Hillary Clinton hasn’t even announced her intention to run for president in 2016. It’s safe to assume that this isn’t how she envisioned the lead-up to that announcement.
After a defiant press conference Tuesday following a speech on women’s rights at the United Nations, Clinton fiercely denied any wrongdoing in using her personal email for official business. She did acknowledge, however, that she should have used a government email address.
Clinton said her private email use was out of “convenience,” and that she has gone “above and beyond” in handing over her work emails to the State Department. That agency has said it will make Clinton’s emails—more than 55,000 pages of them—public after a review process that is expected to take months. (In other words, expect this to remain a huge campaign story.)
Behind the scenes, questions remain over Clinton’s ability to maintain a solid image in the areas of public relations and media relations.
Multiple pundits have pointed to a pattern of animosity toward the media. They speculate that it helped to crush her presidential run in 2008 and could do the same in the coming months.
National Journal editorial director Ron Fournier, speaking to The Daily Beast, sums up what many see as the Clintons’ (former President Bill Clinton included) largest flaw:
They have great strengths and great weaknesses. Among the weaknesses are a sense that the ends justify the means, a sense of entitlement, and a sense of grievance and paranoia, so those attributes get them to do things that get them into trouble and distract from their broader mission of public service.
And then there’s the problem of “Bunker Hillary.” That was the title of a 2008 New Republic article from Michael Crowley (now of Politico). In it, he writes, “Reporters who have covered the hyper-vigilant campaign say that no detail or editorial spin is too minor to draw a rebuke. Even seasoned political journalists describe reporting on Hillary as a torturous experience.”
That antagonistic relationship with reporters seems to have carried over to 2015. Among the many criticisms Clinton drew for her press conference Tuesday, reporter access was a major one. Check out these tweets:
Looks like Hillary Clinton Team making it as difficult as possible for non-UN reporters to cover first oppty to ask about her e-mails.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) March 10, 2015
UN press office supposedly closes for lunch at 1:00. Here’s the line behind me. pic.twitter.com/poGydCIMlr
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) March 10, 2015
One could read this as Camp Clinton attempting to keep out journalists who would have gone after her on the email issue. It didn’t work, as the largely international press corps kept to questions about her personal emails.
While Clinton claims she went “above and beyond,” there are still questions that remain over some deleted emails that Clinton claims were personal—namely about her mother’s funeral and her daughter’s wedding—but Republicans will likely continue to bring that up. Her email was kept on a server in her home, and she’s refusing to hand over the server, which means we’ll never know what was on those deleted emails. Expect Republicans to remind us of this fact ad nauseum.
There is no vetting process in the world quite like a presidential campaign. Whether Clinton can bounce back from this and keep the country on message—on her message, anyway—will go a long way in determining whether she’s elected.