Chris Matthews Has Friendly Chat with Hillary Over Judicial ‘Litmus Tests,’ Bashing Rubio

Hillary Clinton made her latest appearance Monday night on the friendly confines of MSNBC’s Hardball as she partnered with host Chris Matthews to discuss “litmus tests” for judicial appointees and trash Republicans over their reaction to the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia plus Senator Marco Rubio for his pro-life views. 

Matthews didn’t even try to make it difficult from the beginning as he made a statement instead of an actual question to Clinton about Republicans and the Court vacancy: “The Republican approach to this open Court seat, now seems to be no confirmation, no vote, no even hearing. Not even any hearings. Nada. They don't even want to talk about filling the seat of Justice Scalia.”

Clinton responding by reciting the liberal talking point that Republicans would honor Scalia’s legacy best if they would go along with hearing and confirming the person President Obama selects to replace him: 

Justice Scalia was known for his strict interpretation of the Constitution, so I find it hard to understand the Republicans wanting to blatantly ignore the Constitution, in replacing him. Article II, section II of the Constitution clearly says it's the President's job to nominate justices to the Supreme Court with the advise and consent of the Senate....trying to flaunt the Constitution is a really funny way for the Republicans to be honoring Justice Scalia's memory and legacy[.]

The husband of someone running for Congress and hoping to gain Clinton’s formal support (since she already has Clinton’s donors) continued the interview with two questions centering around whether or not she would require “litmus tests” on issues like campaign finance for judicial appointee if she were elected president. 

In the course of those questions, Matthews was able to confirm that it’s an issue she’d consider plus “a whole range of decisions that I think are really important.”

Pivoting to abortion, Matthews lobbed a softball about whether or not the former First Lady is “satisfied with Roe v. Wadeto which Clinton eagerly (and wildly) asserted that the “decision recognized the rights of women to make these really difficult choices and it is as close as I think we could ever get to, you know, making it clear that there can be restrictions after a certain point.”

Matthews revealed next that it was a leading question because he wanted to opine how disgusted he was “at Senator Rubio saying in one of the debates the other night that you supported abortion right up until the date of birth.” 

“I don't know what he meant by that exactly. That wouldn't be your position — that's not Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade has restrictions on that final period — the final trimester,” Matthews added.

Brushing her potential general election opponent aside, Clinton declared that the Florida senator didn’t “know what he was talking about” and only “moving as far to the right as he possibly can get, but Roe is very clear that if you take into account the life and health of the mother, there can be exceptions to restrictions that are imposed that are lawful, constitutional.”

The man who admitted the night before the Iowa caucuses that he “like[s] Hillary personally and politically” closed by teeing up another attack on Rubio and how he stated in Saturday’s GOP debate that her husband and former President had a chance to stop Osama bin Laden and 9/11 but didn’t:

MATTHEWS: One last question. Let me ask you about this other Rubio charge. He said that President Clinton, Bill Clinton was responsible for 9/11. Did you know his logic? I’ll be honest, he has a logic. He said because the President had the chance to kill bin Laden and — he didn’t do it.

CLINTON: Well, and as you remember, you know, yes. There was an effort to kill him. Based on the intelligence that was available. Missiles struck what we thought to be a training camp, so it wasn't like there wasn't an effort....again, I — I see somebody like Senator Rubio just twisting himself into pretzels trying to appeal to the, you know, the base of his party, to try to say things that have no common sense, or merit to them. You know, he has to run his campaign, but it's kind of a sad commentary. 

The transcript of the interview on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews on February 15 can be found below.

MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews 
February 15, 2016
7:02 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I'm joined on the phone by Hillary Clinton. Madam Secretary, thanks for joining us. The Republican approach to this open Court seat, now seems to be no confirmation, no vote, no even hearing. Not even any hearings. Nada. They don't even want to talk about filling the seat of Justice Scalia. 

