On Friday, Hillary Clinton gave her third national interview since launching her presidential campaign. She did not make any news.
Clinton is a crisis communicator’s dream: She remains calm and disciplined facing questions that would be irksome to pretty much any other politician. You couldn’t knock her off her talking points if you had a sledgehammer.
What’s great for her campaign is extremely vexing to political reporters. Journalists who report on Clinton’s campaign have become so starved for information coming from Clinton and her allies that nearly any comment, no matter how mundane, will make headlines.
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell put forth a valiant effort in her interview, asking pointed questions and trying to stoke Clinton into unrehearsed responses. But trying to get Clinton to answer a question she doesn’t want to answer is like entering the octagon with Ronda Rousey.
So let’s try a different approach. Here are all the ways Hillary Clinton actively did not make news with the questions Mitchell asked of her.
On using a personal email server while she was secretary of State:
Clinton will admit regret about her past email policy—something she has said many, many times since March—but that doesn’t mean she’s sorry about it. Multiple times in the interview, Mitchell asked Clinton if she would like to “apologize” for using a personal email server during her time as secretary of State.
Clinton didn’t take the bait. She did say she was “sorry that this has been confusing to people,” but maintained that her email activity was completely “aboveboard” and allowed by the State Department at the time. In terms of apologies, this is akin to saying, “Sorry if I offended anyone,” which is not a real apology.
On the White House’s emerging deal with Iran:
Clinton told Mitchell the Iran deal is “not perfect”—the same thing she said in July—and said she would outline a plan toward Iran on Wednesday.
“It is by no means some kind of validation of Iran,” Clinton said. “My view is don't trust and verify. But it is a very important step, and it is better than the alternative. So on Wednesday I will be outlining in great detail both why I support the agreement, but equally importantly, what I would do as president to enforce it, to hold Iran accountable, and to make clear that no options were off the table, that they can never ever have a nuclear weapon.”
On the possibility of Vice President Joe Biden running for president against her:
Clinton declined to answer “any political questions” about her “friend” Biden, but wished him and his family the best.
On Donald Trump:
The GOP front-runner called senior Clinton aide Huma Abedin into question last week, suggesting that her marriage to former Congressman Anthony Weiner posed a national security threat.
Clinton’s response was blasé. “Well, he’s attacked so many people, including my close aide and myself and many other people. You know, I can take that. That’s just par for the course. I do regret that he is going after so many people, many of them by name, from great basketball players to people who express different opinions from him.”
However, her response later gave some telling insight into how Clinton thinks about rhetoric.
“For more than 20 years, I’ve seen the importance of the president of the United States ... having to send messages that will be received by all kinds of people,” she said. “Loose talk, threats, insults—they have consequences. So I’m going to conduct myself as I believe is appropriate for someone seeking the highest office in this country.”
On Syria’s refugee crisis:
“Should the United States raise its quotas and permit more people from Syria to come in?” Mitchell asked Clinton about the exodus of refugees from the war-torn country.
Clinton said she finds the situation “heartbreaking,” but would not say whether she thinks the U.S. should raise its quota. Instead, she said “the entire world has to come together.”
“I would hope that under the aegis of the United Nations led by the Security Council, and certainly by the United States, which has been such a generous nation in the past, we would begin to try to find ways to help people get to safety in other lands,” Clinton said. “We know that this is not just a problem that the United States can solve. We have to do what I did, with the Iranian sanctions. I had to get the Russians on board. I had to get the Chinese onboard. It was not easy, but that's the kind of intensive diplomacy that is going to be required in order to stop the flow of refugees and to try to bring some peace and security back to the region.”
On women’s rights:
The timing of Clinton’s interview with Mitchell was significant: almost 20 years ago to the day, Clinton gave her historic speech in Beijing at the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women.
“If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all,” Clinton said at the time.
When asked whether women have made progress since that speech, Clinton diplomatically offered that yes, they have—in health and education—but that there is still a ways to go. Clinton called it not a glass half-full or half-empty, but merely “a glass half-filled kind of scenario.”
In a seven-person panel after the interview, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow praised the answers Mitchell was able to get out of Clinton in the interview.
“Congratulations on this, Andrea,” Maddow said. “You moved the ball forward a really long way here.”
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