Takeaways from Clinton’s D.C. Q&A

There was a festive air as veteran reporters, television journalists and young bloggers filled the hall at the Marriott Wardman Park in D.C. last Friday. An amiable buzz of excitement was present, with everybody waiting for the arrival of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who would be addressing a combined confab of African American and Latino journalists.

Nobody was really expecting fireworks. She seemed leery of attacking her rival, GOP candidate Donald Trump, who was still calling her “crooked Hillary” but was also trying to bounce back from a disastrous week, which found him trailing Clinton by nine points in some national polls.

Clinton talked about helping the middle class, providing middle-class jobs and training in new arenas, cutting taxes, creating jobs in infrastructure, creating more affordable housing and working hard to come up with a comprehensive immigration plan. She said she did not want to become deporter in chief, as some people have called President Barack Obama. She claimed that her long public service in the White House, as senator from New York and secretary of state made her fit for the presidency.

Sitting in a group of young people, including a 24-year-old reporter from the German nationwide newspaper Die Zeit, was energizing. He said he had covered both conventions and offered that Europeans, especially Germans, were worried about and fearful of the idea that the Americans might make Trump president.

The event, with a rare moderated Q&A and questions from an audience that consisted mostly of the working press, seemed to be tailor-made to give Clinton a chance to deal with members of the media representing Latino and African viewpoints and voting blocs, among which she appears to have a huge advantage over Trump.

So what was the next-day take from all this?

In a word, “short-circuiting.”

Everything seemed to be routine until former NBC White House Correspondent and sometime weekend anchor Kristen Welker brought up the apparently still hot issue of the use of her private email server and the issue of trust.

This quickly devolved into a convoluted discussion in which Clinton claimed that FBI Director James B. Comey indicated her statements about her use of the server were “truthful.” There was some delineation of statements made to the public and statements made to the FBI.

“I may have short-circuited and I will try to clarify,” she said.

By then, it became one of those tangled-web answers, a thicket full of details on the still-simmering scandal.

On a more personal note, she was also asked what was the most telling conversation she’s ever had with an African American friend.

She talked about black friends and two former chiefs of staff, she said that black friends had supported “and sometimes chastised her” and broadened her musical tastes.

She was also asked if she took Latino voters for granted. The answer was, of course not. She takes Latino voters very seriously.

By that time, the email server question and the long, discursive answers to it, had taken a lot of the air out of the room. It immediately hit the national news, including NBC.

What was left was “short-circuited.” Trump at a campaign rally made it sound like she was becoming “unhinged.” “There’s something wrong with her brain,” she was “demented,” she was “not fit to be president,” he said.

Clinton has not held a press conference in ages. One reporter said: “We encourage you to do this more often with reporters across the country, especially those news organizations that travel the country with you wherever you go.”

That idea just might be short-circuited.


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