He did use the plural — “press conferences” — so we’re guaranteed at least two. On the other hand, “the frequency of them is something that would just play out as time went on,” says Brian Fallon. So figure maybe one presser in January 2017 and another a week before the election in 2020.
We all understand why she’s ducking the spectacle of a press free-for-all while agreeing to sit for interviews with individual reporters, yes?
It’s been 272 days since Hillary Clinton’s last press conference. But Clinton’s lead press secretary, Brian Fallon, vowed that if elected, “Hillary Clinton will hold press conferences.”
“But the frequency of them is something that would just play out as time went on,” he added.
On this week’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast, Fallon promised greater interaction between Clinton and the press on the campaign trail and said he expects the Democratic nominee to hold a press conference soon.
“The amount of interaction can only go up,” he said, noting that the traveling press will soon be flying with Clinton on her new campaign plane.
That’s the latest half-measure to get the press to back off of her about holding a press conference. Instead of flying on a private jet, as she’s done for most of the campaign, she’s switching to a big plane that’ll carry the media along with her as campaigns have traditionally done. If she does a five-minute gaggle with them every few days in the cabin, that’s sort of like a press conference. I guess?
It’s been 273 days and counting (and there are people counting, including the RNC and WaPo) since she’s held a proper presser on camera with a full array of press. The reason, while unstated, is obvious. More than once last year, she called press conferences in order to do damage control on her private server and email habits. And more than once, those press conferences blew up in her face. The first trainwreck was her presser at the UN in March 2015, which raised more questions than it answered about what she had deleted and why and was panned even by some left-wingers. Five months later Hillary held the infamous presser in Las Vegas in which, dressed in prison-jumpsuit orange, she disingenuously responded to a question about her server being wiped by asking, “Like with a cloth or something?” WaPo published a list the same day of no fewer than five major mistakes she had made at that one. She’d probably do fine at a press conference devoted exclusively to foreign policy. But foreign policy won’t be what the press will want to ask her about if/when they get another shot at her. We all know what the topic will be. And by now Team Hillary knows just how badly it’s likely to go.
Beyond the fact that she keeps whiffing when grilled en masse by the media on her emails, the optics of Clinton taking fire from all angles during a presser is bad for her and her team seems to understand that. In a one-on-one interview, she’s usually able to maintain a veneer of conversational pleasantness even when the reporter’s pressing her. She’s just a politician fielding a tough question from a journalist, like anyone else. In a press conference, though, when it’s 20 reporters piling on her, her arrogance tends to seep out in the form of sarcasm and defensiveness. (That was one of the mistakes identified by WaPo after the Vegas presser.) The last thing Hillary Clinton needs is for an electorate that already deeply dislikes her to dislike her more. Worse, the public’s biggest worry about her is that she is, as Trump memorably dubbed her, crooked; the spectacle of dozens of reporters peppering her with questions about possible misconduct and Clinton replying with dismissive, not very convincing answers only reinforces that sense of shadiness. She comes off like a defendant on the witness stand who’s being dismantled by the D.A. on cross-examination and can’t hide her irritation about it. Go figure that she hasn’t volunteered to “testify” in months.
As noted above, Fallon says he expects her to hold a presser soon. Under different circumstances, the long, slow holiday weekend would have made yesterday or today ideal: Even if she screwed up again, the presser would have been overlooked by most voters who aren’t paying attention to the news right now. If that plan was in the works, though, the FBI releasing her interview notes yesterday must have quickly cashiered it. Hillary’s not going out there to face the music on why, for instance, she supposedly didn’t know what “(C)” meant in official government memos until she’s been fully prepped with talking points. That’ll take time. Probably she’ll step up and do a presser in the next week or two, just to get it out of the way so that the press isn’t hounding her about it while she’s busy making her closing argument to voters in October.
Here’s lefty Ari Melber scoffing at a fellow liberal for claiming that Clinton not holding pressers is no big deal. Exit question: Do swing voters care about this? Right-wingers care because we dislike Hillary. Swing voters might care, I think, if Clinton was completely AWOL from media and not answering press questions at all. That would suggest that she really does have something to hide. But she’s doing one-on-one interviews, occasionally even on Sunday morning. The average swing voters has probably noticed that. She’s also set for three debates with Trump, where she’ll be challenged by both him and the moderator. She’s not hiding from that either. As I said above, I do think her skipping pressers tells us something about her, in particular her inability to convincingly explain her behavior on cybersecurity. But I don’t know that it’s on the radar of the average voter who doesn’t follow political news day-to-day.