It’s been more than a month since Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign. Since then, she and her staff have been active on social media, proclaiming that “we need to fix the dysfunctional political system,” and that she, unlike the GOP, is “looking forward to a real discussion” about the issues facing American families. She has talked a lot about access to the American dream.
However, her interest in access and “a real discussion” doesn’t apply to the press, and she isn’t likely to fix her own political dysfunctional anytime soon.
Between the announcement of her candidacy April 12 and last week, the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state answered a total of eight — yes, eight — questions from the press. The last day she answered a question was more than three weeks ago in New Hampshire. And that well-publicized van trip she took to meet “everyday Americans” and listen to their “ideas for the future,” including a stop in Las Vegas? Holding carefully staged round tables attended by heavily screened supporters is not the same thing as answering rapid-fire questions from reporters.
Her strategy raises an obvious question: If she can’t handle a tough question from a journalist, how can she handle the duties of the highest office in the land?
Mrs. Clinton’s actions illustrate just how scripted and cynical presidential politics has become. And she is far from alone when it comes to controlling access and avoiding tough questioning. President Barack Obama, for example, has little interest in taking live questions from reporters, either.
According to data compiled by the American Presidency Project, the president has held a combined 124 regular and solo news conferences since being elected in 2008. That number pales in comparison with Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who held a combined 210 and 193 pressers, respectively, during their two-term presidencies. Obama supporters might fire back and point out that, as of January, the president had sat down for 872 one-on-one interviews with various media figures. But, like Mrs. Clinton’s contrived van tour, doing one-on-one interviews with comedians and sympathetic, often-fawning interviewers is not the same thing as doing traditional, unscripted news conferences.
Contrary to his bold proclamation, President Obama has never had any real intention of leading “the most transparent administration in history” — in fact, both New York Times reporter James Risen and liberal comic Bill Maher have called the president an enemy of press freedom. Similarly, Mrs. Clinton has no desire to have any “real discussion.” They seek only to control the narrative. And when they do take questions, they’re likely to respond with talking points that dodge, duck and deflect issues.
President Obama’s time in office is dwindling, and any interviews he does from this point forward will have the express purpose of shaping his legacy. Mrs. Clinton, who wants his job, will only say what she thinks will strengthen her chances of winning the Democratic Party nomination. She will continue to avoid questions about the Clinton Foundation and her private email server when she was secretary of state — especially in light of a federal judge’s recent decision to reopen a lawsuit seeking access to emails from her private server.
America desperately needs leaders who are articulate, thoughtful and studied on today’s issues and willing to discuss them — leaders — not people who are afraid to answer questions. Please vote accordingly.