The Associated Press has obtained emails which show that the Clinton campaign worked aggressively in coordinating questions for their candidate to be “spontaneously” delivered by voters attending campaign events over the past several months.
The emails show staffers pre-screening introductory remarks by officials tasked with the duty to present the former Secretary of State to the handful of supporters waiting to hear her hoarsely delivered remarks. Team Clinton also provides “suggested questions” for the lucky few chosen to query Madame Secretary at spontaneous and unscripted town hall events.
Emails obtained by The Associated Press reveal a careful, behind-the-scenes effort to review introductory remarks for college presidents and students presenting the Democratic front-runner as a speaker, as well as suggesting questions that happened to be aligned with her campaign platform.
While it’s not unusual for campaigns to plan detailed appearances, the exchanges preview the kind of image-control apparatus that could be deployed in a Clinton White House, including attempts to steer conversations with her audiences. They also run counter to her campaign’s efforts to make Clinton look less wooden and scripted than she did when running eight years ago.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said, “We take pride in Secretary Clinton’s ability to answer tough questions. We do not screen questioners at events, nor do we script interactions.” He said Clinton has answered about 900 questions in formal events on the campaign, and that more-memorable moments came from the fact her events were “completely unscripted.”
The newly revealed exchanges, which surfaced in open-records requests, show the trappings of a Clinton campaign that touts off-the-cuff moments, like the story of a little girl who asked Clinton: “If you’re elected the girl president, will you be paid the same as the boy president?” That line is a stump speech favorite.
But the campaign still injects itself into the minute details of the candidate’s appearances down to the stemless glassware in her green room. That fixation on planning has sometimes pulled local officials uncomfortably into the political arena.
Let’s not forget what happens to Mrs. Clinton when she is asked questions that truly are spontaneous and not pre-screened by her protective staff.
Earlier this year, during a town hall event presented by CNN, Clinton was asked why she accepted close to $1 million from Goldman Sachs for three speeches. Her response was clearly the result of the brilliant former First Lady not being prepared for such a nuanced and challenging line of inquiry:
“Well, I don’t know. That’s what they offered,” she said when asked whether she needed to be paid for three speeches amounting to $675,000, which Sanders often points to as evidence that she is beholden to Wall Street. “Every secretary of state that I know has done that.”
And the extraordinarily gifted and talented Mrs. Clinton was certainly unprepared for this exchange over whether she had wiped her private server before handing it over to the FBI:
Henry asked again if she wiped the server.
“I have no idea. That’s why we turned it over,” she added before being cut off by Henry who kept pressing her saying, “you said you were in charge of it [the server]. You were the official in charge. Did you wipe the server?”
“Like with a cloth or something?” responded Clinton.
With this kind of stumbling, bumbling performance at town hall events and press conferences, it’s no wonder that the palace guards want to ensure they’ve pre-screened every possible utterance at HRH HRC’s appearances. But, what happens when an unscripted moment is bound to happen? What happens when an unpredictable candidate who doesn’t care what he says or how he says it or to whom he says it confronts a candidate who has to have every moment of her campaign scripted?
Kinda makes you a little excited about those presidential debates this fall, right?