Run Silent, Run Deep: 21 days since Hillary took a press question
The manic desire of the Clinton campaign to control every aspect of their candidate's messaging has resulted in Hillary Clinton failing to answer a single question from the media covering her for 21 days.
The absence of accountability has not gone unnoticed by her Republican opponents.
Today is the one month anniversary of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. It also marks 21 days since she has answered a question from the press.
During this "ramp up" phase of her candidacy, Clinton has kept her distance from the media, answering only a handful of questions from the reporters following her on the campaign trail.
As the days go by, Clinton’s opponents have begun to take notice and Clinton’s limited engagement with reporters is becoming an issue.
Likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush took a shot at Clinton for not taking questions, saying in an interview with Fox News Monday he wants to run a campaign where he doesn’t “have a protective bubble.”
And last weekend, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina rolled out a fresh attack line.
“Like Hillary Clinton, I’m also running for president, but unlike her, I’m not afraid to answer questions about my record," Fiorina noted at the South Carolina Freedom Summit. "She’s answered seven on-the-record questions since April 12th; I’ve answered over 200 on the record since Monday.”
Not surprisingly the press is also taking notice: The New York Times launched a new featurecalled “Questions for Hillary,” dedicated to posing hypothetical questions that it would ask Clinton (if the paper had the chance).
By ABC News’ count, Clinton has responded -- in one way or another -- to a grand total of eight questions from reporters since she launched her campaign last month. Most recently, on April 21 she answered a question from a reporter about her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement.
Clinton has not answered any questions from reporters since, though she has fielded her fair share from voters in events her campaign has organized.
Here’s how Clinton campaign spokesman Jesse Ferguson explained the approach: “The focus of our ramp up period is to hear from voters about the issues they care about. She’s enjoyed engaging in hours of public question and answers sessions and, as the campaign progresses, looks forward to more engagement with voters and the press as well.”
Is there a difference between handpicked, pre-screened Hillary supporters asking questions at a town hall and adoring reporters asking questions on the campaign trail? Probably not much. But Clinton's submarine campaign - running silently underwater only to surface on occassion to hold town hall meetings or other prefab media events - is beginning to rile the press. It is not wise to pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel, as Mark Twain said.
Clinton's silence contrasts unfavorably with the other woman in the race - Carly Fiorina - who has answered more than 300 questions in the week since her announcement:
Carly Fiorina’s campaign points out that she has taken 314 more questions from the press than Hillary Clinton has since their respective presidential campaign announcements.
Fiorina has answered 322 questions since last Monday according to a memo from her team, while, as Politico noted last week, Clinton has responded to just eight questions since launching her campaign on April 12. “Unlike Hillary Clinton, I am not afraid to answer questions about my track record or my accomplishments or my principles,”
Fiorina said on the stump and in the memo. Fiorina needs the press attention in order to make an underdog bid for the GOP nomination. Hillary Clinton is in a very different position, as the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Clinton’s campaign argues that she talks to voters, but Politico observed that “many of the people asking the questions at these events were preselected by the campaign or the group hosting the campaign.”
Fiorina can get away with this kind of criticism because she's a woman. In fact, she is the only GOP candidate immune to what is sure to be Clinton's main campaign tactic - playing the gender card. That could emerge as a major selling point for Fiorina in the coming weeks.
The tight control of Clinton's image and messaging by her campaign handlers will continue as long as no Republican emerges to challenge her lead in the polls. In short, Clinton is not going to surface until she has to - something one hopes to be sooner rather than later.