Is it awards season already? It is for Hillary Clinton, although it’s difficult to determine why. Her four-year tenure as Secretary of State didn’t produce any significant new diplomatic agreements,, featured an embarrassing and sycophantic moment with Russia and a “reset button,” mishandled the Arab Spring everywhere but especially in Egypt, turned Libya into a failed-state breeding ground for terrorists, and lost the Benghazi consulate and four Americans as a direct result of it.
But hey, what difference at this point does it make for people who want to produce their own sycophantic Kodak moments with Hillary?
When Sir Elton John bestowed his foundation’s first Founders Award on Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday night, it was ostensibly meant to honor her work combatting AIDS. But it came at a moment when everyone seems to be honoring the former secretary of state for something.
This summer, the American Bar Association gave her its highest honor for her work as a lawyer. The National Constitution Center feted her work as a public servant. Save the Children gave her an award for . . . helping save children. Last week, Clinton flew to London to receive yet another award — this one a scroll signed by Queen Elizabeth celebrating her work as a diplomat.
In all, Clinton has racked up at least 15 awards in the nine months since she left the State Department, with more to come at the same time she is weighing a presidential campaign in 2016. Her supporters say the accolades are well deserved. But it also appears that Clinton has figured out how to leverage the awards to her political advantage, just as the groups honoring her benefit from having the would-be candidate promote their causes.
The awards circuit has effectively become Clinton’s pre-campaign campaign, allowing her to speak out on issues of her choosing and cement ties with key Democratic constituencies — all with little apparent political risk.
One way to reduce that political risk is to turn public awards ceremonies into off-the-record events. Erik Wemple, who has begun to make a project out of the media’s treatment of Hillary Clinton, reports that her team demands that her hosts for public speeches ensure that the press can’t record her remarks. However, that might end up backfiring on her:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) is riding a compelling Hillary Rodham Clinton story. It’s not so much about her quite-possible presidential run. Nor is it about the Clinton family’s foundation. Nor Benghazi. It’s about how Clinton is attempting the impossible: Turning a speech into something approaching an off-the-record occasion.
This morning, the former secretary of state was in Atlanta for a speaking engagement before the National Association of Convenience and Fuel Retailing (NACS). As the AJC reported yesterday, members of the media were barred from the session. Today it reported that a “cone of silence” had descended on her remarks. “Convention officials banned all video and sound recording, social media, and naturally, journalists,” wrote the AJC’s Greg Bluestein and Jim Galloway.
Bear in mind that these are public events. This is a conference that the organizers would love to have the media publicize, under normal conditions. In the abnormal conditions, Hillary’s speech got plenty of attention anyway, but it was a Republican state official that provided it:
No ears reported any mention of whatever 2016 ambitions Clinton might have. But state Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, said the former first lady dropped a huge hint. “I know she’s running for president now, because toward the end, she was asked about the Osama bin Laden raid. She took 25 minutes to answer,” Taylor said. “Without turning the knife too deeply, she put it to [Vice President Joe] Biden.”
Time and time again, Taylor said, Clinton mentioned the vice president’s opposition to the raid, while characterizing herself and Leon Panetta, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as the action’s most fierce advocates.
Wemple wonders why Hillary and her team set themselves up for this kind of spin:
The Erik Wemple Blog is unfamiliar with the work and reputation of Georgia State Rep. Tom Taylor. He could well be the keenest and most objective state rep in all the country. But wouldn’t Clinton and her friends and her supporters and the reporters covering her prefer to have a simple video or audio recording so that one individual’s recollection doesn’t drive our understanding of the speech.
Here’s another question: why are all these groups so anxious to throw accolades at Hillary Clinton at all? Does she discount her speaking fee if she gets an award? Better yet, does anyone believe that the toadying impresses anyone? It sounds like the Nobel Peace Prize in modern times — it’s a shower of attendance awards that make both the giver and recipient look more and more petty by engaging in the practice.