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Charles Krauthammer and Juan Williams on the unusually good liars, the Clintons

Saturday, February 24, 2007

HH: Normally, we have Fred and Morton at this hour, but not tonight. I think they are covering Anna Nicole, I think. I think they’re going to the Bahamas. But a real treat. Not only Charles Krauthammer, always great to have the doctor with us, but Juan Williams makes his first appearance on the Hugh Hewitt Show. Juan, good to have you on. Thanks for being here.

JW: My pleasure. How did you get the scoop about where they went?

HH: I kind of figured. I know that Fred’s an absolute sucker for those stories.

CK: I think it’s got to do with their paternity tests, actually.

HH: (laughing) I’ll tell them that you said that.

CK: These guys were subpoenaed, and they were summoned to the Bahamas.

JW: You’re libeling Fred, oh my God.

HH: Both of them. That’s what’s really interesting. It’s like Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich.

CK: Yeah, exactly.

HH: Let me talk, being by asking you about the Politico. I just got done talking to John Harris, earlier today was talking with Jeanne Cummings. Juan Williams, as an NPR and an old media guy, what do you think about Politico? Will it be able to attract the readership inside the Beltway it needs?

JW: Well, it’s oversaturation. There’s no question about that. But right now, I would say Hotline is the ticket, and even if you stop and think about some of the daily competition that it’s generated, things that come out of the networks and the like, they’ve not been able to put a dent into Hotline’s status. And I don’t know, Politico, it seems to me, would really have to do more than report some gossip. I mean, they’ve have to break some stories. They’ve got people who are capable of it, but they sure haven’t shown that they’re able to do it yet.

HH: Charles, what do you think?

CK: Well, I’m impartial here, because I’m a friend of Marty Tolchin, who’s one of the founders, was a great newspaper man, former New York Times, and who was involved in other Capitol Hill papers. And anything he’s doing I’d sort of probably put my money on. Look, what they’re trying to do is to try to get the new media stuff integrated with the old, and that’s what everybody is trying to figure out. New Republic just announced today it’s going to go to once every other week instead of once a week, trying to figure out how to use the web. What the Politico offers is not just three days a week paper, actual felled trees on your doorstep, but internet stuff, they have an agreement with CBS, they’re working with a station here in Washington, a television station, so that they’re going to try to see if you can gather up information and use all these sources at once as a way to get it amplified. And that might work over time, and they have excellent people, and if you have the good writers, good reporters, and real access out there in outlets, it might work. So I don’t know.

HH: I think I also wrung an admission from John Harris that after the first year and a half, two years, they’re going to try and replace the Washington bureaus for all the mid-majors by syndicating out their content. Juan Williams, once you’ve got a Politico and a Hotline producing the kind of news that’s deeply reported by competent and experienced A-team reporters in D.C., why would any mid-major newspaper maintain the expense of a bureau when they could just buy and use that?

JW: Well, typically, what you’ve got to have if you’re a newspaper out in the middle of the country is somebody who pays attention to your Senators, your Congressmen. The coverage comes through the lens of your readers’ interest and, you know, whether or not your guy is bringing home the bacon. So that would be the reason. But overall, you’re exactly right. We’re seeing this in TV land as well. I mean, they don’t have bureaus overseas anymore. They’re more than willing to do, give the feed news coverage to the cable channels, to Fox and the others, rather than to put the effort in, because they don’t see the money coming back. So maybe that’s the future, but right now, I don’t know. If you really are interested in news, are you telling me that you would be going on the web? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s the future, but right now, I think you’re looking for first rate newspapers, and if you’re a big time political player in Washington, I think you’re reading the Hotline.

HH: All right, let’s go to the big story of the week, which is Hillary and Barack Obama. Charles, was that an intentional dust up? I interviewed Rudy Giuliani last hour, he thought it was just an accidental collision, and that they all get back to their corners in a hurry, because nobody profits from it. Your take on it?

CK: I think it was an accidental collision. I’m not sure that the Geffen, the original story, the quotes he gave, the really rough stuff about Hillary, I mean, here’s a guy who gave them $18 million, essentially calls her a pathological liar, not exactly what you want out of your friends, that, I think was unplanned. But I think what is planned here, you know, Hillary has been running for 20 years. Her husband that gave the keynote address at the convention in 1988, and remember when Bill ran, he said you buy one, you get one free. So she and her husband have been in the business of the presidency, organizing, laying the groundwork, for twenty years. Here she is, all of a sudden, this guy comes out of nowhere on the back of one book, two years in the Senate, and a media swoon, and she’s asking herself how is this possible, and she’s, you know, her coronation is interrupted, and her strategy has to be to challenge this guy over and over again, on whatever it is, as a way to knock him off his course. Either he fights back and then he ends up in the gutter with her, and he loses his sheen, or he runs away, and everybody says he’s weak, he doesn’t have the stomach and the fight to be a president. So it’s going to happen over and over again. This is round one, it’s a fifteen rounder.

