May 1, 2014

Thursday Hillary Bash - Enemies List Redux, Not

Hillary Clinton once had an enemies list.  Perhaps she still does.  But that list should not include the media going forward according to Politico.  In a lengthy 6-page article in which Politico tries to accomplish a number of things to help Hillary Clinton decide to run for president in 2016, the headline glares a message that is at odds with the true intent of the article.  It reads as a quote from former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry and it screams animosity from Hillary towards the press.
“Look, she hates you. Period. That’s never going to change.”
As glaring as that comment is, the rest of the article is directed at two different objectives that run counter to the comment. Firstly, most of the article seems to be an overture to mend fences between Hillary and the press in order to get Hillary to commit to a run for the presidency.  Secondly, in support of that mending, it seeks to humanize Hillary as a person. Because the press has typically not done so and it damages her chances of winning if she is seen as a cold and distant person, humanizing her is meant as a subtle proof of a peace offering.

Having witnessed the slow souring of relations between the Obama administration and the media, any Democrat longing to see her become president has to acknowledge that relations between Hillary Clinton and the media as they have previously stood, are untenable. The media cannot be at odds with Hillary if she is going to run (not win, but even to run). For Hillary to want to run for president, she will have to feel like the media are not out to get her.
“She wants to be president; she doesn’t want to run for president,” another Clinton veteran told us. “The worst part of running for president for her, clearly, is dealing with the press.”
The approach to managing the problem is to first acknowledge that there is a problem. Unlike her husband's deny, deny, deny approach to political problems and unlike president Obama's similar approach, this issue has to be dealt with head on and then put to rest. First - admit a problem exists:
And while the white-hot anger she once felt toward the media has since hardened into a pessimistic resignation (with a dash of self-pity), she’s convinced another campaign would inevitably invite more bruising scrutiny, as her recent comments suggest. Public life “gives you a sense of being kind of dehumanized as part of the experience,” she lamented a few weeks ago to a Portland, Ore., audience. “You really can’t ever feel like you’re just having a normal day.”
Next, blame needs to be shared. For Hillary's part;
Clinton has gradually learned how to fake it. But to this day she’s surrounded herself with media conspiracy theorists who remain some of her favorite confidants, urged wealthy allies to bankroll independent organizations tasked with knee-capping reporters perceived as unfriendly, withdrawn into a gilded shell when attacked and rolled her eyes at several generations of aides who suggested she reach out to journalists rather than just disdaining them. Not even being nice to her in print has been a guarantor of access; reporters likely to write positive stories have been screened as ruthlessly as perceived enemies, dismissed as time-sucking sycophants or pretend-friends.
The article acknowledges that Clinton had reason to be a little bit gun shy when it came to the media.
Perhaps because she never felt welcome, Clinton never created the alliances with the media elite that other politicians of her stature have established. She always viewed the courting of columnists as “worse than pulling teeth,” in the words of one longtime confidant, and would often bridle when opinion leaders, like Washington Post foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius, pushed for more access than she wanted to give.
And for the media's part, there have been 'unfair' mischaracterizations of Clinton;
...Even today, the frustrations linger, and both Clintons have again taken to raising concerns about whether she will get a fair shake if she runs in 2016. Reines, for one, accuses the paper of refusing to back off when a seemingly juicy Clintonland lead doesn’t pan out. “These are five words you will never hear an editor or reporter at the New York Times say: ‘There is no story here.’” The most recent irritant in the Clinton-Times saga: a New York Times Magazine cover superimposing Clinton’s face on a planet, to accompany a power map of “Planet Hillary” by Clinton beat reporter Amy Chozick. Brock’s group, as well as Clinton allies like consultant Paul Begala, mocked it: “It’s embarrassing for the magazine,” Begala told CNN. “Seventeen out of the last 20 years, Hillary Clinton has been voted in the Gallup poll as the most admired woman in the world, and this is how they depict her?”
 After acknowledging the problem, the next step is to convince Hillary that the media are not her enemies, that they respect her and that her next run for president will be paved and not strewn with obstacles like her 2008 run was when Obama became the media darling. All that the next run would require is for Hillary to work with the media rather than holding them at arm's length.
When Clinton thought she wasn’t being scrutinized, she relaxed and engaged as candidly and incisively as anyone he had ever interviewed. But on the record she would shut down, reciting bland talking points. “I don’t know why she doesn’t let her light shine,” Klein says. “In my experience, Hillary’s really hurt herself in the press by being too cautious. It really undersells all that hard work she does.”
Having made the point, all that remains in the article is to point out that Hillary herself had paved the way to a better relationship with the media and that, that model will work going forward - not only for the media but for her as well.
Still, this was a different Hillary Clinton with the press. It’s a stretch to say Clinton was ever buddy-buddy with the Foggy Bottom crew, but over time they grew to like her and, at times, even felt protective. During a 2010 trip to Peru, Clinton met with reporters to talk over a couple of potent pisco sours.

...More important, these reporters mostly stayed out of all the Hillary no-fly zones—Bill, Chelsea, The Marriage and the entire decade of the 1990s. Clinton responded in kind. “She did a brilliant job of personal diplomacy with the press at the State Department—the off-the-record drinks, the birthday cards, the personal touches,” says Tommy Vietor, an Obama campaign operative who went on to work closely with Clinton’s staff as spokesman for the National Security Council. “You have to treat people like they’re people. You can’t just have flacks like me stiff-arming you all the time.”
Spread throughout the article are numerous anecdotal humanizing points about Hillary as well. The article reads, when you look beyond the six pages of details as an apology letter to Hillary Clinton from the media. It's as if it were someone trying to heal a damaged marriage. Media: I'm sorry I did bad things to you Hillary. I twisted your words, and I cheated on you with Obama. But you did somethings wrong too. You were cold and distant and that doesn't work. Yet we still make a good team and if we agree to some ground rules we can make this work. And you can be the next president and we will support you all along the way.


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