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Colmes Foils “Hillary The Flip-Flopper” Meme

Reported by Ellen - August 11, 2007 -

Here we go again. The primaries haven’t even begun but FOX News has dusted off its flip-flop finger and is already pointing it at Hillary Clinton. And just as I was thinking how selective they have been in reporting on flip-flops (ignoring Giuliani’s and Romney’s, e.g.) Alan Colmes stepped in and highlighted those very flips and flops. Not that we're ever likely to see a whole segment devoted to them, but we can appreciate what we got on last night's (8/10/07) Hannity & Colmes. With video.

Regular readers know I am adamant that Democrats should appear on FOX News. But I am just as adamant that they must be prepared and understand that they are not going on PBS’ News Hour, nor participating in any other kind of reasoned debate, but are taking part in a political game where they do not have the home team advantage and the refs are not on their side. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t play, but they need to know they have to play harder to win.

When are Democratic strategists going to get that?

Substitute co-host Rich Lowry’s scripted introduction was a good clue that FOX had a political ax to grind, rather than an issue it wanted to see debated: “Who needs John Kerry when we have Hillary Clinton to carry the liberal flip flop mantle in the 2008 presidential race… Is the former First Lady the latest in a long line of Democratic flip-floppers?” In concert with Lowry, the screen read, “Hillary flip-flops on use of nuclear weapons in war on terror.”

Democratic strategist Steve McMahon probably didn’t see the chyron. But he’s not a newbie to FOX News so he should have had at least some idea what was going on. It’s hard to know what strategy he thought he was employing as he gave a hard-to-follow, even-handed explanation of Clinton’s different statements on the use of nuclear force. He even took his own stab at Clinton by saying, “I think the Barack Obama people have a legitimate complaint here,” and that maybe she was “being a little too cute by half.” His nuanced discussion would have been appropriate on C-Span or maybe Meet The Press, but, predictably, Lowry cut him off at the pass to make his own play with a neat and nasty soundbite against Clinton. “It seems as though her strategic doctrine is, you have to take nuclear weapons off the table when we’re dealing with our enemy (Iran)… but you gotta leave ‘em on the table when it comes to our allies Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Republican Kate Obenshain took it from there and launched her own attack. In her Virginia-snob accent, Obenshain whined that “American voters just don’t think that Hillary Clinton actually believes what she says.”

For the zillionth time, Colmes did the work that the Democratic strategist should have. Colmes jumped in and said, “That’s why she’s doing so well in the polls, huh?” Colmes continued, “By the way, if we’re going to say the words ‘flip-flop,’ have you ever heard the words, ‘Mitt Romney?’ Does that name mean anything to you?” Thanks to Colmes, before long, the discussion had turned not just to Romney and Giuliani but to the Bush administration. McMahon finally got with the program and said, “I think it’s interesting that we would be using the term ‘duplicitous’ to describe Hillary Clinton when after all, let’s just remember what both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are doing here and talking about here: Cleaning up the mess that George W. Bush left by lying about weapons of mass destruction, by getting into a war that we shouldn’t have been in, by having no plan to win the peace, no plan to get out of Iraq and now we’re stuck in a civil war.”

Lowry closed the segment with a snide, “Alan, I think Hillary probably now says that the nuclear option’s back ON the table.”

Colmes answered, “Let’s look at all your Republican candidates and all the different positions they have had. There are more positions there among fewer candidates than there is in the Democratic (unintelligible).”