All this to explain why the BuzzFeed tweet caught my eye. Unable to watch the Fox News interview live, I monitored reports on Twitter and seized on the possibility that Clinton was distancing herself from Obama.
My colleague Alex Seitz-Wald wisely told me to take a breath.
Later, I carefully watched a recording of the interview. After nearly 30 years of covering Bill and Hillary Clinton, I should have known her words needed parsing.
"I think that anytime that the IRS is involved, for many people, it's a real scandal." This was the first thing Clinton said after Greta Van Susteren asked whether she thought it was a phony scandal. The line was rehearsed. It's the basis of the BuzzFeed tweet.
The key to the sentence is "for many people." Clinton did not say whether she's one of those people. With a soft chuckle, she delivered a line that simultaneously empathized with Obama's critics while giving herself a safe distance from them. I never said I think the scandal is real.
It was vintage Clinton. You could almost see her husband standing in the studio's shadows, biting his lower lip and nodding.
"And I think, though, there are some challenges that rightly need to be made to what is being said, and I assume the inquiry will continue." The first part of the sentence is mush, but I took it to be a signal to the White House and its liberal allies that GOP allegations must be challenged. The second half is a sop to people who want the investigation to continue.
Note that Clinton did not say who should conduct the inquiry, nor did she demand transparency from the White House and the IRS. Again, she played both sides of the fence.
"I don't have the details, but I think what President Obama means there is [that] there really wasn't a lot of evidence that this was deliberate, but that's why the investigation needs to continue." This is how she defended Obama's indefensible and premature claim that the scandal is phony.
"Well, maybe the right thing to say is, 'Let's investigate it but let's do it in as nonpartisan, as fair-minded — fair and balanced as we can because we want to know what the facts are.' " A relentless Van Susteren had told Clinton it's "irrational not to be extremely suspicious" after the loss of the emails. She pressed Clinton again about the phony-scandal claim. Clinton took a stab at a less-partisan White House talking point ("Let's investigate "¦") while taking a jab at the GOP ("but let's do it" in a nonpartisan way).
For good measure, Clinton pandered, echoing Fox's "fair-and-balanced" motto with a knowing smile.