The following is an editorial written by PoliticusUSA’s co-publisher Sarah Jones.
Donald Trump isn’t transparent, he won’t even release his tax returns. But by not doing a press conference since December 4, 2015, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allows some measure of leeway here for Trump and makes his treatment of the free press easy to be glossed over.
It allows this false equivalency to continue, and in no way is Clinton less transparent than Trump. Her whole life has already been vetted and has been lived in the public eye in a way that Donald Trump’s has not been, since Trump is a media creation of his own based largely on false stories whereas Clinton has been in public service for decades.
It’s time for Hillary Clinton to take the next step and do a press conference for the Clinton campaign press corp to prove that she is willing to be transparent. Granted, it’s hard not to laugh when writing that after her emails have been dissected and parsed publicly until it became ridiculous and the DNC and Clinton campaign servers were hacked. It’s hard not to laugh given that she’s done hundreds of interviews, and as her campaign argued, she’s doing them every week.
But appearances matter.
Yes, we all know why Clinton wouldn’t want to and we all know she’s been raked over the coals by the press and we all know that she has been investigated so many times there isn’t much to say at this point.
She should do it anyway, simply because it’s the right thing to do.
Clinton should also do it for strategic reasons because it would take away the one argument Republicans have in defending Trump’s outrageous treatment of the press. This is a chance to show the vast disparity between Trump’s view of the free press and Clinton’s.
During this presser, Clinton should draw the comparison between what a real press conference looks like and what Donald Trump’s press conferences look like (Trump berates reporters and tries to intimidate them, which isn’t exactly the idea behind transparency). She could open with an aside promising not to mock reporters. She could promise not to insult those who ask tough questions. Truly at this point, what hasn’t already been asked?
Donald Trump is hiding out on Fox News and threatening to shut down the free press if he’s elected. His accusations about “transparency” are paper tiger projections at best, but Clinton is leaving a door open by refusing to do a presser.
As President Obama has demonstrated, when you are competent and well versed in the issues (like Hillary Clinton is), a press conference is an asset. It is a chance to tell the public about the Democratic Party’s platform, which is aligned with the public on most issues.
The only question is when should she do this, as it should ideally not get in the way of her opponent making a fool of himself, yet Donald Trump is doing that almost 24/7 these days. So that’s the only risk — stepping on Donald Trump’s efforts to ruin himself in yet another news cycle.
It’s understandable that the Clinton people would want to play it safe, as they are already winning this way.
But there isn’t a politician better than Clinton at handling issues or attacks. So if the press does nothing but throw email questions at her, she can respond with faith in the Republican FBI Director’s conclusions and pivot back to issues since her emails have been covered ad nauseam.
Indeed, given the press’ unreasonable obsession with her emails while they have ignored Republican email scandals, it is likely that this will be the main focus rather than actual issues that will inform the American voter like Clinton’s stance on the minimum wage or getting rid of Citizens United or fighting for family leave.
Clinton can easily tell the press that her emails have been vetted by everyone from the FBI to the DOJ, unlike her opponents. Everyone knows how she conducted herself professionally, as they should. She stands before them totally transparent. The public has had access to almost every part of her life.
How about Donald Trump, why did he destroy email evidence in a lawsuit?
Clinton can also tell the press corp that she doesn’t want to bore them, given that they know all about her from reading her emails. There are a lot of ways to turn this issue around and close the door on claims of lack of transparency and claims of royalty.
Let Donald Trump stand out there as the entitled child he is. Hillary Clinton can take it, she’s a seasoned pro. This is a place where Hillary Clinton can easily excel and show Trump up to be the unfit person he is. She has already proved that she can bait Trump with one word.
It would be great to see the master of diplomacy at her best in a press conference, showing what transparency and being ready for office looks like.
The Hillary Clinton we saw on the last night of the DNC is ready for this. She is confident, calm, and has come into her own public persona in a powerful way. The press might be stuck in the 90s paradigm with the Clintons, but Hillary Clinton need not be.
In fact, if Clinton really wants to play this game, she could start holding impromptu press conferences/meet and greets after campaign events. This rewards a hard working press corp with more exciting news and keeps a narrative focused on her that she can drive, cutting into the Donald Trump Dangerous Clown reality TV show currently playing.
A series of Clinton press conferences from now until Election Day could deny Trump the media coverage he needs, and keep the Democratic message fresh and upfront.
It is time for Hillary Clinton to take away Trump’s lone remaining asset by taking questions from the press. Pile on while the getting is good.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.