USA | Hur bra är egentligen Hillary Clinton i en valrörelse? Det är en av frågorna som Jason Zengerle ställer sig i tidskriften New York.
Ett av hennes stora problem är relationerna till presskåren. Hon har svårt för intervjuer, presskonferenser och andra offentliga framträdanden som kräver ett visst mått av spontanitet (äkta eller inövad).
Risken är att ju mer hon försöker distansera sig från journalister desto större är risken att de kommer att fokusera på småsaker som kan ge just den negativ bild av henne som hennes rådgivare försöker undvika.
Hennes rådgivare är väl medvetna om problemet. Frågan är om Clinton också är det. Och om hon orkar vara tillmötesgående under en lång och tuff valrörelse.
The danger to the Clinton campaign, at this early stage, is not that she might slip in a debate or never quite muster an adequate explanation for deleting emails as secretary of State. It’s that she might not have the ability to break through the cynicism and noise of our political circus and deliver a striking, clear message.
It’s almost impossible to overstate just how much Clinton hates the press. She doesn’t trust it, avoids it at all costs, assumes the worst intentions, and generally wishes it would just go away. Her contempt for the people who cover her was on full display in her press conference last month — as was their contempt for her. It’s a poisonous relationship with multiple levels of dysfunction on both sides. Unfortunately for Clinton, she’s the one who bears the brunt of the fallout.
Some Clinton allies are encouraged by the relationship she forged with the State Department press corps during her four years in the Cabinet. The paranoia and outright hostility that permeated her interactions with reporters during the 2008 campaign were replaced by collegiality and openness as she traveled the world. Then again, that experience isn’t exactly good practice for tooling around the Midwest with campaign reporters in tow. “When she’s on a plane with Mark Landler and Reuters and a bunch of nerds asking her about Burma and policy issues, she knows those issues inside out and she knows the trip wires and how to navigate issues that in reality are really dicey. She’s in her element,” says Tommy Vietor. “But out on the campaign trail, she’s going to be getting open-ended questions about her feelings and God knows what else, stuff that’s comparatively unimportant but where there’s no good or necessarily right answers, and that’s just hard.”
Not that Clinton isn’t trying. She’s recently hired a slew of press aides who — unlike many of those on whom she’s relied in the past — don’t loathe, and maybe even like, the reporters who cover her. She’s also taken her own halting steps toward turning on the charm with campaign reporters. Two weeks ago, she gave the keynote address at a political-journalism-awards dinner in Washington. The speech was well received. (She announced that she wanted a “new beginning” with reporters, which they were welcome to as soon as they signed the nondisclosure agreement tucked under their seats.) But it was what happened after her speech that struck many people as new and different: Clinton stuck around and schmoozed. “That’s something Hillary 2008 didn’t do,” says a Democratic strategist close to Clinton’s team. “Back then, she’d give the speech and peace out, especially in a roomful of journalists.” A Clinton adviser adds, “We want to create more forums like that. It’s important to connect with real people, but it’s important to connect with the press, too.”
The Republican strategist Stuart Stevens likens political skill to figure skating: “It’s an endeavor entirely judged by a jury with no empirical metrics.” Alienating the jury is a dangerous thing. “I am in the Bill Clinton camp on this,” Stevens says. “For multiple reasons, Obama has been judged differently by the jury than Hillary.”
In small ways, Clinton could repair the relationship. Most important, the same charm offensive she waged on the Obama White House could work on the press pack, too. But it’ll need to be an effort sustained not only in Washington but also in the dog days of Virginia and Colorado, Ohio and Florida.
If she can’t, that will only encourage reporters to cover her critically — maybe even, as Clinton and her allies suspect, more critically than they do other politicians — which in turn could be enough to tip the race in favor of her opponent. “To the extent that the news media wants to dissect her, that could affect perceptions of her if that kind of criticism is a sustained feature of news coverage,” says [George Washington University political scientist John] Sides. He points to Al Gore’s experience in 2000, when the press’s repeated hyping of a series of small misstatements and minor exaggerations by Gore increasingly led voters, even Democrats, to conclude that he was untrustworthy. “Can we say that had Gore been perceived as honest in October, as he was in July, that that would have given him the race?” asks Sides. “Not necessarily. But it could have.”
The question confronting Clinton now is not so much whether she can withstand the scrutiny but the degree of the scrutiny itself. Are we so fixated on diagnosing and dissecting her weaknesses, on scouting all the ways in which she isn’t a particularly gifted political athlete, that the effort becomes, in a sense, self-fulfilling? “The dissections can be more influential than the actual objective features and qualities of the candidate herself,” says Sides. In the end, the strength Clinton will need most, and on which the fate of her campaign may rest, will be her ability to make us stop dwelling on her weaknesses.
Läs mer: ”Hillary Clinton’s Surprisingly Effective Campaign” av Peter Beinart i The Atlantic och “What Hillary Clinton’s tough take on secretary of state could mean for her presidency” av Nina Burleigh i Newsweek, samt “The Platonic Ideal of Horse Race Journalism” av Hamilton Nolan på Gawker.
Tidskriftsomslag: New York, 6-19 april 2015.