Interesting Stuff


“Obviously you feel like you have something of value to say.”

Liz Claman, who spent years at CNBC in the shadow of Maria Bartiromo, has moved to FOX Business Network and keeps proving that she has perhaps the Clamanbest Rolodex in the media (besides, maybe, Hardball’s Querry Robinson). Several times now, she’s managed to assemble Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Charlie Munger for exclusive interviews all together, which nobody’s ever done. She regularly gets exclusives with Google’s Eric Schmidt, and got her hands on one of only two tell-all manuscripts on Bear Stearns’ collapse, when every outlet was dying to get its hands on it. This thing was hotter than that fourth Twilight book where they rip the girl apart to get the vampire baby out.  And she interviewed Twitter creator Biz Stone before anyone knew what it was, or suspected the US State Department would be propping it up as Iranian citizens updated the world on their botched election.

Her sister’s life was also, according to legend, the basis for Aaron Spelling’s cornerstone brand, Beverly Hills 90210. Yet she was still kind enough to talk to me extensively for a story in my college newspaper, giving Colgate students advice on the troubled job market and differentiating yourself in an interview.

Well, now she’s somehow snagged an exclusive with Elliot Spitzer, and god only knows how she convinced him to go on with her, but as soon as he sits down, she stuffs him with a heaping spoonful of “How Could You Have Thought This Was a Good Idea?” The regret is immediate, as she starts in on him with

There are people looking at you and saying, wow, this guy made a massive mistake. And the schadenfreude in New York, on Wall Street, when you went down. The “gee, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!” There were people cheering this on when you went down. And I think it strikes people, well, it strikes me as almost a very Reverend Jimmy Swaggart moment. I mean, the guy who gets up on the soap box and says “Don’t commit adultery,” and then he commits adultery. The very people you went after, you engaged in that very behavior.

Mind you, this is before Spitzer has uttered a single word, and he’s sat down thinking he’d be talking about the financial crisis. “What we are here to talk about, Liz, is Wall Street.” And boy, does he. Claman doesn’t care if he ever talks to her again, she lets him off the hook for nothing. She accuses him of extorting Merrill Lynch into a billion dollar settlement with the state of New York, contributing to AIG’s downfall by getting Hank Greenberg fired, and not doing Tim Geithner’s job for him.
After he finishes defending his job as Attorney General in detail, this freaking awesome exchange happens. Way to throw him the curveball, Liz:

SPITZER: Back then, confronting Wall Street was considered political heresy. When we went to other elected officials to ask for their support, they said no.

CLAMAN: In retrospect, what would you do differently?

SPITZER: With respect to those cases?

CLAMAN (throwing her hands up): With respect to all that’s happened– with the prostitution!

SPITZER: Wait, let’s put that aside a second and–

CLAMAN: No, don’t put that aside, because I’m telling you, people aren’t ready to put it aside.

This woman was on the subject like The Sandlot dog on a home run ball.

beast

Next was the hilariously frank:

Well, this is a little unbelievable. Elliot Sptizer after this horrendous fall from grace. And here you are back out again, ready to speak to entrepreneurs. Why are you doing this?

Spitzer went on to explain that he was invited because he was knowledgeable on business after having tussled with Wall Street as Attorney General and Governor, and having criticized the Fed and SEC on subprime loans, complaining firms were trading those derivatives illegally. He’d been known as the Sherriff of Wall Street. Claman’s response?

I think you might agree you have a credibility problem, on, forget moral authority, on any authority. There are people that are saying, why should I be listening to this guy?

Spitzer takes one last shot at deflection a few minutes later, saying the entrepreneurial groups thought he had something of value to say because he’d lived through the root of the financial crisis and knew people like Geithner and Summers well. Claman goes in for another fakeout, suggesting they could talk about the financial meltdown, and then, ohh, never mind:

Well, let’s talk about the financial crisis — and then we’ll get to corruption, because there’s people who might be watching and saying “THIS guy’s talking about corruption? He was corrupt!” You know, we’ll talk about all of this, of course.

Despite all that, Spitzer came off as remarkably knowledgeable, for a philandering lawyer, on financial minutiae like credit default swaps beyond just that they’re level 3 crazy frozen solid assets.

The full bloodbath in two parts is here and here.

