YELLIN: Sir, Dick Harpootlian has called some of the tactics used in the campaign "reprehensible and reminiscent of Lee Atwater, would you comment?
CLINTON: And what did he specifically refer to?
YELLIN: he was referring to some of the efforts he felt, to try to appeal on the basis of race, and gender, and to charge the Obama campaign with suppressing the vote in Nevada.
CLINTON: Well, that's not a charge...I would just add...Dick Harpootlian wasn't in Nevada.
He then went on, beginning "I personally took six Hispanic women..." which you just KNOW someone is going to take out of context, but his point was, those six women said that they were supporters of Hillary but they couldn't caucus in Nevada because they were told that "...our union told us we couldn't sign up for her...we could only caucus if we weren't going to be for her, and we were going to be for her. So we couldn't sign up."
Then he dropped the name of Delores Huerta from the Farm Workers Union with Cesar Chavez, who he claimed had said that she had "never been through a campaign like that" and said he didn't need a lecture from Dick Harpootlian about civil rights: "He can ask her. She was there."Then he reprised some of the comments he made the night he made the infamous "fairytale" comment, mentioning the "hit job" on him "the same time he called her the Senator from Punjab" and saying that he didn't care personally, he was just answering the charges. Then he brought it back to Yellin's question, saying:
There was more, as Yellin let the camera roll, and you can see it all on the full video here. But here's a point Clinton drove home at the end:
My ultimate answer is this: There are still two people around who marched with Martin Luther King and risked their lives, John Lewis and Reverend Andrew Young. They both said that Hillary was right and the people who attacked her were wrong, and that she did not play the race card, but they did. So I don't have to defend myself from Dick Harpootlian. I will just refer you to John Lewis and Andrew Young. And let him go get in an argument with them about it.
Clinton's handlers, who had seemed to be trying to gently coax him away, broke in then and said that the interview was over, and it sounded like Yellin sort of snorted and he came back, seeming exasperated:
And the final thing I would like to say is, you're asking me about this, and you sat through this whole meeting. Not one single, solitary soul asked about any of this. And they never do....They [the Obama campaign] are feeding you this because they know this is what you want to cover. This is what you live for.
But this hurts the people of South Carolina, because the people of South Carolina are coming to these meetings and asking questions about what they care about. And what they care about is not going to be in the news coverage tonight because you don't care about it... That's one thing John Edwards was right about in the debate.
CLINTON: Well, you ask me questions based on Harpootlian calls me Lee Atwater. I spent all my life fighting those people...He doesn't care what happened. He just knows he can call you a name and you guys will cover it.
After the interview, Yellin told Wolf Blitzer she had called Harpootlian afterwards, who called Clinton's remarks "a classic form of dissembling, trying to take the attention off of the Clinton campaign and what they are saying." However, to me it did sound like he responded to Yellin's question, which asked him to respond to Harpootlian's charges of "reprehensible" tactics, the race issue, and the allegations of voter suppression in Nevada.
Who's right? Who's wrong? Does it matter as long as we get a good clip? I'm sure lots of people have opinions on the subject! I will say it seems slightly unfair get a "Clinton lashing out" story out of something that could just as easily be characterized "Clinton responds angrily to accusations from guy with funny name." Is he supposed to take being called "reprehensible" in stride and laugh it off? It should be noted that while Clinton seems a bit frustrated, he doesn't seem angry and at no point in the video does he appear to be, er, yellin'. Sorry.
Watch the video here.
Here is Ann Kornblut's take at WaPo — it's interesting how two different writers end up characterizing the same event. As I stated above, I didn't think Clinton seemed to be angry nor did I think he "snapped" at Yellin. It seemed like he answered her question comprehensively. Read them both, watch the video, and decide for yourself. Comments are open!