Hillary Clinton appeared on Fox News this evening, fielding questions for almost half an hour from Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren. Clinton’s demeanor was good throughout. She was friendly, receptive to the questions, and adroit in her answers without, for the most part, appearing too evasive.
Clinton benefitted from the approach of the two questioners. Neither Baier nor Van Susteren was belligerent. And though both were as persistent as the format allowed, neither seemed to looking for a “gotcha” moment.
Tellingly, Clinton seems to have had a better time of it at Fox than on certain lefty outlets. In part, this is probably down to Fox’s desire to “play nice” (and Baier probably is nice). But I also think it reflects this deeper reality: the left fears that it is stuck with Clinton, and strongly resents it; the right will be free to shoot at Clinton for the duration and feels no urgent need to come out with both guns blazing at this early juncture.
Many of Baier’s questions were from the “who, what, where” school of journalism. For example, he wanted to know with whom Clinton spoke on the night of September 11, 2012, where she was physically, and so forth. Pinning Clinton down on specifics may prove valuable as the Benghazi investigation proceeds, but it wasn’t likely to produce any major news on the day, and it didn’t.
Van Susteren’s questioning was somewhat idiosyncratic. She wanted Clinton to admit that it’s unconstitutional for the NSA to spy on Americans without a warrant (Clinton didn’t). And for some reason, she wanted to talk about Clinton’s revelation in her book that some members of Obaam’s team were disrespectful towards Richard Holbrooke. Even “inside baseball’s” biggest fans must have rolled their eyes at this line of questioning.
Nonetheless, the interview was revealing in several ways. First, it confirmed the Clinton is prepared to distance herself from President Obama.
For example, on the Bergdahl deal, she insisted that she wanted a different, broader deal, and declined to come right out and say she would have made the deal Obama ultimately agreed to. She also implied that the Obama State Department may not be doing enough to free the Marine being held by Mexican authorities.
Clinton even went so far as to lump Obama together with President Bush (and her husband). Asked if she was ever disappointed by Obama, she said that she has disagreed with all three presidents she has known, but would only be disappointed if she thought they weren’t doing what they think is best for America. None of the three presidents fits that description, she added.
I’ve heard more ringing endorsements.
Second, although Clinton gave a polished performance and came off as reasonably likeable, some of her answers on the big topics were weak. On Benghazi, her fixation on the video in the aftermath of the attack continues to haunt her. As usual, she relied on the “fog of war”:
My own assessment careened from the video had something to do with it, the video had nothing to do with it — it may have affected some people, it didn’t affect other people.
But her public assessment never “careened.” The video was at the forefront, to the point that she told the grieving families of the Benghazi dead that those responsible for the video would be brought to justice.
Moreover, the State Department’s private assessment didn’t careen. On the morning of September 12, Beth Jones told the head of the Libyan government that the attack was terrorism, plain and simple.
Clinton couldn’t explain to Baier why her department was telling Libya one thing and telling the American people something else. In the end, the best she could do was claim that the video was clearly a factor in the demonstrations in Egypt and might have been a factor in Benghazi.
Beyond that, Clinton urged us to read the Benghazi chapter of her book.
Clinton also struggled to defend her claim that the five Taliban commanders released in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl pose no threat to the United States. She relied on the fact that the five are in Qatar and “are supposed to be constrained from what they can do, and certainly they are not supposed to be permitted to travel.”
Clinton’s resort to the word “supposed” gives the game away. And even if the supposed constraints are meaningful, they are good for only one year.
Clinton’s Obama problem came to the fore when she was asked whether she agreed with Obama that the IRS scandal is “phony.” She admitted that the scandal might be real, but defended Obama’s comment by interpreting it to mean that the scandal is being used by some for partisan purposes.
A less tortured answer would have served Clinton better.
But Clinton is stuck with tortured answers on a range of questions. Even if she delivers them as well as she did tonight on Fox, the questions won’t go away.
UPDATE: John Fund was also impressed for the most part with Hillary’s performance on Fox.