We had hints from the snippets put out by ABC News early in the day on Monday that Hillary Clinton had a rough time of it with Diane Sawyer, but her bizarrely rocky performance could not have been anticipated.
Among her worst moments in the interview, which aired Monday night:
1. Clinton was and still is forced to give six-figure speeches because she left the White House — in 1998, some 16 years ago — in debt. In claiming she and her husband had “struggled,” she hardens the impression that she is out of touch with the lives of ordinary people. Remember that she and her husband got multimillion-dollar book advances and that as an ex-president Bill Clinton gets nearly $200,000 annually just in pension benefits — while Hillary was getting a Senate salary. In fact, the Clintons have liked living like their rich and famous pals, and to do that they had to milk their fame for all it has been worth. To be blunt, Clinton chose to make more and more money over other activities.
2. Clinton considers Benghazi, Libya, and the deaths of four Americans there to be minor stuff and political justification for her own presidential run: “Actually, it’s more of a reason to run, because I do not believe our great country should be playing minor league ball. We ought to be in the majors. I view this as really apart from — even a diversion from — the hard work that the Congress should be doing about the problems facing our country and the world.” This sounds at best insensitive and at worst cruelly manipulative. To then accuse critics of her performance as indulging in politics is nervy, to say the least.
3. Clinton can’t bring herself to identify specific failures with regard to Benghazi. Apparently, telling people to make security tight is sufficient in her own mind to obviate her of individual blame. Her determined avoidance of responsibility is quite stunning, actually. Under grilling, she finally admitted that Benghazi was among the top 10 most dangerous spots for her people. Why then did she not monitor the situation or set in place a system to advise when Ambassador Chris Stevens or others in the “top 10” implored her for more security? For a pol who made her career micromanaging projects and learning every detail there is to know, her insistence that telling security people to do their job was sufficient rings hollow. Even her attempt to write off the “what difference does it make” remark in the hearing as her attempt not to stay “fixated” in the past smacks of denial and responsibility avoidance.
4. Even with all the commentary and news coverage about her lack of accomplishments, Clinton didn’t have a response when asked about her marquee contribution. Instead, she insisted that other presidents haven’t had grand strategies, an obvious non sequitur.
She seemed at times frustrated and her voice became pinched as she tried to convince Sawyer that her answers were adequate. (No, it really does count that she told other people to make sure Benghazi was secure, she beseeched her interviewer.) It is hard to imagine that she didn’t prepare for the interview or didn’t realize that she would be asked hard questions, yet she was far from the polished and self-assured figure everyone expected.
Arguably, Clinton is out of practice. Since her own run for president, she has not experienced firsthand the rigors of a very competitive, 24/7 news environment. Now, when the press is no longer playing defense for the president and his team, she may face a more aggressive media than ever. Clinton is nothing if not a hard worker, so she will probably improve with time. But the interview reminds us that the real political talent in the family is Bill. It also explains why her team has tried to shelter her from the media for so long.
A final note: Conservatives who criticize the MSM for defending Democrats should applaud Sawyer’s effort. She was persistent, tough and well-versed in details. Not everything can be covered in one hour, but what she did do was effective, extremely so. We saw for the first time just how vulnerable Clinton can be when confronted with a tough adversary. Let’s hope the interviewers who follow live up to Sawyer’s standard.