And here’s me and the hardballer at that New York Stock Exchange.

fox biz block party

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“The best revenge is massive success.” – Frank Sinatra

toastEver since Hillary Clinton moved out of Russell 478 and into her new Foggy Bottom digs, she’s faced a steady tide of negative press, catching the most flack for handing a Russian diplomat a “reset” button that actually said “overcharged.” Such gaffes were attributed to an over reliance on her inner political circle as opposed to the vast human capital available to her within the State Dept.

She was seen to be doing too little human rights issues in China and had apologized for the U.S.’s role in the Mexican drug war, suggesting a majority of weapons used to fight it originated in the US, when that number stood at more like 3%.

At the same time, former Clinton lackey and full-time creeper Dick Morris was trying everything to convince us that HRC’s move to State was a spectacular mistake, a ruse on Obama’s part to neutralize her as an external critic while crowding her out of the policy-making process.

On May 26, “The Incredible Shrinking Clintons”:

It may appear odd to describe a secretary of State as marginalized, but Obama has surrounded Hillary with his people and carved up her jurisdiction geographically. Former Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine) is in charge of Arab-Israeli relations. Dennis Ross has Iran. Former U.N. Ambassador Dick Holbrooke has Pakistan and Afghanistan. And Hillary has to share her foreign policy role on the National Security Council (NSC) with Vice President Biden, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, CIA chief Leon Panetta, and NSC staffer Samantha Powers (who once called Hillary a “monster”).

With peers who are competitors and subordinates who can deal directly with the president, Hillary is reduced to announcing foreign aid packages for Pakistan while Holbrooke does the heavy lifting.

Part of Hillary’s problem is the institutional shrinking of the State Department. During the Bush years, while war raged, the Defense Department became more relevant to the conduct of foreign policy. And, under Obama, the financial crisis has propelled the Treasury into the forefront. State, with its emphasis on traditional diplomacy, has been forced to take a back seat. Even though Obama appointed Hillary, he clearly has not been willing to make her a co-president and confines her to the diminished role of her department.

You have to imagine that, at the very least, HRC has her share of awkward moments and enraged thought bubbles as she sits across a table from shrieking ideologue Samantha Powers, who’s made a career of bravely calling genocide bad and expressing concern over “the sins of our allies in the war on terror” like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and…oh, and Israel. Powers hates Hillary and Israel, incidentally two of Hillary’s all-time favorite things.

Morris said as much in an earlier column from February:

While sympathy for Mrs. Clinton is outside the normal fare of these columns, one cannot help but feel that she is surrounded by people who are, at best, strangers and, at worst, enemies. The competition that has historically occupied secretaries of State and national security advisers seems poised to ratchet up to a new level in the current administration.

But something’s changed in the past few weeks. The author of the best-selling fictional tome, Living History, charmed Indonesian youth by appearing on the cairohillaryvariety show Awesome, re-branded Obama’s weak diplomacy tactics to conservatives’ liking, set new guidelines for relations with Cuba, and before the ink was dry, jetted off to Cairo to support Obama’s speech to the Muslim world sporting a ruffled hijab that just screams cultural inclusion.

New York Magazine took notice and made HRC’s turnaround a feature in this week’s issue:

Just over a year ago, Clinton was bottoming out in her doomed presidential race, telling reporters she was soldiering on against Obama because, after all, “we all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.” Now, she has turned herself into Obama’s greatest asset, on Capitol Hill as much as around the world, in fashioning a national-security policy that has closed off all policy differences between the former Democratic rivals, co-opted many Republicans, and left the rest of the administration’s opponents astoundingly marginalized.

This is all a stark departure from the bleak picture Morris seems to be painting with a purely speculative brush. It seems that Hillary got her groove back by doing what she does best. Anyone who knows her can tell you she has tremendous managerial acumen and she’s far more effective and charismatic in person, with a knack for positioning herself to minimize the impact any single decision has on perceptions of her.

So, was she victimized by Obama or has the President met his match. It seems to me like a bit of both. She’s happy to carry out his policy agenda as long as it’s helpful to her, and he’s happy believing she really doesn’t have any power.

Although she told George Stephanopoulos that Barack has proven he has what it takes to answer the 3 a.m. call, it’s nice to know Barack can always transfer the call to Clinton, provided Joe Biden’s not tying up the line telling inappropriate anecdotes.

Meanwhile, Bill told the New York Times he couldn’t even get Hillary on her cell phone. “I saw her on CNN talking about Afghanistan. Then she flew to Dallas for something. I don’t know why.”  I’m pretty sure Hill warned him back in the 1980’s that he’d get left in the dust, if not earlier.

Check out the full NYMag piece here.