Hardball Panel Sympathizes With Hillary Over College Letters

Judging by the media's reaction one could assume the Hillary campaign isn't displeased by the release and subsequent publication by the New York Times of her college letters. During the roundtable portion of tonight's Hardball the media panel dissected how her letters during her college days affected her campaign and they mostly agreed they only serve to help humanize the notoriously cold candidate.

Joan Walsh of Salon.com declared: "I think they're intensely humanizing...So I thought there were a net gain, positive, for her." Walsh even encouraged her own daughter to read them for inspiration: "I have a teenager, so I want her to read them and remember, you know, it's, that we all have days like that."

Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post also picked up on the "humanizing" theme: "The interesting thing about those letters is that she is, Senator Clinton was not unlike other, other teenagers back then or even now. And as I was reading the, the Times story on the letters I wondered if, if Hillary Clinton, if there's a Hillary Clinton out there today, this conversation would be done via IM or text-messaging and there'd be lots of LOLs and emoticons all over the place. And so I have to, I have to agree, this does humanize her and just actually, kind of, makes Hillary Clinton to be just like any other introspective, thoughtful teenager."

Substitute hosting for Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle also sympathized with the young Hillary: "I felt badly, I tell ya, I felt badly for her, reading the letters. I wanted, I wanted you know, say lighten up! Have some fun! You're in college, what is this?"

The following is the full exchange as it occurred on the July 30th edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

Mike Barnicle: "Welcome back to Hardball. Time now to dig into today's hottest headlines with our political panel. Salon.com's Joan Walsh, The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart and the Weekly Standard's Matt Continetti. First up, Letters From A Teenage Hillary. Hillary Clinton's detractors might peg her for a cold, political machine but newly released letters that Hillary wrote to a friend, in the sixties, tell a different story. The hand-written letters depict an introspective, sometimes self-loathing, sometimes tortured emotional teen. In one note to a friend she writes, ‘Sunday was lethargic from the beginning as I wallowed in a morass of general and specific dislike and pity for most people, but me especially.' In another she asks, ‘Can you be a misanthrope and still love or enjoy some individuals? How about a compassionate misanthrope? Is this a new dimension to the Hillary we've all come to know? Joan Walsh, did you read the letters in the Times?"

Joan Walsh: "I did read the letters, Mike, and I think you put your finger on something. I think they are a new dimension. I think they're intensely humanizing. You know Hillary is somebody who's been depicted as this over-achiever, kind of cold, certainly a superstar. She came to public attention, you know really, as a college student with that famous Wellesley commencement address. She was, she went to Yale Law School. She worked for the, Senate, the Watergate panel. She married the, you know, the man who turned into the governor and then the President. There's not been a lot of hardship, except for, in her marriage, I suppose. She's like a person who was born with a silver spoon, politically, not, you know she's middle-class."

Barnicle: "Yeah."

Walsh: "So I think the letters showed her as a person who really struggled and, and is, who's actually much harder on herself than other people. There are no secrets. There's nothing degrading. There's nothing that, you know, you might, you might want to hide."

Barnicle: "Yeah."

Walsh: "So I thought there were a net gain, positive, for her."

Barnicle: "The thing that's surprising about the letters, Matt, was that A.) She wrote them so consistently to this one guy over a period of a year or a couple of years. I wouldn't want anybody seeing anything I wrote when I was 16. But-"

Matthew Continetti: "That's precisely the point, Mike. I mean here Hillary's used to having the press invade her private life, sometimes because of her husband's own actions but you wonder why people are sometimes discourage to enter public service, it's because they don't want the New York Times publishing letters they wrote as a talented 16-year-old on its front page. This level of invasive journalism is really kind of, makes me roll my eyes, to be honest."

Barnicle: "You read the letters. I sort of agree with that, actually. I sort of agree with you, Matt."

Jonathan Capehart: "Well what about the guy who collected the letters and then-"

Barnicle: "Kept them."

Capehart: "-kept them and, and handed them over."

Barnicle: "I'd want to know where he lives."

Capehart: "But you know what? The interesting thing about those letters is that she is, Senator Clinton was not unlike other, other teenagers back then or even now. And as I was reading the, the Times story on the letters I wondered if, if Hillary Clinton, if there's a Hillary Clinton out there today, this conversation would be done via IM or text-messaging and there'd be lots of LOLs and emoticons all over the place. And so I have to, I have to agree, this does humanize her and just actually, kind of, makes Hillary Clinton to be just like any other introspective, thoughtful teenager."

Barnicle: "Joan and you know when, when I saw the story and began reading the story, part of me said, you know do I really want to read this? Because the, the invasion of privacy thing is one thing but, you know, what does this, what, what if anything, did this tell you about Hillary Clinton? These letters? Other than the fact that she was, you know, a very well-educated 17, 18-year-old young woman at Wellesly."

Walsh: "You know, I think they show her to be a more sincere person than a lot of her detractors depict her as, Mike. I think you saw the struggle, you know, from a Goldwater Girl to a liberal Democrat, even beyond liberal, for a time, I would say. I think you saw that it was authentic. I think you, I think it really made her seem like somebody who grappled with real, internal issues, even sometimes demons, although you know, when we're teenagers everything seems like a demon."

Barnicle: "Yeah."

Walsh: "So I think we, I think we did gain something in our understanding and I don't begrudge the Times for-"

Barnicle: "I felt badly, I tell ya, I felt badly for her, reading the letters. I wanted, I wanted you know, say lighten up! Have some fun! You're in college, what is this?"

Walsh: "Right."

Barnicle: "My God! I mean, you know, the end of the world is coming. You hate your father, stop it! Go out and get drunk on a weekend."

Walsh: "Well I have a teenager."

Barnicle: "Yeah."

Walsh: "Right, I have a teenager, so I want her to read them and remember, you know, it's, that we all have days like that but mostly it's a time you should be having more fun, actually."

 

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.