It was not exactly a man-bites-dog moment.
“SPOTTED: CNBC’s John Harwood lunching with John Podesta Thursday at Art and Soul,” Politico reported Friday morning in its Politico Playbook.
If we learned nothing else from the 2016 election, we know Harwood spent the cycle cultivating Podesta and doing whatever he could to ingratiate himself to the Clinton campaign.
From the earliest Republican debates, Harwood dutifully sniped at Hillary Clinton’s potential opponents — such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who was viewed by the Clinton campaign as perhaps the biggest threat in October 2015.
That night, Harwood, who also contributes to The New York Times, asked Rubio about his tax plan. Why, Harwood asked, if Rubio was a champion of the middle class, would he endorse a plan that favored the rich and hurt the poor.
Only the analysis he cited from the Tax Foundation said nothing of the sort. Harwood hectored Rubio on the stage, then later on Twitter. He backed down only after Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation, tweeted that Harwood was wrong and Rubio was right.
“CNBC Republican debate moderator John Harwood has entered the Dan Rather-phase of denial,” wrote Breitbart at the time.
Harwood was all in for Clinton, even if it meant criticizing one of his employers. “I must say, though I don’t know the terms. I find it weird that NYT made some sort of deal with the guy writing that book,” Harwood wrote to Podesta.
This was a reference to The Times’ decision to collaborate with Peter Schweizer — Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large, President of the Government Accountability Institute, and the author of Clinton Cash, a book that raised questions about the Clinton Foundation.
Another time, Harwood criticized theThe Times for reporting that Joe Biden was considering entering the race for president.
“Cannot believe Biden story is leading the paper,” he wrote to Podesta. “Correct me if I am wrong, since you would know better, but it strikes me that ‘Biden is actively exploring’ is the new ‘criminal referral of Hillary Clinton,’ if you know what I mean.” This, the Daily Caller reported, was a “disparaging reference to The Times’ reporting on Clinton’s emails.”
The Wikileaks hacks of Podesta’s emails revealed Harwood as, in the words of Betsy Rothstein of the Daily Caller, as a “giant kiss ass to the Clinton campaign.”
In many cases, the emails consisted solely of a subject line. “She was good here in Newton,” read one after a Clinton campaign event in Massachusetts. She is “pretty strong,” he advised in another email to Podesta. “Yup. Feeling good,” Podesta replied.
“She looked so much more comfortable today talking to Andrea [Mitchell, of MSNBC] today than to Brianna [Keilar, of CNN] a few weeks ago,” Harwood offered in a shot at media consulting. “I think she’s over the hump,” Podesta responded.
He offered helpful tweets at times. “Set aside process — if there’s any specific/plausible suggestion of nefarious email @HillaryClinton was trying to hide, I haven’t heard it,” he wrote after a day Clinton’s emails had been in the news.
He even offered some opposition research at one point. He emailed Jennifer Palmieri, director of communications for the Clinton campaign, to inform her that he was going to debate Pat Buchanan on a program. His father, who was an editor at The Washington Post, had debated Buchanan years earlier on press bias. “Just discovered that NPR broadcast it live,” he wrote. “I’m trying to get the tape.”
Harwood would hardly be the first reporter to ingratiate himself to campaign officials to obtain scoops, but it’s not even clear he was effective at that.
“Re: don’t you think it’s time …” he wrote in a subject line. “for HRC to talk economy with me?” he wrote in the email.
“Time to start talking about the economy with somebody. Probably after Thanksgiving.”
“With me,” Harwood responded, “it will be the kind of substantive, deep, textured conversation about the economy she wants.”
This was close to the time of the email on Oct. 4, 2015, that read: “Lunch in NYC tomorrow?”