Back To The Future

Hillary Gives Us The Full Clinton

The Clintons have turned the press conference into an art form. Tuesday’s gaggle at the UN was no exception.

03.11.15 9:25 AM ET

It is perhaps only the Clintons who decide to hold a press conference offering full disclosure about a question of secrecy inside a building that is not technically on national soil.

And it is perhaps only the Clintons who would ask (and expect) the media covering the press conference to receive a United Nations press credential before being able to get answers on what has been the most consuming political issue of the moment: Why Hillary Clinton, while secretary of state, set up a separate, private email account that appeared to violate federal rules.

And it is perhaps only a Clinton, a family that made answering questions by not answering questions into an art form, a family whose patriarch famously parsed the word “is,” that could have pulled off a press conference quite like the one Hillary Clinton did Tuesday.

She spent the first several minutes reiterating the findings from a report on gender equity the family foundation released yesterday and then knocked Republicans for interfering in Iran’s nuclear negotiations.

As the foot-tapping from the media became almost audible, Clinton finally acknowledged wrongdoing while insisting that she did nothing wrong.

“Looking back, it would have been better for me to use two separate phones and two email accounts. I thought using one device would be simpler and obviously it hasn’t worked out that way,” Clinton said and then a few minutes later insist, “It was allowed, others had done it.”

It was for 21 minutes, the full Clinton experience—ask for a zone of privacy, much as the Clintons first did when they sat down for that famous 60 Minutes interview two decades ago to discuss their marriage.

Give no ground. Drop personal details about the emails you want to keep under wraps—your daughter’s marriage, your mother’s funeral, your yoga routine.

Insinuate that you are being targeted.

“You would have to ask that question to every single federal employee,” Clinton said in response to a question about the American people could be expected to trust her in determining which emails were private and which were personal.

Why Hillary Clinton is not just like any other bureaucrat is, of course laughable on its face—most functionaries in the Agriculture Department aren’t American political royalty who still command a sizeable security detail. They also aren’t the presumed Democratic presidential nominee.

And with the Clintons, the personal and the political have always been so mixed up that it is nearly impossible to know where one stops and the other begins.

That’s why foreign governments gave so freely to the Clinton Foundation, an entity that, like much the rest of Clintonia, straddles that personal and political line.

Tuesday, Clinton refused to even acknowledge that there was a political side to her, or that there may be one in the future. She didn’t use that phrase that liars always do—“Trust me”—resorting instead to its more subtle ancillary: “I trust you.”

“Now, with respect to any sort of future issues,­ look, I trust the American people to make their decisions about political and public matters,” she said, not quite being able to venture the words “presidential” or “campaign.”

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!
By clicking "Subscribe," you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason

The emails, she said instead, “are going to be in the public domain and I think that Americans will find that interesting and I look forward to having a discussion about that.”

And of course, whenever the Clintons come to town, chaos follows. Since they decided to hold the press conference at an extraterritorial governing body on Manhattan’s farthest east side, reporters were forced to wait hours in a holding pen in order to obtain a media credential, while a single UN employee forewent his lunch break to pass them out.

As the line stretched out the door and around the block, a security guard muttered, “I think next year we just won’t invite Hillary Clinton.”

Another United Nations employee said that any word of a Clinton press conference hadn’t gone out to the staff, even a couple of hours before it was supposed to start, and it was unclear where in the vast warren of office and conference rooms it would be held.

At last, after a wait of hours, Clinton emerged down a long UN corridor, only to stop for several more minutes to greet well-wishers and to sign autographs.

That she then began the most important press conference of her non-campaign talking about a report on gender equity that the Clinton Foundation released Monday, and that nobody much cared about then, was the perfect final kick in the shins.

Meanwhile, the regular UN press corps seemed quite thrilled to have the secretary back in their house. One Pakistani reporter, standing off to the side, tried getting a question in during the whole news conference, asking, over and over again “IS THIS MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING?”

Clinton never responded as his words trailed her entourage out of the room. “MUCH ADO? IS THIS MUCH ADO?”