As Hillary Clinton has toured the country accepting awards and, more recently, promoting her book, she’s become accustomed to fielding questions from admirers and allies, whether it’s Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday night, or a member of the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday morning, who started a question with a preface that he said Clinton was sure to like (she did).
Which is why it was bound to be interesting when Clinton agreed to sit down with Terry Gross, the public-radio interviewer perhaps best known for making her subjects cry on air.
Emotional, revealing, and deeply personal moments may be OK or even beneficial for the actors and writers who regularly appear on her WHYY talk show Fresh Air — intense moments with Maurice Sendak and Tracy Morgan come to mind — but are obviously more dangerous territory for a politician carefully managing her image.
On Wednesday, during a tense exchange lasting more than seven minutes, Gross asked Clinton 10 different ways about the evolution of her stance on gay marriage. But, unlike some recent TV interviews Clinton has given, the takeaway was not Gross’s pointed inquiries, but the fact that they seemed to get under Clinton’s skin, who snapped back at her interlocutor.
“You know, I really, I have to say, I think you’re being very persistent, but you are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue,” Clinton said after trying to put the issue to rest several times.
Gross, attempting to smooth tension with a chuckle, replied, “I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand … “
But Clinton fired back, “No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify. I think you’re trying to say that I used to be opposed, and now I’m in favor, and I did it for political reasons, and that’s just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate it.”
The moment was over soon after that, and the interview moved onto friendlier territory for another 30 minutes, but America Rising, the GOP opposition research group, had already clipped the audio and blasted it out online, eclipsing anything else Clinton had to say.
Gross, famous for her laborious research that often involves lugging boxes of books home, regularly puts her subjects’ entire lives on the table, moving far beyond whatever they happen to be there to promote. Lynn Cheney learned that in 2005, when Gross pressed her on her lesbian daughter, and Sandra Day O’Connor encountered it more recently on gender issues.
Television interviews, by contrast, are more likely to focus on the big news or top-line issues of Clinton’s record,such as the Benghazi attacks, which Clinton is likely well prepared to talk about.
Gross, outside the beltway in Philadelphia and free from the constraints of daily political coverage, is more likely to open a line of questioning her subjects are not expecting and then push them with impunity, since she doesn’t have to be too concerned about alienating those close to her subjects.
And from her perch on NPR, a network beloved by upscale liberals everywhere, and on an issue deeply important to the progressive base (LGBT rights), it will be difficult for Clinton allies to go after Gross or present the line of questioning as unfair.
Of course, this kind of exchange is critical to informing the democratic debate about a likely presidential front-runner, but more questionable as political strategy.
- 1 The 1 Easy Way Donald Trump Could Have Been Even Richer: Doing Nothing
- 2 Democrats Prepare Major Campaign Finance Reform Push
- 3 This Was the Year for a Third-Party Candidate
- 4 The Unintended Consequences of Closing Primaries
- 5 Air Force Leader: It Was Difficult to Work at the Pentagon With ‘Discrimination’ Against Gays
What We're Following See More »
Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”
"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified on Friday the makes and models of 12 million cars and motorcycles that have been recalled because of defective air bag inflators made by Japanese supplier Takata. The action includes 4.3 million Chryslers; 4.5 million Hondas; 1.6 million Toyotas; 731,000 Mazdas; 402,000 Nissans; 383,000 Subarus; 38,000 Mitsubishis; and 2,800 Ferraris. ... Analysts have said it could take years for all of the air bags to be replaced. Some have questioned whether Takata can survive the latest blow."
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says 41 Secret Service agents have been disciplined in the fallout of an investigation over the agency's leak of personnel files. The leaker, who has resigned, released records showing that Oversight and Government Reform Chair Jason Chaffetz—who was leading an investigation of Secret Service security lapses—had applied for a job at the agency years before. The punishments include reprimands and suspension without pay. "Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service," said Johnson.
"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.
"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."