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, Chris, I find that's the hype of irony. You know, Justice Scalia was known for his strict interpretation of the Constitution, so I find it hard to understand the Republicans wanting to blatantly ignore the Constitution, in replacing him. Article II, section II of the Constitution clearly says it's the President's job to nominate justices to the Supreme Court with the advise and consent of the Senate. The Constitution doesn't say wait a year and hope for a president of a different party and trying to flaunt the Constitution is a really funny way for the Republicans to be honoring Justice Scalia's memory and legacy and there are huge issues at stake. You know, the Supreme Court's in the middle of considering the president's executive order to let dreamers say in the country. That's essential to over 1 million young people, they're considering the very burdensome restrictions placed on women's reproductive decisions. That could affect millions of women. They're going to have a big impact in deciding the fate of President Obama's plan to cut greenhouse gas pollution and address climate change. So I think the Supreme Court deserves nine justices and I think we should demand that the Senate do its duty, and receive and act on whoever the President nominates. 

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your position about appointing Supreme Court justices should you be elected president. You rival, Senator Sanders said he would put a litmus test. It must be someone who wants to get rid of Citizens United. Where are you on that? 

CLINTON: Well, I had hoped that anybody I appoint would understand the grave damage that Citizens United is doing to our democracy. I think we need to appoint Supreme Court justices who are living in the, you know, the real give-and-take of the world, and can see with their own eyes how some of the decisions, whether it's voting rights, or Citizens United, made by this Court are having very pernicious effect. I would be looking for people who understood that. 

MATTHEWS: Would you set that as what we call a litmus test? In other words, talk to the possible nominee and say, I want to know where you stand on getting rid of Citizens United as a prerequisite to naming them? Would it be a litmus test? 

CLINTON: Look, I will be — I'll be talking in detail with anybody that I appoint. It's not just that decision, I have a whole range of decisions that I think are really important. So yeah, it would factor very much into who I nominated. 

MATTHEWS: Are you satisfied with — I know no Supreme Court decision is perfect, but are you satisfied with Roe v. Wade? Would you say, that's where I'm at? 

CLINTON: Yes, absolutely, Chris, no doubt that that decision recognized the rights of women to make these really difficult choices and it is as close as I think we could ever get to, you know, making it clear that there can be restrictions after a certain point, so long as the life and health of the mother are taken into effect and I think it has been a decision that, you know, has been important to the constitutional rights of women, but I also think that because it was premised on, you know, women making their own choices, there's plenty of room for women to make whichever choice they so choose to make and that's how it should be in our country. 

MATTHEWS: The reason I raise that, I know your position is pro-choice all these years and I just was amazed at Senator Rubio saying in one of the debates the other night that you supported abortion right up until the date of birth. I don't know what he meant by that exactly. That wouldn't be your position — that's not Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade has restrictions on that final period — the final trimester. 

CLINTON: Absolutely. I don't know what he was talking about. I'm not sure he knew what he was talking about. 

MATTHEWS: Well, it gets worse.

CLINTON: He is moving as far to the right as he possibly can get, but Roe is very clear that if you take into account the life and health of the mother, there can be exceptions to restrictions that are imposed that are lawful, constitutional. 

MATTHEWS: One last question. Let me ask you about this other Rubio charge. He said that President Clinton, Bill Clinton was responsible for 9/11. Did you know his logic? I’ll be honest, he has a logic. He said because the President had the chance to kill bin Laden — 

CLINTON: Yeah. 

MATTHEWS: — and — he didn’t do it.

CLINTON: Well, and as you remember, you know, yes. There was an effort to kill him. Based on the intelligence that was available. Missiles struck what we thought to be a training camp, so it wasn't like there wasn't an effort. The original group that was set up to, you know, monitor and go after al-Qaeda and bin Laden dates to those years. So again, I — I see somebody like Senator Rubio just twisting himself into pretzels trying to appeal to the, you know, the base of his party, to try to say things that have no common sense, or merit to them. You know, he has to run his campaign, but it's kind of a sad commentary. 

MATTHEWS: Ah yeah. Thank you so much, Secretary Clinton, for coming on tonight on Hardball

CLINTON: Thank you. Good to talk to you. Bye-bye. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center