CNN Touts Hillary's 'Highly-Anticipated' Memoir, Defends Her From 'Amateurish' Criticism

CNN's New Day provided Hillary Clinton with some free publicity on Monday, touting her "highly-anticipated" memoir while swatting back criticism of her as "a little amateurish."

CNN's Brianna Keilar reported on memoir excerpt where Hillary talked of her late mother, which Politico's Maggie Haberman called "a very human, relatable story" which was "supposed to let people relate to her, understand who she is, connect." However, when CNN brought up Sen. Marco Rubio grading Clinton's term as secretary of state with a "F," co-host Chris Cuomo dismissed that take.

"I think Rubio gave her an opportunity," Cuomo insisted. "I think it's a little amateurish, his criticism, to be honest."

Cuomo actually gave support to the Democratic line that Hillary has traveled the most of any secretary of state:

"If you're going to say I'm just terrible at everything, you're giving – yeah, because you're giving me an opportunity to offer up a generality and response. 'Well, actually, no, I traveled more than any secretary of state, ever. I guess I'm not terrible.' There goes your criticism."

Below is a transcript of the segment:

CNN
NEW DAY
5/12/14
[6:30 p.m. EDT]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN anchor: This morning, a new side of Hillary Clinton and family, in a first glimpse at the former secretary of state's new memoir "Hard Choices." A revealing excerpt released by Vogue magazine on Sunday focuses not on her professional life but more on her personal life, detailing her mother's traumatic past, and, of course, many are saying it's all about 2016. Here's senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar with more.

(Video Clip)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN senior political correspondent: It's the first look inside Hillary Clinton's highly-anticipated memoir, a revealing tribute to her mother Dorothy Rodham, in an audio excerpt released on Vogue's website on Mother's Day.

HILLARY CLINTON, former secretary of state: No one had a bigger influence on my life or did more to shape the person I became.

KEILAR: Clinton says her mother stressed social justice as she raised the future first lady and secretary of state. She describes her mother's hard-scrabble childhood, sent to live with severe grandparents who locked her in the room for a year as punishment for trick-or-treating, leaving at 14, striking out on her own. Clinton asked her how she survived.

CLINTON: I'll never forget how she replied. "At critical points in my life, somebody showed me a kindness," she said.

KEILAR: By contrast, Clinton says her mother always gave her unconditional love and support, including after she lost her campaign for president.

CLINTON: Having her so close became a source of great comfort to me, especially in the difficult period after the end of the 2008 campaign. I'd come home from a long day at the Senate or the State Department, slide in next to her at the small table in our breakfast nook, and let everything just pour out.

KEILAR: And when her mother died in 2011, Clinton said she longed for one more conversation, one more hug. But she also says she felt newly moved to take the advice she's sure her mother would give.

CLINTON: Never rest on your laurels. Never quit. Never stop working to make the world a better place. That's our unfinished business.

KEILAR: Clinton doesn't say if that unfinished business includes another try for the White House. Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.

(End Video Clip)

BOLDUAN: Brianna, thanks so much. For more on this, let's bring in Amy Chozick, national political reporter for The New York Times. And Maggie Haberman, CNN political analyst and senior political writer for Politico. Good morning.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN political analyst: Good morning.

BOLDUAN: So, why release this first? Everyone, a lot of the talk pre-any release of excerpts of the book, was about for her time as secretary of state. Why release this well-timed to Mother's Day excerpt, do you think, Maggie?

HABERMAN: Exactly the way you just said it. This is a very human, relatable story. Her relationship with her mother was very deep. Dorothy Rodham was a very interesting woman. She was really known when Hillary Clinton was a first lady, and I think that the Clinton folks are very concerned about the main factor that she didn't have in her 2008 campaign, or a main factor – connectability, relatability. This is what this is designed to do and that audio excerpt is also a piece of that. It's supposed to let people relate to her, understand who she is, connect. Whether that works is a different issue, but that is what the goal is here.

BOLDUAN: Is it a good first step, do you think? I mean, do you think it actually will have an impact?

HABERMAN: Without having seen what the rest of the book is, I think it is a good first step. Yes. I think that talking about anyone's mother is always very human and very relatable. Her mother had an interesting life. Her mother had a very difficult life. We don't know how deeply she gets into other issues. What people are going to want to know is about Hillary Clinton herself. Not just her relationship with family members. How deeply she delves into that is the big question.

