With evidence mounting that Hillary Clinton traded access (and possibly favors) for Clinton Foundation donations in her time as Secretary of State, it’s highlighted a strange aspect of her campaign—she hasn’t done a single press conference in 2016. Her campaign manager Robbie Mook went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, where he debated that issue with former George W. Bush communications chief Nicolle Wallace. Watch the video here, with the relevant exchange starting at the 3-minute mark.
“Isn’t the antidote to this today…to let her take questions until there are no more questions to be answered?” Wallace asked, reasonably.
Mook tried to bring up the 300+ one-on-one interviews Clinton has done so far this year, but Wallace interrupted him to distinguish the difference between those type of “ground rules” interviews, where Clinton likely knows every question going in and her team can squash ones they don’t like, versus the free, unscripted format of a Q&A in front of national press.
“Why wouldn’t put her out there to answer questions that she could certainly handle if you defense is true?” Wallace pressed.
The most Mook could summon is, “we’re going to look at that.” Which, of course, is code for “we’re never, ever doing press conferences.”
So, let’s talk about that. The last press conference Clinton held came on Dec. 5, 2015, which was about 260 days ago. Although the number of press conferences held by sitting presidents has declined over time, they still have them, and it’s hard not to see Clinton’s aversion to the format as a continuation of her campaign’s total lack of transparency. And aside from in-the-tank neoliberal hack apologists like Matthew Yglesias, even the establishment media are upset. Even Yglesias, while (hilariously) trying to explain Clinton’s hesitation as a laudable, ethical form of solidarity with all those average Americans who don’t trust the media, admits that she should probably just do it.
So why won’t she? The obvious and only answer is that she thinks it will hurt more than it helps, and is worried about unfavorable video or audio emerging that could be used by her opponents. You can boil the calculation down to this—avoiding the mere possibility of a negative is more important than honoring one of the unspoken rules of a political democracy by engaging with the national press. It’s not surprising, but it is sad.