America Rising, a Republican-aligned opposition research group, blasted out a clip this morning of Hillary Clinton being asked about her wealth for the bajillionth time (NOTE: This is a rough estimate). This time the interviewer was Jorge Ramos, an anchor for Fusion, in an interview set to air Tuesday night.
And, yet again, she seemed caught somewhat off guard in her answer. Here's the clip.
And, here's the transcript of that exchange -- courtesy of David Ford at Fusion.
Ramos: Do you know your net worth? Do you know how much money you have?
Clinton: You know, within a range, yeah. I mean, we have two very nice houses which we're very proud of and not selling anytime soon so...
Ramos: But millions…
Clinton: Yeah. Yes, yes, indeed.
Um, ok. Again, it just seems hard for me to believe that Clinton, who has been repeatedly battered in the media -- and by conservative critics -- about her comments about her wealth doesn't have a clearer answer to questions like the one posed by Ramos. Clinton, in response to Ramos' question about how much money she had exactly, could have easily said some version of this: "I don't have an exact number at the tip of my tongue, Jorge. It's plenty. We've been very blessed in our lives. But, I've also spent my entire life fighting for those less fortunate than Bill and I."
In fact, Clinton said many of those things in response to Ramos' previous question about whether she regretted telling ABC's Diane Sawyer that she and her husband were "dead broke" when they left the White House. Here's how Clinton, effectively, handled that question:
I regret it. It was inartful. It was accurate but we are so successful and we're so blessed by the success we've had and my husband has worked incredibly hard. What I worry about is not my family. I worry about other families in our country who feel like they're running in place. They're not getting ahead or maybe they're falling backwards. And what I want to do and this is what Bill has always done from the very beginning of his public life is to try to create more ladders of opportunity for more Americans so that they can have the same opportunities that Bill and I have had.
While Clinton could have probably done without the "it was accurate" line, this answer is MUCH better than the one she went on to give Ramos in response to how rich she actually is. Politicians repeat themselves all the time. If Clinton had basically rephrased this first answer when responding to the second question, she would have been in great shape.
It's more than just Clinton's words that aren't great in that second answer though. She seems visibly uncomfortable when asked directly about how much money she and her husband have. I'm not sure it merits the "Clinton stutters, still unwilling to own up to her wealth" description that America Rising uses in their blog post on the clip, but it's certainly a moment where you can tell Clinton is not entirely comfortable. (Adrienne Elrod, communications director for Correct The Record, an outside group designed to counter attacks on Clinton, described the America Rising clip as "another desperate, ineffective attempt by the right wing to distract from the fact that Hillary Clinton has spent her lifetime in public service lifting up the lives of middle-class families.")
Being wealthy is not the problem for politicians. (The vast majority of people who run for president are millionaires, and many are far wealthier than that.) It's how comfortable (or not) they are talking about their wealth that gets them into trouble (or not). Mitt Romney is the ur-example of a politician who could just never talk about his wealth in a way that worked for him rather than against him. Every time someone asked about his affluence, he looked like he was undergoing a painful medical procedure as he answered. His awkwardness when talking about his money led to more questions about it. Which led to more awkwardness. And so on and so forth. It was a vicious cycle.
To be clear, Clinton is not Mitt Romney. Romney's wealth -- and his inability to put to rest the idea that it was representative of a mindset in which he looked out for his wealthy friends first and foremost -- became the defining issue of the 2012 presidential campaign. Unlike Romney, Clinton's wealth largely comes from speeches and book sales not the venture capital business from which Romney made his fortune. And, Clinton can effectively make the case that she has spent the vast majority of the last two decades -- from her time as First Lady to her time in the Senate to her tenure as Secretary of State -- serving the American public first and foremost.
Still, Clinton's struggles to answer what seem like pretty basic questions about her wealth remain baffling -- particularly for a politician as practiced in the art as she is. Until she finds three sentences (or so) to button up any/all questions about her wealth, those questions will keep coming. And that's not the way Clinton wants to run-up to her now all-but-certain presidential bid.