A Better Answer To The Pregnant Pause

A Guest Post From Joshua Green

One of the many puzzling things about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is why it has been so shoddily run. I spent a lot of time with Clinton’s staff a year and a half ago for this profile of her time in the Senate. While I had some doubts about her (then-still-hypothetical) presidential candidacy, I had none whatsoever about her staff. They were simply top-notch, end of story. They could quote you chapter and verse from her Senate record whether the subject was foreign policy or eggplants (New York is the number-one purveyor—one of countless New York facts her staff drilled into my head.

So what explains the embarrassing episode during the conference call on Friday that was supposed to drive the message in her “Red Phone” ad, that “Obama’s not ready to handle a crisis”? As Jennifer Skalka expertly delineated over at The Hotline, Clinton’s own staff was flummoxed when the question was turned back by Slate’s John Dickerson: “What can you point to in Hillary’s career when she’s been tested by crisis?” To experience the full measure of awkwardness the ensuing silence created, listen for yourself. Then ask yourself how on earth it is that no one thought to answer “9/11,” which is not only the biggest crisis anyone in the government has faced in the last eight years, but is also one that Clinton unquestionably handled with poise and skill. The $20 billion she helped secure for New York City after the attacks was the signature accomplishment of her first term in the Senate!

My guess is that the people who know Clinton best are not the ones acting as surrogates. Lee Feinstein, who I’ve never met, seems to have played the Steve Bartman role on this call. When I heard it, I couldn’t help wondering about the whereabouts of Andrew Shapiro, Clinton’s ever-present (during the Senate days) military and foreign policy aide, who might still be listing her credentials and accomplishments had he been on the call. ---JOSHUA GREEN