ST. PAUL, Minn.-- Walking around the convention area this afternoon, NewsBusters caught up with Fox News contributor and former Hillary Clinton campaign communications director Howard Wolfson.
Asked about a recent row with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, Wolfson declined to "reopen that can of worms." Queried on the Palin coverage, Wolfson said that "to his credit" Barack Obama hadn't leveled any sexist criticisms of the Alaska governor, but he also added that the thinks the media have been "chastened a little bit" and would ease off.
Below are excerpts of the interview. You can play the embedded video at right.
As my colleague Mark Finkelstein reported Tuesday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann labelled long-time Hillary Clinton advisor Howard Wolfson a Tokyo Rose-like traitor due to his current affiliation with Fox News.
On Wednesday, during an interview with FNC's Martha MacCallum, Wolfson struck back by mentioning how unfortunate it is "that a news organization with a great tradition like NBC has been taken over by those kind of antics."
That was just the beginning (video embedded below the fold, h/t Johnny Dollar):
Saying he's "not gonna take any lectures on how to be a good Democrat from two people who spent the last two years relentlessly attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton," Wolfson has fired back at Matthews and Olbermann. Noel Sheppard has the story here.
Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann put their own feud aside to agree on something tonight. Hillary honcho Howard Wolfson is a puppet, nay, a Tokyo Rose traitor, for going to work for Fox News. It was the McCain campaign's use in its ads of Hillary's anti-Obama statements that triggered the outburst.
KEITH OLBERMANN: Irony upon irony, instead of the commercials designed to destroy Hillary Clinton, [the Republicans] are using Hillary Clinton in commercials designed to destroy the Democratic nominee.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Those are crocodile tears. And you wonder whether an objective person, either rational or post-rational, would be able to appreciate the fact that that's clear politics--nothing wrong with it. But Republicans have no heart in Hillary Clinton's claim to the White House. They villainized her for years. Their commercials, their attitudes are--you go to a Republican hangout, it's all anti-Hillary. That's their point of view. To now hold her up as some victim of some sort of foul play, of unfair politics, is a joke. But the funny thing about it is, they're enjoying it. Fox News, for example, seems to enjoy it. It's no accident, for example, that they hired Howard Wolfson. They use him as some sort of, oh, little toy soldier waiting on the shelf.
OLBERMANN: Tokyo Rose was the thought that came to my mind.
You'd think Chris Matthews might wish Howard Wolfson well on the news that the former top aide to Hillary Clinton has joined Fox News as a Dem analyst. Think again. The Hardball host has ungraciously predicted that the move to Fox could spell the end of Wolfson—and in doing so revealed his own pop-culture roots.
Here was Matthews on this evening's Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Fox News loves presenting itself as the alternative to the other news networks. Roger Ailes, the guy behind the network, figures that the Hillary campaign needs a new home, now that she's out of the race for president. So, abracadabra, Howard Wolfson, the voice of the Hillary campaign, has just been hired by—you guessed it—Fox News. Wolfson has just signed a contract as a regular contributor. He told the New York Times, quote, "it is important to have a strong progressive voice on the network." Well I think it's the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Reminds me of a movie: it's called Howards End.
Howard Wolfson has become the latest prominent Democrat to join forces with Fox News Channel during the general election, hailing it for its "comprehensive and fair and evenhanded" coverage during the primaries.
That's quite an endorsement coming from one of the Democratic party's biggest communications mavens, and not one known for being especially soft-gloved. It's the equivalent of MSNBC suddenly getting endorsed by the likes of Mary Matalin or Ari Fleischer, something which is far less likely to happen. New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg broke the story:
Howard Wolfson, who was a top strategist for the presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is going where some Democrats were unwilling to go during the early days of the election season: the Fox News Channel. [...]
Mr. Wolfson is joining a network that Democrats shunned for a time, complaining that its coverage was unfair. But aides to Mrs. Clinton came to view Fox News as distinctly fair to her in a news media climate that they believed favored Senator Barack Obama.
