Hillary Clinton Finally Goaded Into Taking A Handful Of Questions From The Press

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One joke going around the blogosphere this morning was that John Kerry was planning on running for the presidential nomination and was responsible for the State Department’s announcement that Hillary Clinton’s email would be released in January–just prior to the Iowa caucus. Subsequently a district judge ruled that the State Department must submit a new schedule with periodic release of the email in order to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests. In other words, the email will drip out, keeping the story alive for months.

After failing to comply with regulations to archive her email on government servers, Clinton now says she wants them released more rapidly. I would think at this point she would prefer to have them released ASAP. It is better politically for her to have this all come out now, at this early stage in the campaign, as opposed to either just before the Iowa caucuses (as initially planned by the State Department) or periodically over months as now planned. She probably would have been been better off sending them to the State Department in electronic format, as opposed to printing them forcing the State Department to scan them, slowing down the process.

Of course this would not have been an issue if she had archived them with the government at the time as required.

It is hard to believe there is anything damaging to her in what will be released. She already went through and destroyed anything she didn’t want released and the State Department also went through the email. It is especially doubtful there ever was anything incriminating on Benghazi. I bet that at worst her email would show the normal fog of war when people legitimately were not certain what happened and different views were honestly expressed, with no evidence of the conservative conspiracy theories. Anything really interesting related to the recent scandals has probably already been deleted.

Clinton gave in and answered some questions from the media , for the first time in about a month, after receiving increased criticism from both Republicans and the media for failing to do so. This morning The Note from ABC News posted Clinton’s excuse for not taking questions:

 Clinton opened her remarks in Iowa yesterday by explaining why she is doing these small, intimate gatherings. She didn’t mention the press specifically, but it almost seemed like her way of telling people to stop nagging: “Somebody asked me the other day, ‘well you’re going to these events where you’re taking time to actually talk and listen to people, is that really what you’re going to do?’ And I said, ‘well yes it is.’ Not only do I learn a lot but I also feel like it’s the best way to make those connections that will not only give me a firm foundation here in Iowa or primary in New Hampshire. It really is about people to people connections.”

Rick Klein subsequently mocked this argument from Clinton supporters:

The latest piece of spin from Hillary Clinton’s backers on why she doesn’t need to answer reporters’ questions is that she’s doing a great job doing the asking, not the answering. An email to reporters from the pro-Clinton super PAC “Correct the Record” claims that she is “putting the voters first” by asking “the questions that really matter.” Among the more than 100 questions Correct the Record has counted of her asking real people things a “true leader” would ask are such probing queries as, “What are your hours of operation?”; “So how did you end up here? Did you hear about it?”; “And you’ve got two little girls?”; “So we’re in your classroom?”; and, “So, starting early?” (Again, this was compiled by the main super PAC SUPPORTING the Clinton candidacy.) According to Correct the Record’s email, “While other candidates are using the media to further their own agendas and attack each other, Hillary Clinton is displaying the qualities of a true leader by meeting with the people she hopes to champion as the next President of the United States.” OK, then. The best that might be said of this attempt to explain her lack of press access is that it sounds better than the truth: That she doesn’t care to answer questions from reporters because, at the moment, her campaign sees more downside than upside in doing so. To quote the candidate who’s making a claim to being the best asker of the election cycle, if not the best answerer, “Give me a sense of your experience with that.”

Chris Cillizza also commented:

I mean, where to start with this?

1.  The vast majority of the people who have asked Clinton questions in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada were part of a pre-selected group who sat with her around a roundtable. That’s not exactly like hosting a town hall event in which none of the questions are pre-screened. And if you look at the questions “regular” people are asking Clinton, they are not exactly the most probing of queries. A sampling: “I’m just wondering, what can you do to bring that heart back to education in the United States?” (Iowa), “What are your plans to help my community and help us not live in fear anymore?” (Nevada) and “I would like you to elaborate on what you think you might do for childcare in the future if you’re elected?” (New Hampshire) None of those questions are bad, per se, but they also aren’t pushing Clinton in any way, shape or form on any issue.

2. It makes zero difference how many questions Clinton has asked average Americans. Like, none. If those people were running for president, then I would be super-interested to know how they responded to some (or maybe all) of Clinton’s 117 questions. But, they aren’t. She is. Citing the number of questions Clinton has asked of people to rebut the idea that she isn’t taking enough (or any) questions from reporters is sort of like saying you aced a job interview because you answered every question asked of you with another question. That wouldn’t make sense, would it?

3. At issue here is that Clinton is avoiding taking questions from reporters. And nowhere in the Correct The Record memo does it have anything to dispute that fact. In total as a candidate, Clinton has answered 13 total questions from reporters. It’s been 39,000 minutes since she last answered a reporter’s question. And, while I think it is absolutely of value for Clinton to hear from regular folks about their concerns and hopes, it’s hard to argue from the list put together by Correct The Record that the questions those people have asked Clinton are the same as the one reporters would have if given the chance.

No, they’re better, you say! They’re about policy and not dumb reporters’ obsessions, you say!

To all of which, I respond: Do you not think it is of value to know how Hillary Clinton spent her time since leaving the State Department? And how the Clinton Foundation handled its business with various donors who would, undoubtedly, still be in the picture if she was elected president? Or what she thinks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the fight currently happening in Congress? Or Iran? Or the Middle East?

You get the idea.  The role of the media in this process is to show voters who these people are, really, and to explain how these people would govern the country if elected. Like the media or not, that’s a very important role — and one that is essential to a functioning democracy.

So, no matter how many Iowans’ questions Hillary answers or how many questions she asks them, it doesn’t justify her current unwillingness to stand before reporters (or even a single reporter) and take their questions. Not even a little.

