Let’s put aside Karl Rove’s specific comment about Hillary Clinton’s eyewear (which was technically correct), the media’s typical, overwrought examination of a not-even-candidate’s remark and truly bizarre Newt Gingrich comments that he was “offended” on behalf of Hillary Clinton (or on behalf of all AARP card-holders?) and the suggestion that we shouldn’t raise any questions about Hillary Clinton’s health. Instead, let’s assume voters are reasonably skeptical about politicians and want to know who they are electing to lead the Free World. They are going to want to know everything about everything relating to the presidential contenders. That includes the candidates’ records, their health and their finances.
Candidates can try to hold back, but as we saw with Mitt Romney’s taxes, disclosure always wins out. Ironically, in the case of Hillary Clinton, there will be a whole lot more to ferret out in 2016 than there was in 2008.
We can all agree (except perhaps MSNBC hosts) that her record at the State Department is fair game. She can perhaps claim powerlessness or cluelessness but everything that went on under her tenure is going to be pawed over. Too many “I don’t know” answers and “It didn’t get to my level” are going to rub voters the wrong way.
Aside from her health (which is undoubtedly better than her record at State), there is the matter of the Clinton finances. How much and from whom has she been getting speaking fees? What about Bill? Who is giving to the Clintons’ foundation and how much are they giving? Who is going to run the Clinton foundation when/if she wins? (You don’t think it would be appropriate for them or Chelsea to have any role in it while she is occupying the White House, do you?)
Part of the “inevitability” mindset is the presumption that one is beyond reproach and beyond the poking and prodding mere mortal office-seekers must undergo. As much as the media will root for her and look askance at pesky questions (and they surely will, if she runs), even they will be obligated to ask the nagging questions about health reports, taxes, conflicts of interest and more. People will want to know all sorts of things about all the candidates. And the other candidates will demand disclosure from opponents.
What will be fair game in 2016? Sen. Marco Rubio’s friendship with David Rivera, Sen. Rand Paul’s medical career, Hillary Clinton’s glad-handing with hedge fund managers, any and all investigations of governors (no matter if they were dismissed), every hire these candidates made, youthful dishonesty, less-youthful dishonesty and much, much more. Unfortunately, things that shouldn’t be fair game (e.g. children, the candidates’ high school antics) will get scrutinized.
The press didn’t do such a great job of picking over Obama’s record in 2008 (they were too wrapped up in the historical campaign, as some later admitted), but with the growth of social media and conservative press there will be no stone untouched.
Was it better in the days when we knew less about the presidents? (If Abraham Lincoln ran today Twitter would be on fire about “rumors of depression,” not to mention the spending habits of his wife.) The tell-all campaign culture certainly keeps good people from running and magnifies relatively unimportant incidents. But that is the political-news environment in which the 2016 candidates will run. If they don’t like it, they shouldn’t run.