Hillary-Shielding MSNBCer Mitchell: Hasn't 'Statute of Limitations' Run Out on Clinton Scandals?!

During her MSNBC show on Monday, host Andrea Mitchell tried to dismiss unflattering revelations about Bill and Hillary Clinton found in a series of documents from a close confidante: "...they're some of the same headlines we read fifteen years ago. The latest 'breaking news,' quote, excerpts from an archive belonging to a close friend of Hillary Clinton, Diane Blair....So what is new here?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Mitchell directed that question to Time's Mark Halperin, who sneered: "...what we have so far, because we all need to go down and look at the original documents ourselves, are things out of context without corroboration, and it's not clear when she's – Diane Blair's quoting herself paraphrasing Hillary Clinton versus what Hillary Clinton said."

Turning to The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, Mitchell hoped the public would reject anything that might make the Clintons look bad: "Will people say, 'Wait a second, that's the '90s. The statute of limitations on those scandals are long since passed.' Or will this, like what Rand Paul has been saying in the last couple of weeks about Bill Clinton, will this become new fodder for opponents of Hillary Clinton should she run?"

Near the end of the show, Mitchell interviewed Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and wondered why the GOP was "rehashing the '90s" by talking about the documents.

On NBC Nightly News that evening, Mitchell lamented the negative Clinton news as evidence of "a campaign already brutal two years before it's begun."


Here is a transcript of Mitchell's February 10 exchange with Halperin and Cillizza:

1:16PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: Welcome back. For our Daily Fix, Bill and Hillary Clinton are back in the headlines, but they're some of the same headlines we read fifteen years ago. The latest "breaking news," quote, excerpts from an archive belonging to a close friend of Hillary Clinton, Diane Blair, an archive that has been available for public consumption since 2010. So why now? Joining me for our Daily Fix, Chris Cilizza, MSNBC contributor and managing editor of PostPolitics.com. And Mark Halperin, senior political analyst for MSNBC and Time.  

Mark, first to you. Because you and I were covering a lot of this back in the day. Diane Blair was one of Hillary Clinton's closest friends. The first friends, she and Jim Blair, whom Hillary made when she moved to Arkansas. She was a professor for 30 years in Fayetteville. She died in 2000 and she was friendly with the Clintons all through Whitewater, Lewinsky, impeachment, practically living at the White House by some accounts in 1993.

So what is new here? These are the archival documents that her husband put in at the University of Arkansas and put in to be released, I guess, four years ago. And now they're being made public by a conservative website.

MARK HALPERIN: Well, there's no doubt, as you suggested, Andrea, that Diane Blair was very close to Hillary Clinton. So from that point of view, we're dealing with somebody who, while she was alive as an adult, no one was closer to Hillary Clinton amongst her friends. So that adds – that puts a foundation down that says we should take this seriously.

On the other hand, what we have so far, because we all need to go down and look at the original documents ourselves, are things out of context without corroboration, and it's not clear when she's – Diane Blair's quoting herself paraphrasing Hillary Clinton versus what Hillary Clinton said.

But on a range of topics, not just the controversies involving impeachment, but a range of topics including health care, there's some interesting things in here that we all need to read more about and learn more about.

But I think the larger issue that it illustrates is that if Hillary Clinton runs for president, there will be a ton of stuff like this. And that the Clintons need to know, as they do, and the people around them need to know, this needs to be handled. And if you just take since this story's been out now, maybe 12 hours or so, the way they've handled it, which is silence, tells you something about their readiness for this kind of stuff.

MITCHELL: And Chris Cillizza, this shows you that opposition research is already out there, poised and ready to go. And that this is going to be an issue or not an issue? Will people say, "Wait a second, that's the '90s. The statute of limitations on those scandals are long since passed." Or will this, like what Rand Paul has been saying in the last couple of weeks about Bill Clinton, will this become new fodder for opponents of Hillary Clinton should she run?

CHRIS CILLIZZA: The short answer is I don't know, Andrea because I'm just not entirely sure. But, look, I think part of the reason Hillary Clinton is in the position she is in if she wants to run for president, and it's because in the last 30 years in which she has lived essentially a fully public life almost all of that time, she is someone who has, you know, been in the national spotlight. Someone who people have talked about. Someone whose name people do know.

What does that all translate to? Well, the past and her past experiences, that can be a strength, but I think as Mark notes, it can also be a weakness if there's an appetite within the American public for more of their stuff. There will be more of this stuff.

Remember back to 2008 campaign, Andrea. Hillary Clinton thought her experience, her resume, the depth of her life in public life, would be a huge asset. President Obama announced seven years ago today, he turned it into a real detriment to her, saying to her experience, didn't help her make the right judgments. The question is, is there a candidate out there who can make a similar argument in 2016? We haven't seen one on the Democratic side at least.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC