Musicians are famous for having crazy tour “riders,” a list of things they ask venues to provide prior to the performance. Madonna demands “special white and pink roses that must have the stems cut to six inches.” Iggy Pop wanted a Bob Hope impersonator at every show. Mary J. Blige demands venues install brand new toilet seats. And Jennifer Lopez asks for a 40-foot trailer furnished from top to bottom in nothing but white.
Politicians rarely demand such diva treatment. Until, that is, Hillary Clinton stepped onto the scene. Although not a “rider,” in the traditional sense, the campaign has stage-managed Clinton down to the very last detail, especially when it comes to her interactions with the press. Things reached absurd levels earlier this week when a confirmation note from Texas Southern University, which hosted a Clinton speech on voting rights, spread across the Internet. The note made clear, “There will be NO opportunities to interview Hillary Clinton; her speech will be her interview.”
What kind of Orwellian nonsense is that?
Hillary may be a powerful wordsmith, but she can’t simply redefine the words “speech” and “interview” to mean the same thing. A speech allows her to frame every issue to her liking and stick closely to a script that her advisers no doubt pored over for days. An interview on the other hand allows for some element of spontaneity, which, when properly deployed can reveal the true thought process of the candidate on a particular topic.
Sadly, this is just more of the same from Team Hillary. It took Clinton 40,150 minutes after announcing her candidacy to take a question from the press. And even that was like pulling teeth. When Fox News’ Ed Henry interrupted the Democratic candidate’s sit-down with a group of Iowans to see if she would field questions from the press, she mockingly showed her disdain.
“I might,” she said to laughs from the crowd. “I have to ponder it. I will put it on my list for due consideration.”
But Clinton hewed so closely to glib, frivolous talking points during the measly five minutes that she took questions, that it’s difficult to say that was truly interviewed.
One reporter, for instance, asked whether donations to the Clinton Foundation and her private email server are examples of the Clinton’s getting the benefit of playing by a different set of rules than 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.”
She’s requires equal tight-lippedness amongst her staff. CNBC’s John Harwood wrote of one absurd circumstance:
“I’ve talked with “senior officials” about her bid for the White House. They say in these chairs [copy of picture].
Wish I could tell you more. But they said very little.
Notice that I typed very little and not “very little,” because under the ground rules of Thursday’s briefing, reporters were not allowed to quote their words directly.
Clinton can only hide from the media for so long before it quickly begins to backfire. After all, reporters are already becoming increasingly frustrated. She hasn’t sat down for a formal interview with any media organization. And the ground rules she sets don’t allow for any sort of meaningful back and forth. Things have gotten so bad that the typically left-leaning Washington Post has a clock that counts the minutes since Clinton last answered a question from the press. Not only does this lack of transparency raise serious questions about her involvement in the numerous scandals that seem to sprout up by the day, but as NBC News’ Chuck Todd writes, it plays right into Republicans’ hands.
“Team Clinton is playing into the exact narrative they’ve pledged to avoid – appearing to hold a coronation, not a contest,” Todd writes. “If the media feels as if Clinton has the attitude that her campaign is above press accountability, the coverage is going to reflect that. And by the way, this isn’t just about playing nice with reporting and bringing donuts to the back of the campaign bus. It’s about treating the process with respect.”
Unfortunately, respect is something she doesn’t have for the process, the people, nor the truth.