CUOMO: But isn't that kind of the problem that, you know, of course, you're not going to criticize someone's love of their mom, not even you, Chozick. You're not even go after her for that. But it is this idea, especially among those who will be doing the coverage, of contrivance that everything is planned out. So, is there a risk that even by doing something as wholesome as loving your mom is seen here as part of the act?

AMY CHOZICK, The New York Times: Right. Well, I immediately thought in 2008 there was so much wrestling to whether to show her as the strong commander in chief or the soft maternal side of her. And, obviously, the commander in chief side won out and that was not effective. So, of course, the political reporters when they read that, they were like, oh, this is a sign that she's opening up, she's saying I'm a mother, I'm a daughter, I'm excited to be a grandmother, and she's showing that softer side right off the bat. So, it's impossible not to view that in sort of a political lens, of softening her image.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about – I mean, in one bit, let's talk about – and Brianna had her piece, let's talk about it again on this unfinished business. She says mom measured her own life by how much she was able to help us and serve others. I knew if she was still with us, she would be urging me, urging us to do the same, never rest on our laurels, never quit, never stop working to make the world a better place. That's our unfinished business. People, of course, are going to read deeply into that line "unfinished business." Amy, should they?

CHOZICK: Yes, I mean, yes, absolutely. I think it's like TBD, and that they sort of want to us to --

BOLDUAN: Right, on the Twitter page, right?

CHOZICK: Yes. I mean, the other thing about her mother, I thought was interesting was that the Clintons occupy this very rarefied world now. They live in New York. They go to the Hamptons. She gets paid talks to Wall Street. And I thought this very much rooted her, you know, I come from Midwestern roots. My mother's struggle. I'm just one generation removed from her. She was a nanny, she worked hard, you know, solid Midwestern stock that would play well in the campaign.

CUOMO: What does it get her? Let's try and demystify for people. Why does Hillary avoid the obvious? She's running for president, until she tells us otherwise, she's running, she's doing all the other things you're supposed to do. Why do this game? Is this just for us, is it like a layer of anticipation that we get to cover before the actual decision?

HABERMAN: As fun as it is, I think it's for everybody. I think it's for herself. I think for the polls. I think that her numbers – and everyone knows this – her numbers are worse when she is seen as political. So, the longer she can drag out the process by which she is not viewed in that context, the better it is. Her numbers have already gone down from last year. The Benghazi focus has taken a real hit on them. So the extent she can delay that point and that starting gate, she's going to.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the political and that Benghazi focus. Marco Rubio was asked about Hillary Clinton on ABC This Week, and here's what she said.

(Video Clip)

Sen. MARCO RUBIO (R-Fla.): I'm sure she's go on bragging about her time in the State Department. She's also going to have to be held accountable for its failures. Whether it's the failed reset with Russia or the failure in Benghazi that actually cost lives.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC News chief White House correspondent: So, what grade do you give her as secretary of state?

RUBIO: I don't think she has a passing grade. In fact --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think she's an "F"?

RUBIO: Yeah, because if you look at the diplomacy that was pursued at her time in the State Department, it has failed everywhere in the world.

(End Video Clip)

BOLDUAN: They know this is coming at them, a Hillary campaign. What -- one, what is Marco Rubio trying to get out of this? And, two, is the book going to answer any of those questions?

HABERMAN: I don't think the book is ever going to answer those questions to the satisfaction of people who oppose her and her critics. I don't know whether even if you're objective, it's going to end up answering those questions and that's what remains to be seen. For Marco Rubio, this is very easy. This is a clear hit with the Republican base. He also is trying to stand out a bit on foreign policy himself. This is not something he has deep chops on. Yeah, it's worked very well for Rand Paul, right? So, he's walking a pretty well ready trodden path.

CHOZICK: I think it speaks to a broader dilemma in that the book really has to define her tenure at State Department, even if she doesn't get into the weeds of a lot. I think Maggie and I were both at an event a couple months ago in which she really struggled just to name one accomplishment. And she said you can read about the details in the book. So, I think there's a lot of anticipation on just defining it beyond what Republicans call "odometer diplomacy," beyond just miles traveled.

CUOMO: I think Rubio gave her an opportunity. Because the easiest criticism to counter is "you're terrible at everything." If you're going to say I'm just terrible at everything, you're giving – yeah, because you're giving me an opportunity to offer up a generality and response. Well, actually, no, I traveled more than any secretary of state, ever. I guess I'm not terrible. There goes your criticism. You know, I think it's a little amateurish, his criticism, to be honest.  

HABERMAN: Well, I think to Amy's point, though, I think she needs to come up with something other than just I traveled the world a lot because the odometer diplomacy has been mocked pretty widely –  
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014