Hillary Clinton, after days of pounding for refusing to take questions, deigned to entertain a few yesterday in Iowa. It did not go well. In the space of a few minutes, she did the following:
1. She defended e-mails from longtime political crony and attack dog Sid Blumenthal as a way of keeping up with an old friend. Actually he wrote more than two dozen official-looking memos on Libya. She knows reporters are fully aware that he was a compromised figure whose memos she spread around the State Department, yet Hillary Clinton figures she can get away with the “old friend” moniker, as if they were exchanging photos of their kids. Her contempt for the truth, the press and the voters is remarkable. Apparently she has only two kinds of acquaintances — those in the bubble and those with conflicts of interest. Sometimes they fall into both categories.
2. She declared she wanted the e-mails out as soon as possible and claimed they were no longer hers. But of course she has the home server on which all the e-mails (including the deleted ones) were lodged. As Ron Fournier put it, “She kept her government email on a secret server and, only under pressure from Congress, returned less than half of them to the State Department. She deleted the rest. She considered them hers.” Indeed, this is a politician who specializes in withholding information, despite FOIA requests and congressional investigations.
3. She again refused to take a position on the trade agreement, giving fuel to the complaint that she is overly cautious, lacks political courage and is running purely on her own celebrity.
4. Her answer on Iraq sounded as if we were indifferent to defeating the Islamic State. (“The United States is doing what it can, but ultimately this has to be a struggle that the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people are determined to win for themselves.”) Few people not on the government payroll believe we are doing everything we can. She ducked the question as to whether we are better off without Saddam Hussein. Doesn’t she know one way or the other?
5. Asked if the speeches paid for by major corporations in the days and weeks leading up to her campaign posed a conflict of interest, she said, “No.” That’s her complete answer. In giving a legitimate concern the back of the hand, she reinforces the perception she wouldn’t know a conflict of interest if it hit her on the forehead and thinks she can do what she pleases.
6. In defending her ability to relate to average voters she declared, “Bill and I have been blessed and we’re very grateful for the opportunities we had. But we’ve never forgotten where we came from and we’ve never forgotten the kind of country we want to see for our granddaughter, and that means that we’re going to fight to make sure that everybody has the same chances to live up to his or her own God-given potential.” What happened to dead broke?
Because Clinton takes so few questions and answers so unconvincingly, the result is a swarm of fact-checking and scrutiny when she finally does decide to field a few questions. Maybe she simply does not have the confidence to take all questions on any topic as Republican contenders do. That in and of itself should worry her supporters. And frankly, the longer she waits to confront her questioners the less practice she will have. And boy, does she need it.