HH: Juan, do you agree with that analysis?

JW: Yeah, I think that’s pretty wise. I mean, the difficulty here is I think Obama wants to rise above the static. He just doesn’t have the money, he doesn’t have the organization, he doesn’t have Bill Clinton and all of the people who have benefited from Clinton’s time in the White House, he doesn’t have all the political consultants who are on the payroll. So what Obama has got to do at this point is rely on momentum, and say that he is part of a new kind of American, and especially Democratic Party politics that’s not the politics of polarization, that he is simply looking to pull people together, and he wants, he has the capacity to capture the middle of the American electorate in the general election, and assure the Democrats a win. So if he gets involved in the dirty, you know, trading dirt with Hillary Clinton, that’s not to his advantage. And Geffen this week, now some people might say Geffen did that without Obama’s permission, but when he starts saying, when Geffen starts talking about the Clintons a liars, when he starts talking about Hillary as overscripted, overproduced, inauthentic, a lot of people think oh, is that Obama? And then Hillary’s people say Obama’s got to apologize. Obama’s got to return the money. Obama says no, it wasn’t me. I’m not returning anything. That’s not to Obama’s advantage, although I think if you look back over the last week or so, it’s Hillary who’s taken the shots here. I think Hillary has been damaged. I don’t know that it was so wise for her to elevate that Maureen Dowd column to the kind of height that she did by responding to it so angrily.

HH: Let me follow up with both of you about the substance of the Geffen assertion. Juan Williams, do you think the Clintons are unusually good liars?

JW: (laughing) Well, I must say, there’s substance there. There’s no question that if you look at some of these things, everything from you know, some of the scandals they were involved in even before Monica Lewinsky, you’d have to wonder about is, is, as the former president’s famous for having said.

HH: So Geffen was not out of line to make the comment that he did?

JW: Well, I think, you know, gosh, it was a gutter comment. Is it out of line? Lots of people do lots of things. I mean, this was meant to harm. This was a personal and vindictive comment by a guy who says that for all the money he gave to Bill Clinton, apparently was disappointed that when he wanted somebody pardoned, his guy didn’t get pardoned. Instead, Marc Rich got pardoned, and he thinks that that was a reprehensible act, and he was lied to. So this is a personal thing between Geffen and the Clintons.

HH: But one more time. Was it true?

JW: Was it…I don’t know if…I don’t know if President Clinton had promised him…

HH: Oh, no, not that, that they’re unusually good liars. Do you believe that’s a true statement?

JW: I don’t know. I mean, gosh, how do you judge such a thing? What I said to you was I do believe there are times when the Clintons have lied.

HH: Charles, do you think it was a true statement?

CK: Well, I’m reminded of what the great retired political columnist, William Saffire wrote in the late 90’s. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but he called Hillary, I think I have this right, a congenital liar, and then he got a whole bunch of columns out of it, and explaining what he meant by congenital. And you know, this is not a new story. I never slept with that woman, that’s him, and then there was the Rose documents that showed up miraculously in the White House, their performance on Flowers in 1992 when the story came out on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. These people are pretty good at, let’s say, dissimulating, all right? That’s a cleaner, a nicer word.

HH: But I think the real story here…

CK: And that they’ve got a history of this.

HH: The real story here is not the kafuffle between Obama and Hillary, it’s that no one stepped up to say that Geffen was wrong, Juan Williams. No one came out to defend the Clintons.

CK: Well, yeah.

JW: Well, but wait a second. The Clintons came out.

HH: Well, that’s…

JW: They came out and said they wanted Obama to apologize. They didn’t ask for Geffen’s apology. They tried to use it against Obama, which is, I think, forward looking. Yeah, that’s the danger. But you’re right. I mean, how’s anybody going to defend, I think Charles laid it out for you in terms of not only Monica, but some of these other scandals they’ve been involved in. Dissembled? You know, they have a way of trying to skirt around issues, define it in a way that benefits them. Is that politics? Maybe it’s politics. Maybe that’s the way the game is played. But I think people called him Slick Willy for a reason.

CK: I’ll tell you, he’s unusually good liar. She is not that good a liar.

HH: She’s not that good of a liar (laughing).

CK: And that’s the big difference. And that’s her liability.

HH: She tries with more practice.

CK: He’s a great liar. He’s the best that we’ve had in fifty years.

HH: 30 seconds, Charles. Did the Vice President handle it right this week when he came out swinging on the war?

CK: Look, he believes in the war, he believes it can be won, he believes we’re in the middle of a great turning point. We’re either going to win or lose on what’s happening now in Baghdad, and he hates to see it undermined, at least the way that John Murtha had proposed it, and Pelosi, and I think he was right in saying that’s not the way to go.

HH: Juan Williams, welcome, good to have you. Charles Krauthammer, always a pleasure. Thanks to you both.

End of interview.

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