WaPo’s Ruth Marcus Takes on MSNBC’s Joy Reid — ‘Perfectly Fair Game to Raise Bill Clinton’s Past’

On Tuesday’s broadcast of “Hardball” on MSNBC, The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus defended her column declaring Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to be right in declaring former President Bill Clinton’s “sordid” past to be fair game as he is taking on the role of surrogate for Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Reid challenged Marcus on the grounds that using Bill Clinton’s past would be unfair to Hillary Clinton, to which Marcus responded by disagreeing with her characterization of Trump’s intentions and then explained why it was fair game in her view for Trump raise Bill Clinton’s past.

Partial transcript as follows:

REID: So Ruth, defend this column a little bit because trump isn’t saying that he would use President Clinton’s indiscretions in some substantive way. He’s essentially saying, if she says she’s a woman, I’m going to get her, and if she attempts to say she would be good for women, I’m going to get her. And if she isn’t nice to me, I’m going to get her. I’m not quite understanding how you agree with that.

MARCUS: Well, I’m not actually agreeing with your characterization of what he’s saying. And so let me back up. Trump says that Bill Clinton’s activities while he was president, and I would call this more of an extramarital affair, with all due respect to my friend, Perry [Bacon]. I would say that while he was the head of a company, say, with a subordinate, had a sexual relationship with a subordinate that would have resulted in any head of a company being thrown out of his job for engaging in the same sort of behavior. Then he lied about it, under oath, in a deposition, and to a federal grand jury. So I think this was some pretty serious behavior that we’re talking about.

And I think, as with all campaign surrogates, if you send Bill Clinton out and he is your chief campaign surrogate, and let me be clear, I thought Bill Clinton was a very successful president, but he was a successful president with a big blot on his record, which was his conduct. And so, when you send him out as a surrogate in that way, you open yourself up to criticism of his behavior in office and especially when you are criticizing the leading candidate in the other party for his attitudes towards women.

REID: Ruth, I have to ask you this: What could Hillary Clinton, as la of the United States, have done about any of that? How is it her responsibility?

MARCUS: I am not saying that it’s her responsibility. what I am saying is that when you — just as if Donald Trump sent somebody out in the campaign, who had a history of racist remarks or sexist remarks or had been convicted of some sort of offensive activity and Bill Clinton was impeached, and we can agree or disagree, but it is there — you are responsible as a campaign for the surrogates that you send out to the behavior and comments of the surrogates you send out, to push your message, and I think it’s perfectly fair game to raise Bill Clinton’s past in that regard. It’s totally up to voters whether they think that’s relevant or not to their assessment of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. But my point is, I don’t think it’s at all off the reservation for Donald Trump to be kind of fighting back at Hillary Clinton with this issue. And let me be clear. The start of that column said that Donald Trump was sexist, racist, narcissist. And any -ist you want to attach to. I’m signing up for that.

REID: Ruth, you’re equating Bill Clinton, essentially with a convicted felon. Bill Clinton was the opposite of that, in that his impeachment resulted of his acquittal in the United States Senate.

MARCUS: What I’m saying is that when you send a surrogate out on the campaign trail, you are accepting some degree of responsibility for that surrogate’s past comments and past behavior

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor


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