Hillary — Meet the Press, Dammit

Let’s just say it out loud: Hillary Clinton is wrong, selfish, stupid and irresponsible to not hold regular press conferences. Or at least one for goodness sake.

She is either a coward, or her ambition has crowded out her soul and what shreds of ethics she may still keep in a jar by the door.

If you read Carl Bernstein’s book A Woman in Charge, you’ll take this great journalist’s view that her ambition leads her to do whatever it takes to get to where she wants to go. Whatever it takes.

Including spurning much of the media. She hasn’t had a news conference in almost nine months. Yes she does some interviews one-on-one. Yes she calls in to some chosen news shows. Yes she sat down with Chris Wallace of Fox, one of the best, most fair and toughest interviewers out there. And she stuck her foot in her mouth.

But this is part of how you let America see you. You meet the press. This is part of what we voters deserve. To see how you handle tough inquiries from reporters in an uncontrollable scrum. Unruly? Sure. Unpredictable? Yes, thank god. And an important part of democracy. The media is not part of your marketing department, Madame Secretary. I’ve worked with a few public relations clients who felt that way. It’s wrong. It’s cynical.

Listening to Clinton answer journalists like Anderson Cooper’s questions on why she doesn’t hold a press conference is excruciating. If Clinton listens to herself she must shiver like someone tasting spoiled milk, or like John McCain every night when he realizes he’s gone another day without retracting his endorsement of Donald Trump. “Well Anderson I talk to lots of reporters, as I am right now with you, and I have done hundreds of interviews and…” blah blah blah. Answer the question. Answer them all.

Are you a less-skilled communicator than Geraldine Ferraro, Walter Mondale’s VP nominee, who in 1984 took questions from 200 reporters for nearly two hours about shady financial dealings she and her husband were accused of? She stood there and took everything they could throw at her. And here’s Ragan’s PR Daily’s assessment of the outcome, from a 2011 piece on Ferraro’s death:

It helped reverse the narrative that she was not transparent;

It turned her into a more sympathetic figure;

It offered Ferraro a vital opportunity to show her mettle as a female candidate who could endure the intensity of the media’s scrutiny.

Don’t you have Ferraro’s guts, don’t you have what it takes, Madame Secretary? Is that why you’re hiding?

I’m a former daily newspaper reporter and a former college journalism teacher and I believe deeply in the role of the free press in helping us make crucial civic decisions. Those who avoid the press, who seek only to manipulate it and use it for their own ends, are putting their own interests before the best interests of the country. It’s wrong. It’s pathetic. Stop hiding, Hillary. Let us see how you handle tough times. Yes, we’ve seen you stand up to tough questioning before, as with the House Benghazi committee. Get out there again. Regularly.

Your failure to meet the press undermines any criticism you rightly make about Donald Trump’s despicable and willful refusal to release his tax returns. His failure is greater, but it’s on the same scale of cowardly hiding of what the public has a right and duty to know and understand.

Some people in your campaign are saying you’re playing a “run down the clock” campaign now, lying low to not blow your lead. If you are doing that, you risk my vote. I’m very liberal, I agree with you on most policy positions, but your actions are showing deep character flaws. I hope you thank god every night that the idiot Republicans have put up a barbarian to run against you. An actual human being would defeat you. And you’d deserve it.

— Bruce Benidt

The Vice-Presidential Puzzle Box

Rumor has it that Governor Romney has settled on – and will soon announce – his vice presidential candidate.  The conventional wisdom is that the list is down to Ohio Senator Rob Portman, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and – maybe – Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.  Florida Senator Marco Rubio and former Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice were floated either as trial balloons or to demonstrate the alleged breadth of their selection process before they pick the white guy (no, Jindal is not a “white guy” but read below why he won’t be picked according to the logic of vice presidential picking).

What a yawn fest.  Any group in which Tim Pawlenty is judged to be the most dynamic and energetic member has a serious personality deficit.

In truth, though, vice presidential nominees tend to be on the uninspiring side of the ledger and are usually picked for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Safe (i.e. no skeletons, no surprises)
  • Bland (doesn’t overshadown the top of the ticket)
  • Balance (geography, experience, political spectrum, age, religion)
  • Key attribute (ethnicity, swing state residency)

Let’s review the list of some of the most recent vice-presidential nominees and see where they fit:

  • 2008:   Biden – balance (age, experience), safe; Palin – (see below)
  • 2004:   Edwards – key attribute (swing state), balance (geography, religion)
  • 2000:   Lieberman – balance (political spectrum); Cheney – balance (experience, geography, age), safe
  • 1996:    Kemp – balance (political spectrum, geography), safe
  • 1992:    Gore – safe, bland, balance (experience)
  • 1988:    Quayle – bland, balance (age, political spectrum); Bentsen – balance (experience, political spectrum, geography), safe
  • 1984:    Ferraro – (see below)
  • 1980:    Bush – balance (age, political spectrum, experience, geography)

Thirty-two years of electoral politics is enough to make the point, but the pattern is discernible in every election.  The most common reason for picking a vice president is “balance” in terms of geography, experience, etc. Only rarely does picking a vice presidential candidate deliver that person’s home state – Lyndon Johnson being the only example that comes to mind.  Other attributes come into play when there are particular flaws at the top of the ticket.  George W. Bush, for example, had to pick a Cheney-esque figure to counter the perception that he was too much of a lightweight to be president.  By contrast, George H.W. Bush picked Quayle in part because he was so lightweight that there was no possibility that he would overshadow his boss.

Which brings us to the last reason why vice-presidential candidates are chosen: as “game changers.”   There are only two people in this category in the last eight presidential elections – Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sara Palin in 2008.  Both were picked by campaigns desperate enough to throw Hail Mary passes in the hope of an end zone miracle.  Both failed: Ferraro’s selection couldn’t possibly hold back the landslide that re-elected Reagan in ’84 and Palin made the ’08 loss a little worse (though a “safe” pick from one of the traditional categories wouldn’t have made a difference).

Mitt Romney is NOT John McCain and even without the immediate example of Sara Palin as a warning there is no chance of him picking a game changer.  First, he has an actuary’s dislike of risk and has never as far as I can tell taken a high-risk step in either his personal or professional life.  Second, he’s in no way desperate; the election is still a jump ball and he has $1 billion or more on his side to help him jump higher than the other guys.

So…applying the logic of vice-presidential candidates to the current crop, Jindal is out.  Portman is tempting, but I think in the end our own Tim Pawlenty will be the guy bounding onto a stage somewhere in a swing state sometime soon to tell us how proud he is to have been asked to join Mitt Romney in reclaiming America.


– Austin