Is Bill Clinton perhaps regretting chumming up to Newsmax's Christopher Ruddy, his former tormenter?
We've documented the Ruddy-Clinton rapprochement when it began in 2007 (even though the rest of Newsmax was not that eager to change its Clinton-bashing stripes). Even though Ruddy had continued to say nice things about Clinton, one had to wonder if it would last, if Ruddy was setting Clinton up.
We have have gotten our answer with a Sept. 20 Newsmax interview of Clinton by Ruddy and Jim Meyers. The headline claim: "Ex-President Clinton to Newsmax: Raising Taxes Won't Work." The lede: "Former President Bill Clinton tells Newsmax that Washington should not raise taxes until the slumping economy is turned around — and says President Obama’s plan to increase taxes on the wealthy won’t solve the debt problem." That got lots of play in the right-wing media, including Fox News.
But as Media Matters points out, 1) Obama never claimed he would solve "the debt problem" by raising taxes alone, as Newsmax suggests, and 2) Newsmax selectively quoted Clinton's response to Ruddy's question to obscure the fact that the full Clinton statement (in the video attached to the Newsmax article) was much more nuanced than Newsmax's screaming headline suggested.
Further, as Media Matters also noted, Clinton gave another interview around the same time as the Newsmax interview in which he expresses support for Obama's plan and points out that it "would not kick in until the economy has growth well under way."
Salon's Steve Kornacki elaborates on Newsmax's deception:
It seems clear that Clinton was talking about the jobs plan, and the issue of what America should be doing right now to stimulate the economy. This isn't in conflict with what Obama is calling for, which is a tax hike-free jobs plan to get the economy moving now and higher taxes on the rich two years from now, in order to reduce long-term deficits.
Newsmax probably knows this, but the headline it has chosen fits perfectly with the message the right is now pushing, and there's no attempt in the article to explain the difference between Obama's jobs plan and his tax plan. Not surprisingly, conservative opinion-shapers are already tweeting out the news that Bill Clinton said something that sounds an awful lot like what Republicans are now saying, and the Republican Party has apparently distributed his quote to the press.
Not that Clinton is blameless here. In the interview, he seemed to be trying to play the statesman/above-the-day-to-day-fray role -- maybe because that's the role he tries to play through CGI, or maybe because he was just happy to have a right-wing media outlet treating him with such respect.
If Ruddy is so eager to twist Clinton's words make a political point, maybe Ruddy is not really the friend to Clinton he claims to be -- and perhaps Clinton will try to make sure he's not taken in next time.
UPDATE: Newsmax columnist Matt Towery buys into the spin, echoing Newsmax's selective quoting by claiming that Clinton "blew off Obama's obsession with tax increases." Towery also declared: "This Newsmax interview can be looked upon as a gentle settling of many scores by Clinton with his fellow Democrats, who have led his party into the land of left-wing loons."