CBS's Dickerson Defends 'Ruthless Hillary Clinton'; Her 'Enemies List' Is 'Best Practice'

CBS's John Dickerson is in shameless spin mode to shield Hillary Clinton from damaging new revelations in both a new book, HRC, and a confidante's diaries, even as his network, along with the rest of the liberal media, insist that unproven allegations against Chris Christie will likely prove fatal to his 2016 presidential aspirations.

"Not all cutthroat politicians are the same," blares the teaser headline for the CBS political director's February 12 piece, a reprint from the left-wing Slate website and featured prominently on the CBSNews.com website this morning. The subheader promises a look at "Why a ruthless Hillary Clinton and a ruthless Chris Christie aren't the same thing." Here's a telling excerpt: [emphasis mine; see screen capture below page break]


In New Jersey the ruthlessness of the Christie operation bled over into its abuse of power, but so far there is no connection between Christie and his aides. In the Blair documents, Clinton is ruthless in conversation in a way that we never have seen with Christie. It’s gripping reading, but it’s more figurative than real; Clinton couldn’t abuse power because as first lady she had none. Furthermore, the machismo displayed in private conversations with a friend requires a caveat. It’s possible that Clinton, powerless and under siege, talked tougher on the phone precisely because she couldn’t follow through in real life. 

Abuse of power is not the only downside of ruthlessness. The danger is that it can lead to an all-consuming vindictiveness. There is nothing wrong per se with an enemies list of the kind reported in HRC. In a business of leverage and power, it’s almost a best practice. Bill Clinton raised money for Sen. Claire McCaskill, and then she said she wouldn’t let him near her daughter. She also endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary. That would seem to be the kind of offense so glaring you wouldn’t need a cheat sheet to remember it. But politics can get confusing. McCaskill has already endorsed Hillary for president in 2016. But there were also lesser officeholders who caused offense who occupied the enemies list spreadsheet, and in ensuing elections for attorney general and Congress, Bill Clinton campaigned in Democratic primaries against candidates who had backed Obama against his wife.

Clinton as first lady was powerless? Yup, that's exactly how she was able to clear the deck for a Senate run in 2000 in New York, despite her blatant carpetbagging and bigfooting over better-established Democrats who, you know, actually LIVED in the Empire State all their lives.

And let's not forget that Mrs. Clinton had carte blanche in the first two years of her husband's presidency to spearhead the ill-fated health-care overhaul. She was ineffective in that Hillarycare failed, but not exactly powerless. Yes, the first lady lacks any constitutional or statutory power, but as the spouse of the president, the first lady, any first lady, commands certain social and political capital and wields considerable influence.

What's more, the line about there being "nothing wrong per se with an enemies list" is an absolute howler. Yes, politicians can and will hold grudges, but it takes it to a whole new level when you actually commit that grudge to a piece of paper or an electronic file that documents those grudges and enemies.

But then again, maybe Dickerson would say there's nothing wrong, per se, with a document laying out how a political party needs to "go for the throat" of its rivals across the aisle.

Dickerson, you may recall, infamously groused back in January 2013 that Democrats were not being ruthless enough in their partisan warfare with the GOP. Dickerson counseled that Democrats need to "go for the throat" and "declare war," with the president's "only remaining option [being] to pulverize" the GOP rather than seek constructive engagement and compromise.

Yeah, according to John Dickerson, there's nothing wrong with smashmouth politics or enemies lists. You just have to have the right letter (D) after your name.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters