Jon Alter: Bill Clinton's 'Very, Very Positive' Global Work Shouldn't Raise Conflicts for Hillary

On Tuesday’s Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter couldn’t imagine why anyone would see conflict-of-interest troubles if Hillary Clinton becomes Secretary of State while her husband the ex-president has a sprawling international foundation with its mitts in a long list of countries. Alter insisted all of Clinton’s work is "very, very positive. It’s been for great causes around the world." Alison Stewart guest-hosted for Maddow, and pushed the button that started Alter’s Bill-burnishing remarks:

STEWART: Is Bill Clinton a stumbling block for Hillary Clinton getting the Secretary of State gig?

ALTER: You know, I don’t think he really is, unless, for some reason, they just refuse to disclose as much as the Obama people want them to. There’s nothing that's all that terrible here. Most of the money that Clinton has raised, in fact, it's very, very positive. It's been for great causes around the world. Fighting poverty. Fighting AIDS.

But he's got to disclose it because Obama’s made it very clear he wants a transparent administration and if, you know, the big dog thinks that the rules don't apply to him, then this nomination could get held up. Or it may be as Politico reports, she decides that is she’d rather stay in the senate. So we don't want to get ahead of ourselves on how this will play out, but I do think it's pretty likely that this thing will be fairly smooth sailing for Hillary Clinton becoming Secretary of State.

You can tell the administrations have shifted when MSNBC anchors start mocking people who are leaking information that the Obama team was keeping a lid on. Alter did admit the Obama folks are "control freaks when it comes to information." Not that it really bothers the team players at Newsweek:

STEWART: Another day, another leak out of the Obama camp. What do you think the purpose of today's leak was? I'm assuming it has a purpose somewhere, that eric holder has been tapped for attorney general?

ALTER: There are different motivations for leaks. Sometimes people just get their jollies by saying they leaked it in the press and they don't necessarily have any real reason to do it. But it is, I'm sure it's something that’s aggravating for the Obama people because they wanted to release these on their own time, and they're learning the lesson that every president learns.

Remember when Ronald Reagan said "I've had it up to my keister with these leaks," going all the way back to, presidents have really pulled their hair out over this, not all of them have responded like Nixon and get a "plumbers" unit to spy on the leakers, but it's something that the Obama people had to figure was going to start happening before long. But they are control freaks when it comes to information and I'm sure they're not happy at all that this was not done on their schedule.

STEWART: I got to tell you, if you get your jollies through leaks you need to get out more often. That's all I'm saying.

ALTER: You're in Washington, Allison. You know, there are people there who they'll really do. They love opening the paper the next day – "Ooh, I leaked that," and it makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

As if journalists don’t feel all warm and fuzzy inside for finding the leakers and spreading the insider word all around. Speaking of feeling warm and fuzzy inside, Stewart seemed to be aiming for warming up Alter in her introduction:

Joining us now is Newsweek Senior Editor Jonathan Alter. He’s of course an NBC news analyst and author of the new book The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, which is flying off the shelves after Barack Obama mentioned it on his interview on 60 Minutes as the book that he’s currently reading about FDR’s Hundred Days.

"New?" Even the paperback edition of Alter's book came out in May of 2007. When asked, Obama said he was referring to Alter's book, but also an FDR book by Jean Edward Smith. Touting the books of liberal journalists, padding their book royalties? Isn't that an ideological earmark of some kind? Obama touted a "new" book, no author attached, on CBS:

KROFT: Have you been reading anything about the Depression? Anything about FDR?
OBAMA: You know, I have actually. There's a new book out about FDR's first 100 days and what you see in FDR that I hope my team can -- emulate, is not always getting it right, but projecting a sense of confidence, and a willingness to try things. And experiment in order to get people working again.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis