That Old Clintonian Dysfunction

As Hillary Clinton is gearing up towards another possible run at the presidency, Politico has written an in-depth story regarding Clinton’s love-hate relationship with the media. And it is mostly hate, as one of Clinton’s advisers is more than happy to admit: “Look, she hates you. Period. That’s never going to change.” I am more than willing to believe those words, and they point to why Hillary Clinton should never be president of the United States.

We are still being governed by an administration that claims to have been the most transparent in history, even though the record is clear that it is anything but. And this is an administration with relatively good relations with the media, featuring a president who has basically been a media darling ever since he burst on the national and international stage. If an administration with this many advantages in being able to charm the media still sees fit to make a mockery of transparency, what makes anyone think at in a future (Hillary) Clinton administration, there will be anything resembling more transparency, especially when one considers Clinton’s often-difficult history with the press? Yes, there were times when Clinton’s relationship with the press improved, but those improvements didn’t last. Additionally, when one considers that Clinton has always had troubled relations with the White House press corps, and with reporters on the presidential campaign, and when one reasonably anticipates that those troubles will resurface if Clinton runs and gets elected, one can also reasonably anticipate that a Clinton White House will indeed be even less transparent than the Obama White House has turned out to be.

“But Hillary Clinton has been victimized by the press,” I hear you cry. Perhaps. Here’s my response: I don’t care. Shall we run down the list of the many, many, many Republicans who have gotten a bum rap from an ideologically driven press corps? Was George W. Bush treated well by the press corps? Look, if you want to be the most powerful man or woman in the world, you are going to have to put up with some nonsense along the way. A hostile press corps may well be one such bit of nonsense, and if a hostile press corps is too off-putting to the likes of Hillary Clinton, then her dilemma is easily solved: Hillary Clinton shouldn’t run for president. There. Problem solved. No nonsense to put up with.

But it will not do for either Hillary Clinton, or for any other presidential candidate to do what Hillary Clinton very clearly wants to do–run for president without all of the bother and hassles of being transparent. Presidential candidates–especially heavily favored ones like Clinton–should not be allowed to have it both ways. Either Clinton is going to have to learn how to play nice with the press, how to deal with all of its idiosyncrasies and peculiarities, and is going to have to remain open with the press–and through the press, with the American public as well–or she should not run for president. There can be no middle ground. Yes, there are some matters that can be secret; even presidential candidates have lives and zones of privacy. But Clinton’s history of hostility with the press raises the legitimate concern that in doing battle with the press, she will withhold information that the American public deserves to know simply to spite the press. And that kind of situation is intolerable.

If a disingenuous middle ground is sought by a future Clinton campaign–one in which Clinton is allowed to withhold vital information from the press while pursuing (and perhaps coasting to) the presidency–then the American public should stand ready to reject her campaign, just as it did in 2008. We have had enough of faux-transparency from a White House that could have used good relations with the press–and the admiration of a fawning press corps–to deliver real transparency to the American people. The last thing we need is a White House headed by a president who has had a history of enmity with the press, and which would as a consequence be inclined to be even more opaque than the Obama administration has been.