Hillary Clinton should be nobody's idea of a paragon of civil discourse in the political arena. Her personal style of political warfare is ruthless, a bare-knuckles fight to the death. Ask Ken Starr. Her idea of employee relations is also rough. Paul Fray, an Arkansas campaign worker, said she cursed him out with F-bombs and ethnic slurs after Bill Clinton lost his one race for Congress in 1974. A co-worker told NBC News in 1999 that he heard cussing from Hillary that night like he'd never heard before.
So it's a little strange to see Hillary appearing so upset over MSNBC reporter David Shuster suggesting that Chelsea Clinton was being "pimped out" by Hillary's campaign. Shuster was substituting as host of Tucker Carlson's show and used the P-word as he suggested to liberal radio host Bill Press that it was wrong for the Clinton campaign to have Chelsea call supporters but not grant reporters any access to her.
But once Hillary registered her displeasure, like an obedient liberal lapdog, MSNBC quickly began an apology tour. Shuster apologized the next morning on "Morning Joe." He apologized again later that day on "Tucker." Shuster was forced not only to apologize to Chelsea but to her parents. "I am particularly sorry that my language diminished the regard and respect she has earned from all of us and the respect her parents have earned in how they raised her."
After all the slavish apologies, MSNBC still suspended Shuster indefinitely for the remark. Buzz from insiders suggested some wanted Shuster fired for not being more abject in his apologies from the first minute Team Clinton learned of the Shuster gaffe on the Internet. (In a flash, Mark Finkelstein of the NewsBusters blog posted the stupid remark, just 10 minutes after the show ended.)
Hillary sent a hectoring public letter to MSNBC complaining that Shuster had not been fired yet: "Nothing justifies the kind of debasing language that David Shuster used, and no temporary suspension or half-hearted apology is sufficient. Surely, you can do your jobs as journalists and commentators and still keep the discourse civil and appropriate."
The remark was idiotic and offensive. But enough to merit suspension? Our culture is so awash in prostitution lingo from hip-hop lyrics that this remark doesn't have the shock value that it should. When a song called "Big Pimping" is a radio smash and "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" wins an Oscar for Best Song, and is performed on national television without a shred or regret to an audience of millions, the P-word has gained mainstream acceptance.
Clearly, the brass at MSNBC disagrees and feels this language is wholly inappropriate, proving there is a definitive double standard at play on this network. Those same executives mustered no outrage last September when, in one of his typically hysterical tirades against "dictatorial" George W. Bush, Keith Olbermann accused him of "pimping General David Petraeus" as he sold the surge on Capitol Hill.
Oh, but Petraeus is a grown man with a grown-up job, you say? Somehow we forget that Chelsea Clinton also fits that mold, since she's 27 and works for big bucks in Manhattan for Avenue Capital Group, a hedge fund founded by two major Democratic Party donors.
But Chelsea is the Daughter of Bill, and presidential offspring should be off-limits. Okay, Olbermann crossed that line, too.
On Nov. 28, 2006, after President Bush's twin daughters Barbara and Jenna traveled to Argentina to celebrate their 25th birthday, Olbermann used the flimsiest of office cooler whispers to suggest the girls were engaged in lewd public behavior: "After reports of lax security, a media frenzy and at least one lurid tale in the Argentine papers about the girls running naked down a hallway of their hotel, denied fervently by that hotel, by the way, ABC News reported the situation was so bad that the U.S. embassy asked the girls to leave, which the embassy fervently denies, by the way."
Olbermann then extended the outrage by interviewing comedian Mo Rocca, having more fun demeaning the Bush twins as comparable to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears: "Let's start with the First Twins and this rampage through Argentina. You have met the Bush daughters, and you know your White Houses. Are these the kind of women who would do things like run around in a hotel naked?" Rocca joked that the reports were exaggerated, that the Bush twins had only run around topless.
And the folks at MSNBC laughed, because that Keith Olbermann is such a cutup.