Hillary's Bad Week Shows What a Difference the Media Can Make
It's no secret that Hillary Clinton has been having a bad week. Observers are putting it down to her being "rusty" but that's not really it. Hillary has a lifelong habit of glossing over the pesky details. What's been different this week is that the media seems less willing to let her get away with it.
Hillary's book rollout started with a fumble during an interview in which she responded to a question about the millions she's earned by claiming she was "dead broke" after leaving the White House. She tried to retract that one the next day saying "It is an issue that I have worked on and cared about my entire adult life." But Hillary's initial answer was an attempt to claim her $100 million fortune didn't really matter. She could still relate. She still cared about the issue so what difference does it make?
Then there was the error in the book itself on an issue she could least afford to get wrong, Benghazi. Hillary claimed we had Marines in Tripoli when in fact the Marines were only sent in after the attack. In a move truly worthy of the Clinton name, her aides suggested it all depended what the meaning of the word "were" was...or is...or something. There will be no correction because what difference does it make?
Next there was a statement about Abe Lincoln's days as a Senator, an anecdote from her own book, she said. It's just a minor factual flub so what difference does it make?
Finally, Thursday Hillary gave an interview to NPR in which she tried to tap-dance around a question about gay marriage and eventually got a bit snippy with interviewer Terry Gross. (Gross did the same thing to Nancy Reagan during a book tour decades ago.) The honest answer to the question would have been a date or, better yet, a story recalling a moment of reflection when her thinking shifted. But Hillary didn't have one handy. Instead she wanted to talk about the issue in the abstract. Yes she had changed her view but when or why...what difference does it make?
There's also the book itself. In her chapter on Benghazi she writes, "It is unlikely that there will ever be anything close to full agreement
on exactly what happened that night, how it happened, or why it happened." That seems to leave a lot of grey area on a subject she has detailed knowledge about. As for her role in clarifying what did happen, you can forget it. "I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans," she says with finality. We all know what she said about Benghazi in congressional testimony.
But the media does not seem to be playing along. Clinton-world was reportedly complaining to the NY Times about unfair coverage last week but word apparently didn't spread very far. Reviews of the book have been near unanimous in concluding it doesn't reveal much about it's subject, despite 600 plus pages in which to do so. Slate titled their piece on the book "Safe Choices." The Telegraph added that it was, "Safe and sappy." The New Republic suggested it was a case of "Memoir by Committee" and added that it appeared the book would be "boring and dreary." Mark Halperin and John Heilemann agreed the book was "mush."
None of this is really new territory for Hillary. Going all the way back to the days of bimbo eruptions and the vast right wing conspiracy, Hillary never wanted to talk specifics or let anyone else do so. Did Bill have an affair with this one or that one? How did she earn $100k trading cattle futures on a $1,000 investment? What was her role in firing travel office staff? There is hardly a single challenge that has ever been raised to which her answer was not some variation of her hand-waiving, irritated response to questions about why four people died in Benghazi: What difference at this point does it make?
And always there's the follow-up to her quick dismissal of the past. If the past and it's pesky details don't matter to Hillary that's because she's so very enthusiastic about the future and the issues and what we can do to serve the American people and how to prevent a disaster like this from ever happening again. Hillary lives in the vague and undefined near future where life is always full of promise because nothing has happened yet.
If Hillary does run for President her behavior won't change. She isn't rusty. This is how she has always handled things. What has been different this week is the media. They are the ones who seem rusty, not showing Hillary the deference she expects. This week has shown what a difference that can make.