Was it Hardball—or the World Series of Poker? Interviewing Hillary's Howard Wolfson today, Chris Matthews accused the Clinton campaign of playing the white race card. Just minutes later, when Wolfson suggested Matthews might be discriminating against Puerto Rican voters, Chris protested "don't play that card on me."
It's turning out to be a red-letter day for Hoosiers. This morning, Joe Scarborough tricked Mika Brzezinski into agreeing that the famous coach of the Indiana basketball team was Bear Bryant, of all people, rather than Bobby Knight. This afternoon on MSNBC, when Howard Wolfson questioned the Hoosier bona fides of a superdelegate who today announced he was switching from Clinton to Obama, Andrea Mitchell turned the Clinton aide's gambit back on Hillary with a vengeance.
Superdelegate Joe Andrew, who in the 90s was elevated to DNC chairman with the backing of Bill Clinton, and who had earlier endorsed Hillary, today announced that he was switching his support to Obama. The timing is critical since it comes just days before the Indiana primary, and Andrew hails from the Hoosier state.
Mitchell, hosting her regular 1 PM ET politics show on MSNBC, mentioned that fact to Wolfson. When Wolfson tried to undercut Andrew's Indiana affiliation, Mitchell riposted in spades, citing the multiple states to which Hillary has claimed connection. Andrew later appeared himself, setting the record straight.
Good thing Chris Matthews was down in DC and Mika Brzezinski in NYC this morning. Had they been in the same studio, it might have taken Springer-show security to pry them apart. Such was the level of bad vibes that cropped up between the MSNBC pair during Matthews' appearance on Morning Joe today.
The first incident to incite Matthews' ire was Mika's suggestion, after an impassioned Matthews plea to forget the Clintons and focus on Obama, that the Hardball host had done what it certainly sounded as if he had: endorsed the junior senator from Illinois. That drew a denial and an if-looks-could-kill glare from Matthews seen here in the screencap.
Later, Matthews got very miffed that Mika was about to end the interview of Hillary spokesman Howard Wolfson without letting Chris pose any questions.
Tucker Carlson, on his MSNBC show this evening, describing the Clinton campaign's press relations . . .
TUCKER CARLSON: They're awful to the media: let's be totally blunt. They're awful to the press. They treat the press like enemies. [Clinton Communication Director] Howard Wolfson's always calling around threatening people. Threatening people! News organizations! They do that! People hate you if you do that. I mean, they've earned the enmity of the press, in my view. They have. I mean, it's been hard but they've done it.
If things don't work out for Hillary with this presidential thing, she can always do stand-up out in LA. Or not. If you didn't catch her side-splitter on last night's Letterman, you can view it here, as rebroadcast on MSNBC this morning.
For those taking nitrates who might not want to risk a sudden drop in blood pressure by watching the clip, here's the text of Hillary's rib tickler:
Dave has been off the air for eight long weeks because of the writers' strike. Tonight he's back. Oh well. All good things come to an end.
Update 12-03 | 1:55 PM: Barack fires back; claims Hillary becoming "more desperate and negative by the day." See complete update at foot.
Are Hillary's internal polling numbers telling her staffers that she's in big trouble? That's the provocative theory that Chris Matthews floated on today's Morning Joe.
Host Joe Scarborough asked what could have caused Hillary and her senior aide Howard Wolfson to go on the attack against Barack Obama this weekend, respectively questioning his character and accusing him of maintaining an improper political "slush fund." In response, Matthews conjectured that Hillary's helpers have looked at the polling data . . . and seen her support "crashing."
View video here [with apologies for mediocre video quality.]
The current political buzzword is "naive." That's of course what Hillary called Obama, and he has responded in kind. But when it comes to being an ingenue, Obama has a long way to go to top Sally Quinn, grande dame of the DC set and wife of former WaPo editor Ben Bradlee. Here's what she said on this afternoon's "Hardball."
SALLY QUINN: The fact is that the new word these days is 'dialogue.' [Ed.: New? Well shut Socrates mouth!] And so many of these dictators, quote, dictators [Ed.: we wouldn't want to offend Assad or Kim Jong Il] are really sort of shallow people who are looking for respect, andif you talk to them, you can immediately sort of get them down and get them on your side.