Clinton finally did take six questions today, but did provide much substance–and did not come off as very credible when talking about her email. She also answered a question regarding the story in The New York Times regarding the blurred line between her business interests, the Foundation, and her role as Secretary of State:

But an examination by The Times suggests that Mr. Blumenthal’s involvement was more wide-ranging and more complicated than previously known, embodying the blurry lines between business, politics and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years.

While advising Mrs. Clinton on Libya, Mr. Blumenthal, who had been barred from a State Department job by aides to President Obama, was also employed by her family’s philanthropy, the Clinton Foundation, to help with research, “message guidance” and the planning of commemorative events, according to foundation officials. During the same period, he also worked on and off as a paid consultant to Media Matters and American Bridge, organizations that helped lay the groundwork for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign…

Note the connection between Media Matters and the Clinton campaign. Media Matters has been responsible for much of the rapid fire, and incorrect, statements to defend Clinton since the story first broke. They also fabricated an attack on Peter Schweizer after came out about the release of Clinton Cash, such as making an unsubstantiated claim that he was not currently working on a similar book about Jeb Bush.

Chris Cillizia also debunked Clinton’s answer today about Blumenthal:

That answer reminds of a similar answer that Georgetown hoops great Allen Iverson used to give to reporters when they asked him why he refused to break ties with some of his longtime friends who, in the minds of some, brought an unsavory element to the NBA and clouded Iverson’s ability to focus on being the best basketball player he could be. Iverson’s response was, and I am paraphrasing here: These people were my friends before I got famous, and they’ll be my friends after I stop playing basketball. They are my true friends. I don’t care what any of you think about me or them.

Okay. I wasn’t sure — and still am not sure — that that was the right answer for Iverson. But I am absolutely certain it’s not the right answer for Clinton.

Iverson didn’t need anyone to elect him to anything to be successful in his chosen profession. So, the opinions of others could cost him money, potentially, but couldn’t fundamentally impact his playing career. That’s the exact opposite of the situation Clinton finds herself in. How she — and the people she surrounds herself with — are perceived matters in a very real way to her future career prospects.

So, jettisoning “old friends” who keep getting the Clintons into hairy territory perception-wise would seems to make all the sense in the world. And yet her response, when questioned about Blumenthal’s role as a sort of ad hoc adviser on Libya, is basically: Hey I’ve known this guy for a long time, so I’m not going to say anything bad about him…

When Bill got elected president in 1992, there were a number of people in the Clintons’ Arkansas orbit who national Democrats assumed would be jettisoned when the duo came to Washington. Except they weren’t.  Perhaps the best known of this group is Webb Hubbell, a law partner of Hillary’s and close confidante of the Clintons who was named associate attorney general by Bill Clinton.  Less than two years later, Hubbell pled guilty to overbilling clients at the law firm ands spent several years in prison. And now, according to this Daily Beast story from 2014, Webb Hubbell is back in the Clinton orbit, although, admittedly, far from its center.

Hubbell’s story may be the best known but it is far from the only example of the Clintons’ willingness to overlook mistakes in service of the all-important trait of loyalty. If you stand by the Clintons no matter what, they will almost never abandon you. (The converse is that if you are perceived as having betrayed them, they will never forgive you.)  Again, admirable, perhaps, in a friend. But far less admirable — or wise — when running for office…

If you got tired of all these people, and all the scandals during the first Clinton administration, it will all be coming back, in what I fear will seem more like the third term of Richard Nixon.

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6 Comments

  1. 1
    Mike Hatcher says:

    I don't think anyone needs to ask her any questions because we can't trust anything she says. Like a lot of politicians, she has proven she will pander to any group or ideology.  I'd repeal the 22nd amendment and get Bill back for a 3rd term than trust her.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Good point that we can’t trust her answers, but I still think there is some benefit in getting candidates on the record and having them give their views on current issues. If we are going to repeal the 22nd Amendment, I’d give Obama a third term before I’d go with either Clinton.

  3. 3
    Mike Hatcher says:

    You are probably right about getting them on record despite the way they seem unconcerned about flip flopping. I can't help but admire Bill for having at  least had a balanced budget once.  I understand you differ from me in the value of adding trillions more debit for things like shovel ready jobs. I just heard Bernie Sanders last night, if only  the government would spend more on infrastructure. I believe it was Margaret  Thatcher who said something to the effect that ideas like that don't work because you always run out of other people's money.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    It sounds like Thatcher might be ignorant of basic economics, such as the benefits to the economy of spending on infrastructure and the multiplier effect of government spending.

    You can live on a desert island with zero taxes and zero spending on infrastructure. That is not likely to lead to a very strong economy. Government spending on infrastructure is both necessary for a working economy, and will further stimulate the economy. This leads to greater income, and higher tax revenues. Conservative economics do not work in the real world.

  5. 5
    Mike Hatcher says:

    The multiplier effect you reference is not always beneficial. As one put it, you could pay your neighbor $100 to dig a hole that you fill back in.  Then your neighbor could pay you that $100 to dig a hole that he fills in. Thus 2 jobs and $200 of GDP from $100 but little to no real improvement. Whether deliberate payoffs to their friends or just overly confident in things they can't   predict, big spending by govt never seems to produce the results they promise. 

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Of course government spending is not always beneficial. It has to be done sensibly. The claim that “big spending by govt never seems to produce the results they promise” is just a conservative talking point which is not supported by the facts. This is true of some government spending–typically the poorly managed spending under Republicans. We have seen far better success when government spending has been done in a more sensible matter under Democrats. This includes the tremendous success of Obama’s stimulus program which saved the economy after the Republicans crashed it.

    Republicans just claim that government doesn’t work after it doesn’t work under Republican controlled governments as Republican economic ideas are fundamentally flawed, based upon ideology as opposed to actual economic data.

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