost entirely focused on foreign policy. This is the ground that she’s been most comfortable with. Very much above the domestic political fray and now with this book tour we're starting to see those domestic issues that come up in presidential campaigns intrude and she–she probably doesn't have her full judo back on that sort of footing.

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.