With Hillary Clinton rapidly approaching a month since she answered a question from a reporter, her allies are working to push back on the idea that she is ducking the press.
"PUTTING THE VOTERS FIRST, HILLARY ASKS THE QUESTIONS THAT REALLY MATTER," read the subject line of an e-mail -- ALL CAPS in the original! -- that arrived in my inbox this morning courtesy of Correct The Record, a pro-Clinton super PAC directly coordinating with the presidential campaign on rapid response.
The missive lays out the facts aimed at putting lie to the "she won't answer questions" narrative.
First, Correct The Record notes that Clinton has answered 20 questions from "everyday Americans": seven during her first trip to Iowa (she's back in the state today), five during her New Hampshire excursion and a whopping eight when she visited Nevada.
Then the group notes that Clinton has ASKED 117 questions of "everyday Americans." And, yes, it lists every one of those questions -- from "Give me a sense of your experience with that?" (Iowa) to "Do you want to share your story?" (Nevada).
I mean, where to start with this?
1. The vast majority of the people who have asked Clinton questions in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada were part of a pre-selected group who sat with her around a roundtable. That's not exactly like hosting a town hall event in which none of the questions are pre-screened. And if you look at the questions "regular" people are asking Clinton, they are not exactly the most probing of queries. A sampling: "I’m just wondering, what can you do to bring that heart back to education in the United States?" (Iowa), "What are your plans to help my community and help us not live in fear anymore?" (Nevada) and "I would like you to elaborate on what you think you might do for childcare in the future if you’re elected?" (New Hampshire) None of those questions are bad, per se, but they also aren't pushing Clinton in any way, shape or form on any issue.
2. It makes zero difference how many questions Clinton has asked average Americans. Like, none. If those people were running for president, then I would be super-interested to know how they responded to some (or maybe all) of Clinton's 117 questions. But, they aren't. She is. Citing the number of questions Clinton has asked of people to rebut the idea that she isn't taking enough (or any) questions from reporters is sort of like saying you aced a job interview because you answered every question asked of you with another question. That wouldn't make sense, would it?
3. At issue here is that Clinton is avoiding taking questions from reporters. And nowhere in the Correct The Record memo does it have anything to dispute that fact. In total as a candidate, Clinton has answered 13 total questions from reporters. It's been 39,000 minutes since she last answered a reporter's question. And, while I think it is absolutely of value for Clinton to hear from regular folks about their concerns and hopes, it's hard to argue from the list put together by Correct The Record that the questions those people have asked Clinton are the same as the one reporters would have if given the chance.
No, they're better, you say! They're about policy and not dumb reporters' obsessions, you say!
To all of which, I respond: Do you not think it is of value to know how Hillary Clinton spent her time since leaving the State Department? And how the Clinton Foundation handled its business with various donors who would, undoubtedly, still be in the picture if she was elected president? Or what she thinks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the fight currently happening in Congress? Or Iran? Or the Middle East?
You get the idea. The role of the media in this process is to show voters who these people are, really, and to explain how these people would govern the country if elected. Like the media or not, that's a very important role -- and one that is essential to a functioning democracy.
So, no matter how many Iowans' questions Hillary answers or how many questions she asks them, it doesn't justify her current unwillingness to stand before reporters (or even a single reporter) and take their questions. Not even a little.