“Quid Pro Quo, Clarice”

Normally, I tend to mock people who engage in conspiracy theories. But every now and then I come across one (or, in this case, come up with one) that is just entertaining enough to make me want to kick it around.

A couple of weeks ago, MSNBC’s David Shuster referred to Hillary Clinton’s use of her daughter to help her failing presidential campaign as “pimping out Chelsea.” The tirades of outrage were the stuff of legend, and Shuster was suspended indefinitely. Further, Keith Olbermann (the Dumbest Person In The World of the day, and most every other day) issued an on-air apology, saying they were “literally dreadfully sorry” for Shuster’s using a term for Chelsea that should only be used in relation to Republicans and their appointees, i.e. George W. Bush and General David Petraeus.

I spent a bit of time wondering about just what Olbermann meant by “literally dreadfully sorry,” and I think I figured it out.

“Literally dreadful” means “full of dread.” They were sending a signal to the Clinton camp that they were so dreading the Clintons’ response, they were prepared to do whatever it took to get back into their good graces. And now we know just what that was.

Over the past few weeks, Fox News’ Sean Hannity has pulled a fun little gambit: he asks Barack Obama supporters to cite some of his legislative accomplishments. (This is nothing new; I and a lot of others have been playing the same theme in regards to Senator Obama, and in 2004 I issued a standing dare for anyone to cite three accomplishments of note by John Kerry since he was first elected to the Senate.) And in each case, the supporters were utterly mortified (not literally, though; none of them died of embarrassment) to not to be able to come up with one.

Well, Hillary Clinton can’t be seen making nice with Fox News, so it fell upon MSNBC to pull the same stunt. Apparently Chris Matthews drew the short straw, so he sprung the same question on Texas State Senator Kirk Watson last night.

Now, this morning, Hillary Clinton is harping on the same theme, citing MSNBC.

Now, this could have been a quiet back-room deal between MSNBC and the Clinton campaign. “MSNBC, you get one of your people to pull the Hannity stunt, and we’ll let the whole ‘pimping Chelsea’ slide.” Or it could have been MSNBC hoping to appease the Clintons — “we’ll have Matthews steal Hannitys’ schtick, then hand that to the Clintons and see if they take the gift.”

Either way, Hillary’s openly citing MSNBC works as a nice little wink that all is forgiven — or, at least, forgiven enough for now. Because the Clintons have never been famous for “forgive and forget” type politics.

Or it could all be a coincidence.

But it all just seems a little too pat for me. My money’s on the MSNBC folks seeing the opportunity to kiss some Clinton ass, to give her a much-needed boost right when she needs it most, and Hillary giving the wink back to say “OK, I’ll lay off some of the heat, boys.” An explicit quid pro quo agreement could backfire, but a subtle wind and nod would preserve that “plausible deniability” that is so valuable these days.

The best thing is, the only potential damage is to MSNBC’s journalistic credibility and Hillary Clinton’s moral outrage — and those two assets are already so banged up as to be pretty much worthless already.

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