While Hillary Clinton hates doing Sunday shows – as we remember from the weekend after Benghazi – she did allow her close friend Gov. Terry McAuliffe to appear on Meet the Press on April 19. Jaws dropped when NBC host Chuck Todd threw him a real Russert-like hardball, quoting from his 2007 memoir What A Party!
"This is Hillary Clinton," said Todd. "This is you quoting her in your book. ‘They had bankrupted us totally. We owned nothing. We didn't own a car. We didn't own a house. Here we were, 50 years old and we owned nothing. No-thing! All the money we had, which we had brought into the White House, was gone. I hadn't made any money for eight years, so it was really horrible.'"
The journalistic fact-checkers could have had a field day with this outlandish whining. Hillary Clinton's Senate disclosure forms show that in 2001, they reported earning nearly $12 million. Todd noted that in 1999, McAuliffe offered to give them a personal loan (actually, a $1.3 million loan) to buy their house in Chappaqua, New York.
Todd finished the question. "A lot of people will see something like that and say they didn't have 'nothing.' They had huge earning power. They had access. They had 'nothing' compared to a lot of rich friends.Is this something she's got to fix if she is going to connect with everyday Americans?"
The quick answer is no, not if the media find it less interesting than they once found Mitt Romney's alleged 1965 school pranks.
McAuliffe offered the usual Clintonian brushoff: "I don't want to spend too much time going back to the late ‘90s and 2000s. But I was with them. I was a personal friend. I had been friends with them since 1980. I cannot tell you the distress in that family at that time, with all the issues and all the legal fees, banks refusing to even give them a mortgage. So listen, people go through tough financial times."
Todd didn't harp on that ridiculous claim – that no bank would give a mortgage to an outgoing president and his wife the freshman senator, as if they had zero financial prospects. What the Clintons wanted was a very special mortgage commensurate with their clout.
Typically, the press was soft on the Clintons' machinations with McAuliffe in 1999. Gruff liberal columnist Jack Germond proclaimed the obvious on TV. "No other Senate candidate could do that and get away with it. If that were a Republican, we'd all be screaming at the press."
Instead, Newsweek's "Conventional Wisdom Watch" feature captured the media zeitgeist by giving the Clintons an "up" arrow, touting their humble finances: "First re-elected Dem prez since FDR needs co-signer to buy house. Next stop: Ikea." On CBS, morning anchor Thalia Assuras oozed "Do you expect them to participate in, oh, let's say, stoop sales and bake sales?"
While the networks during that time mostly yawned at McAuliffe's deal, the Clintons eventually landed a different sweetheart jumbo-loan deal with PNC Bank. NBC anchor Tom Brokaw suggested the new loan came after "tough criticism" of the McAuliffe arrangement – criticism NBC had never relayed to viewers.
Like every other Clinton flack, McAuliffe told Chuck Todd the Republicans were obsessing over Hillary and offering "no positive agenda of how you move folks forward." The Clintonistas never change tactics, always insisting that every scandal is an empty obsession and an evasion of the "real issues."
The question remains whether tough questions like Todd's are persistent, or merely an occasional exception to the Clinton-indulging rule.