"I think it's horse[hockey]. I think The Washington Post is acting like some kind of an Internet blog or something instead of doing real reporting."
That's Burns Strider, a veteran of Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign and now part of a Clinton-aligned rapid response group called Correct The Record, responding to a WaPo story on the connection between scandal-plagued businessman Jeffrey Thompson and longtime Clinton confidante Minyon Moore. Turns out that despite Strider's assertions, there was nothing factually incorrect in the story. (Sidenote: What the heck is wrong with an "Internet blog"?)
Strider's response raised eyebrows in the political world -- many of whom still remember the remarkably contentious relationship between the Clinton campaign and the press corps six years ago. Here's how the New York Times' Jason Horowitz put it in a terrific piece on the pending relationship (or lack thereof) between the media and the campaign:
In the 2008 presidential primaries, as Mrs. Clinton challenged an upstart media sweetheart, Barack Obama, many reporters in her press corps knew her primarily as the senator from New York and not the former first lady. Nonetheless, Mrs. Clinton kept those reporters at bay and failed to employ the charm offensive of which she is highly capable. Only on the eve of the disastrous Iowa caucuses, when relations between the campaign and reporters had already broken down, did she venture onto the press bus with coffee and bagels. “I didn’t want you to feel deprived,” she said during a visit that lasted one minute and 28 seconds. Hardly anyone ate a bagel.
Given that history, Strider's comments landed particularly heavily in Clintonworld -- the vast universe of former and current operatives who have worked for the former president and first lady -- where reaction ranged from shock to annoyance to eye-rolling.
"Burns and Minyon are very close friends and his response was a reflection of that more than anything else," said one former Clinton campaign aide. "Hillary knows that 2016 is going to require a different approach than 2008 and that includes handling press relationships."
That sentiment was echoed in a series of email conversations with current and former Clinton types, none of whom agreed to speak on the record about Strider or the broader approach to the media that the Clinton campaign might employ. (Welcome to the wonderful world of pre-presidential politics!) They insisted that this was about Strider's personal relationship with Moore and not in any way indicative of how the Clinton campaign-in-waiting will deal with the media if she does decide to run.
Fair enough. But, it's also worth remembering that Strider -- or anyone else who is clearly identifiable with Clintonworld -- doesn't really have the leeway to speak as a lone actor with no implications for the broader conversation about the Clintons and the media. She's too high-profile a figure. Too much water has already passed under that bridge. Again, Horowitz:
Mrs. Clinton’s press strategy will have a critical bearing on her political fortunes, especially as she faces earlier and more extensive coverage than any potential candidate in history. Reporters at a raft of publications, including this one, are treating Mrs. Clinton as a beat, an exceptional development for an undeclared candidate two years out from an election. How and if Mrs. Clinton engages that press offers the first hint of the tone her possible campaign could strike in 2016, and whether it would be different from the approach of 2008, 2006, 2000, 1996 and 1992.
To be clear: Hillary Clinton didn't lose the 2008 campaign because of her -- and many of her top aides' -- adversarial (to put it nicely) relationship with the media. But, it certainly didn't help her cause that some elements within the campaign were often at outright war with the media. Strider's comments shouldn't be read as a sign that it's deja vu all over again if she decides to run in 2016. But, it should function as a cautionary tale for Clintonworld that popping off -- given all that has come before between the Clintons and the press -- might not be the smartest strategy.