Hillary Clinton On Olbermann: Laughs Off 'Unholy Alliance' With Democratic Antagonist Scaife

04/29/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Senator Hillary Clinton joined MSNBC host Keith Olbermann for a lengthy interview on this evening's broadcast of Countdown. Clinton offered a clarification on her "umbrella of deterrence" remark from last week's debate, noting that she'd offer to bring in any country in the region "that might be intimidated and bullied into submission by Iran because they were nuclear power."

She triangulated her way around other pressing matters, such as the inclusion of images of Osama bin Laden in a new ad (termed a "bloody shirt" and a "scare tactic" by Olbermann, Clinton said "that ad is about leadership") and her criticism of Barack Obama's comment that McCain would be a better president than Bush -- after she herself had praised McCain for crossing the "Commander-in-Chief threshold" (her analogy was that you could say that someone had a "law license" without calling them a good lawyer).

Clinton even offered some thoughtful historical perspective, saying that the historic contest between her and Obama would make it so "that forever forward, every little girl and every African-American child will be told that, yes, you too can grow up to be President," adding, "That is not just historic...it is wonderful."

But if there was a completely perplexing moment during the interview, it came when Olbermann questioned Clinton's embrace of Pittsburgh media mogul Richard Mellon Scaife, Bill Clinton-presidency antagonist extraordinaire and de facto head of the "vast right-wing conspiracy" Senator Clinton once decried. The campaign season has already been full of the game of renouncing and denouncing and announcing that no such denouncements and renouncements are forthcoming, and there's ample reason to believe that this game will have life for months to come. We sort of hate to say that certain candidates seem to be allowed to know, or even embrace, abhorrent people, but let's just say that Clinton's answer was highly reminiscent of one that was heard on This Week With George Stephanopoulos.


OLBERMANN: One thing about this particular primary in Pennsylvania, a lot of us who felt that you and President Clinton were sorely mistreated in the late 1990s, to say nothing of the Constitution being sorely mistreated, thought that the phrase you introduced to that sad conversation, the "vast right-wing conspiracy" was pretty apt if not perfect. We thought, maybe I'm speaking for myself, one of the few utterly unforgivable individuals in that entire equation, was Richard Mellon Scaife -- among other things is the publsher of the Tribune Review. Seriously, to some degree, Senator, I quit this job the first time around because of Richard Mellon Scaife and people like him. I realize you have a primary to win. But why on earth did you meet with Richard Mellon Scaife and why did you accept, or at least not reject his endorsement of you over the weekend?

CLINTON: Well, Keith, nobody was more surprised than I when I was invited to the editorial board. And I'm very open to meeting and frankly I was kind of curious. I've only met the gentleman once in my life in a receiving line, just in a matter of seconds. Obviously, I was on the receiving end of quite a bit of his activities during the 1990s, much to everyone's dismay, most certainly mine. But I was curious. And he has a lot of interesting people who write for that paper and work for him. And it was a fascinating discussion - a lot of give and take. They certainly don't agree with me on many of my positions and I was dumbfounded both to have been invited and then to have been endorsed. But I do believe in redemption, Keith. I believe in death bed conversions and I think it's possible for anyone to see the error of their ways. So, I'm bringing people together as we speak. Anyone who doubts my ability to bridge the most incredible chasms can point to those recent events.

The answer was strange enough that Olbermann returned to it while talking with Newsweek White House correspondent Richard Wolffe:


OLBERMANN: One other was it me or was it earwax question. Why was she laughing during references to Richard Mellon Scaife? I'm at the loss about that.

WOLFFE: I think it's best to say it's a nervous tic. It deflects the question and -- she has some good lines, bringing people together. But on the other hand, look, a lot of Democrats remember those pitched battles in the 1990s, the vast right wing conspiracy, as you brought up. It's an extraordinarily unholy alliance but strange things happen at sea.