Three Sundays ago, Chris Matthews, of NBC’s The Chris Matthews Show, asked one of his journalist/panelists the following:
When does Hillary stop being flawless? Which was the tag we had on her two weeks ago, which was, `God, she’s running a perfect campaign. She makes no mistakes.’ When does she become slick? Is there a difference, or simply in perception?
This past Sunday, Matthews posed virtually the same question to a different guest journalist:
[F]or months now, the drumroll question, or rather the verdict of the press has been, ‘What a flawless campaign this person has run, Hillary Clinton. She’s a pro. She makes no mistakes.’ Somehow, this week, did she cross the line from flawless to slick?
Matthews is like the little kid in the backseat of the car shouting, “Are we there yet? How ‘bout now?” In this case the destination — the “there” — appears to be some kind of turning point (a turn for the worse) for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, a point at which Matthews can declare that the label he and others in the press pinned on Clinton’s campaign (“flawless!”) no longer fits, that the expectations they helped set for the campaign (“flawless!”) are no longer being met, a moment when Matthews can announce that Hillary’s “flawlessness” has, in fact, become a flaw (called “slickness”).
Except Matthews is not in the backseat here. He’s in the driver’s seat — along with the crew of “top reporters” who appear on his show. And although the political press likes to pretend it doesn’t influence the contests it covers, it’s a hard facade to maintain.
To wit, watch Matthews (also from Sunday’s Chris Matthews Show) come dangerously close to confessing that he and his cohorts can actually affect a candidate’s perceived (and therefore, alas, actual) “electability:”
[I]f everybody’s going to jump on Hillary like they did this week—including the press, including us here—about being consistent or inconsistent or flawed or whatever, doesn’t this raise the issue of the electability of this person?
If she’s going to have a hard time over what was sort of a mediocre week at worst, and everybody’s going to jump on her like she blew it, is this a sign of things to come?
In other words: If we’re jumping on Hillary “like she blew it” over “what was sort of a mediocre week at worst,” what are we gonna do if Hillary has a truly bad week? We’ll bury her!
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.
As Matthews himself likes to say: Tell me something I don’t know!