Mitchell: Hillary Clinton "a little bit out of touch"

The Huffington Post called this “harsh words,” but under the circumstances it sounds more like a qualified defense. David Gregory asked Andrea Mitchell why Hillary Clinton has come under such harsh scrutiny already when “she’s not even a candidate,” which is a laughable premise on which to deconstruct the past three weeks. Mitchell reminds Gregory that Hillary launched a book tour on her own initiative, and then says that the big takeaway is that the presumptive frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination is “rusty,” and that she should stop giving paid speeches:

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell had some harsh words for Hillary Clinton during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday.

Mitchell told host David Gregory that Clinton is “rusty” and “out of touch,” to judge by recent comments the former secretary of state made during her ongoing book tour.

“She is a little bit out of touch,” Mitchell said, “despite all of her work and all of her connection to hardworking people in the middle class.” …

“It’s a little bit of lack of self-awareness when she talks about being dead broke and she then tried to fix it, but still not getting the language, you know, politically correct,” Mitchell said.

The problem with Hillary over the past few weeks has not been that she’s continuing to get paid for speeches. It’s that she can’t speak straight when it comes to her own wealth and standard of living. She wants it both ways — to live like a One Percenter while pretending to be down with the “struggle” of Occupy Wall Street. It doesn’t work that way, especially when Wall Street sticks $20 million into your husband’s pockets for a few speeches over the years.

That’s not a lack of self-awareness. It’s flat-out hypocrisy. This book tour didn’t happen spontaneously; it was a long-planned effort to shape the political battlefield for the 2016 presidential campaign. The book was written for that purpose (which is why it spends 600 pages saying next to nothing, as reviewers have lamented), and the interviews carefully selected for maximum impact. Hillary had months to prepare for questions about her income — after all, it’s Democrats who made class warfare their central strategy over the last three years. The stumbles over the last three weeks aren’t about being “rusty,” but being tone-deaf in the first place.

That tone-deafness translates into a big problem on public trust for Hillary Clinton. While a thin majority believes her to be relatable — boosted by 86% among Democrats — her trustworthiness is under water in an NBC/WSJ poll taken during her first week of the tour:

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found 55% of all voters think Mrs. Clinton is “knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency,” but more voters disagree than agree with the statement that she is “honest and straightforward.”

The poll results highlight a problem that has dogged Mrs. Clinton since her 2008 campaign. Her three decades in national politics have cemented an image of an experienced public servant with the chops to be president but who has a tougher time making a personal connection with voters and gaining their trust.

Today, 38% of voters say she is “honest and straightforward,” compared with 40% who say she isn’t. That figure is better for Mrs. Clinton than in March 2008, during the Democratic primaries, when 33% said she was honest and 43% said she wasn’t. But she may have trouble making up more of that ground as she moves out of her self-imposed break from politics and is increasingly seen as a 2016 presidential candidate.

Pretending to not be “truly well off” after making more than a hundred million dollars in the past 23 years — and scoring a $14 million bonus for her latest memoir — didn’t make her appear any more trustworthy or straightforward, either. The Washington Post uses this first-week poll result to argue today that she’s not doing real damage to her standing:

Although D.C. gossiped endlessly about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “inartful” comments on her wealth, most Democrats don’t seem to have paid attention — or just don’t care.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll shows that 86 percent of Democrats think she can relate to average Americans “as well as” other potential 2016 presidential candidates, despite her “position and economic circumstances.’’

As you might guess, she fares less well among all other voters — although she still has the backing of a solid majority of all voters who don’t see her as the next Thurston Howell III. The poll found that 55 percent of all people think she’s as relatable as other possible candidates, with 37 percent disagreeing.

But that doesn’t mean Clinton has nothing to worry about. The “as well as” clause in the poll’s question probably waters down negative reactions to the Clinton family’s wealth and how she has talked about it in recent days. That’s because (1) we really just don’t know who those other candidates will be, and (2) when we do meet those candidates, people might not view them as very “in touch” (see: Mitt Romney, John Kerry, Al Gore, Michael Dukakis). If people were simply asked whether Clinton was relatable, full stop, the numbers might be a little lower.

There’s also the fact that these gaffes continued well past the period in time in which this poll was taken. The original comment about being “dead broke” might have been shrugged off by many as a one-off fumble, but at the end of three weeks it’s apparent that Hillary really thinks she can sell herself as a member of the struggling proletariat. The more she tries to sell that, the less credible and relatable she will become … even to Democrats.

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David Strom 4:31 PM on November 25, 2022