It took 28 days for Hillary Clinton to take questions from the media, but Howard Kurtz wonders why after watching the performance of the reporters on her beat. Kurtz gives Clinton credit for “finesse,” and comes to the odd conclusion based on just five minutes of access that “she’s pretty good at this.” Perhaps Howard should go back and look at Hillary’s book tour last year to get a better perspective on just how “good” she is at answering questions, and why her handlers are keeping her in a media bunker, as he puts it.
The media’s performance, on the other hand, impressed Kurtz a lot less. After 28 days, one might have expected them to prepare a bit better than this:
Of course, by limiting the encounter to less than five minutes, Hillary ensured that there was little opportunity for follow-ups, making it easier for her to slide by with generalities.
One reporter, for example, said this about foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation: “Your opponents say the donations and your private email account are examples of the Clintons having one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for everyone else.”
Her response: “I am so proud of the foundation. I’m proud of the work that it has done and is doing…I’ll let the American people make their own judgments.” Nothing on foreign government donations.
On a question about her wealth: “Well, obviously, Bill and I have been blessed and we’re very grateful for the opportunities that we’ve had, but we’ve never forgotten where we came from.” Nothing on the special interests providing those six-figure speaking fees. …
The question about her old friend and former White House aide Sid Blumenthal was so poorly phrased that it didn’t mention the word Libya. (Blumenthal was peppering the secretary of State with memos about Libya while trying to help associates do business in Libya.) That enabled Hillary to say: “I have many, many old friends, and I always think that it’s important when you get into politics to have friends that you had before you were in politics and to understand what’s on their minds.”
Should the clock reset on the media bunker? If one is counting from the last time Hillary took questions, sure. If one counts from the time Hillary answered questions … maybe not. As Kurtz says, candidates are usually in control of media access, but he misses one important point in Hillary’s favor — the lack of competition from other Democrats. If Republicans only had one candidate running for the office, they could follow the same strategy Hillary’s using here, but the crowded field in the GOP makes it a buyer’s market for reporters. The Republican hopefuls need the media to get out their messaging and raise their profiles. Hillary doesn’t need to have her profile raised, and she has no realistic competition for the nomination (yet) to smoke her out. So for Hillary, it’s a seller’s market, and she’s not selling.
In this case, Hillary did less bobbing and weaving than the press did throwing weak jabs that wouldn’t have landed against a rookie. As Kurtz notes, Hillary has been at this a long time, but since that’s the case, why doesn’t she spar more with the press? It’s because, as her book tour and UN presser reminded us, she’s got a glass jaw and pretty bad aim herself. Don’t expect the ratio of five minutes every 28 days to change.