President-in-waiting Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared arrogant, dismissive and uncomfortable when answering questions about her role in two scandals, including her private email account and the funding of her foundation.
Unfortunately, the journalists at a news conference this week at the United Nations failed the classic test of asking good questions: Keep it simple. Those questions should have been: Why did you have a private email? Why did your foundation accept money from foreign governments that failed to uphold women’s rights?
That’s all people needed to know. That’s what I tell my journalism students. For the most part, Mrs. Clinton dodged specific answers to these critical questions.
Nevertheless, the Teflon candidacy of Mrs. Clinton may finally have something stick to it as the media turned upon the former secretary of state over the emails and contributions.
Some of the country’s most liberal columnists pumped up their prose in assessing the damage of the scandals to Mrs. Clinton.
“The Hillary Clinton email controversy is a reminder of one inescapable fact: She comes with baggage. Not the kind that fits in the overhead bin, either. I’m talking steamer trunks,” wrote The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson.
For those of us who have been following Mrs. Clinton and her husband for more than 20 years, it seems puzzling why these scandals have stuck while others have not.
Kevin Williamson of the National Review apparently shared that puzzlement and the accompanying frustration. “As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton schemed to subvert record-keeping and transparency rules for reasons that are probably more or less communicated by her surname: The Clintons are creeps and liars and scoundrels and misfits, always have been, always will be,” he wrote.
I do have to give kudos to The New York Times and The Washington Post — organizations I have often criticized — for uncovering these important stories.
The salient points of The New York Times’ investigation focused on the vast number of emails — about 60,000 at the moment — and the secrecy with which Mrs. Clinton and some of her top aides kept this information from a variety of sources, particularly those in Congress investigating the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi.
Moreover, Mrs. Clinton forced out the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Scott Gration, for, among other reasons, using a private email account to conduct government business. That is exactly what Mrs. Clinton and her top aides did.
The Clintons have long been dogged by documents throughout their careers, so the only serious explanation of her actions would be to control the availability and potential release of any correspondence — a clear violation of the intent of government transparency and the State Department’s guidelines.
The Washington Post uncovered problems with donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation while Mrs. Clinton served as secretary of state. Foundation officials acknowledged that the organization accepted money from seven foreign governments during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure in the State Department.
The New York Times then dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s by noting that some of the countries, including Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait and Oman had dreadful laws concerning women. That doesn’t fit into the meme of a potential candidacy in which Mrs. Clinton wants to put women’s issues as an important part of her agenda.
Did Mrs. Clinton commit a crime? That is unclear, but she certainly appears to have skirted the spirit of the law. She has had a bad couple of weeks, mainly as a result of the mainstream media. Let’s hope these journalists and others continue to keep a watchful eye on her actions and her potential candidacy for president.
• Christopher Harper is a longtime reporter who teaches journalism at Temple University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @charper51.