Hillary Clinton hit a "home run" with her performance in a live CNN "townhall"-style interview hosted by CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Chris Matthews enthused at the opening of his June 17 Hardball program.
The MSNBC host also seemed thrilled that Clinton may have taken his on-air coaching to heart regarding Benghazi questions one week ago. First his remarks at the top of the program (emphasis mine; MP3 audio clip here; video follows page break):
CHRIS MATTHEWS, host: Home run for Hillary. Let's play Hardball.
Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews up in Boston. Let me start tonight with Hillary Clinton's strong performance this evening. Her big town hall interview with CNN came on the day that the United States captured what president Obama described as the master mind or one of the master minds of the attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi in 2012.
It is clear to me, however, that Secretary Clinton, after a week of facing the lions of the press is in impressive form right now to take on the questions that have been thrown at her.
She went out there and defended the obvious fact that ambassadors like Chris Stevens, who was killed in Benghazi, take risks as part of their commitment to this country and to their mission in a dangerous world.
She used it as an opportunity to say the United States needs to be engaged in the world, even if it is dangerous, especially because it is dangerous. But Secretary Clinton made clear we should not be engaged militarily in today's Iraq for the simple reason that the people of Iraq are not united behind the government there...
A few moments later, after introducing his guests -- Salon's Joan Walsh and former RNC chairman Michael Steele -- Matthews played a sound bite of Clinton's answer about Ambassador Stevens before praising Clinton once again for, well, following his advice (emphasis mine):
HILLARY CLINTON from June 17 CNN interview: We send Americans into perilous, dangerous places all the time. And I believe that's the right decision. We have to do it prudently, of course. But we need to be where things are happening that can affect us. The security of our country, of our friends and our allies and so much else that we hold dear.
When people have every right to second guess and question, but when they say the United States shoudn't be in these dangerous places, I just fundamentally disagree. I don't think we should be retreating from the world. And that would be a position that I would strongly advocate.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Michael Steele, I have been waiting a long time to hear somebody say the obvious. Ambassadors make decisions in the countries where they represent the president of the United States. That's their job, to make the tough decisions.
Chris Stevens made a decision which he was probably proud to make but which cost him his life. Because that comes with the territory. She said that. She also made a point of talking where the president was that night, she talked about where she was that night. All the details everybody's has been asking for. I think she hit a home run tonight on all these issues. Your thoughts?
For his part, Steele scored Clinton a a triple, noting that "she herself said there's still things about Benghazi I don't know."
"What is it that we still need to know? What is it that you don't know, Madam Secretary, that the rest of us should know or we need to find out?" Steele asked to which Matthews insisted she listed those questions in her interview, questions about motive of the attackers.
There's more than that, Steele shot back. What about the "motivations and the politics and the approaches that were taken by the administration," he asked, presumably referring to the administration initially blaming a YouTube video when evidence shows that officials knew early on it was a sophisticated, pre-planned terrorist attack.
Yes, Mrs. Clinton was "much more solid on Benghazi than she has been in the past," and it "was almost a reset for her in that sense" but the Benghazi concerns "are not over yet," Steele argued.
Walsh largely agreed with Matthews and Steele, hailing Clinton's performance albeit not as viscerally enthused as Matthews. "She was a little rusty when she started this [book tour]... but she's definitely tuned up."
Asked by Matthews at the end of the segment how she'd score Mrs. Clinton's latest crack of the bat, Walsh sought to "split the difference" by declaring it an "inside the park home run."