A peculiar follow-up question: This morning, the New York Times continues with its new story.
Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees aren’t just for the Washington Post any more! This is the way Amy Chozick starts her new report:
CHOZICK (7/11/14): Of all the headaches of her current book tour—the declining sales, the constant travel, the interviews that generated unkind headlines about her family’s wealth—this one may sting Hillary Rodham Clinton the most: Her memoir, “Hard Choices,” has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein.“This one may sting Clinton the most.” And then again, it may not!
So it goes when the New York Times executes journalism. Chozick goes on to discuss Klein’s book, which is “full of implausible passages” and “factually suspect” details. According to Chozick, the book “paints a Shakespearean (if unbelievable) portrait of” the relations between the Clintons and the Obamas.
Our view? If the portrait is “unbelievable,” Chozick should say that word first. But please note: The Times can now put Clinton’s speaking fees in the first paragraph of its reports. As of yesterday, the Times had barely mentioned this deeply troubling topic.
The fees became The Official Scandal of the Clinton book tour. But before this rather suspect scandal was lovingly selected, that interview with Terry Gross was in the running to be the official choice.
Did Hillary Clinton do something wrong when she spoke to Terry Gross? No, but pundits like Krystal Ball couldn’t wait to pretend. Once again, this was Ball’s account of the way the session went down:
BALL (6/17/14): Then there was an uncomfortable exchange with NPR’s Terry Gross in which Hillary struggled at length to sort through her various talking-points on gay marriage to describe how and why her position on the issue changed. She eventually settled on something along the lines of, “The country changed and so did I and as soon as I was done with my non-political job at State I came out with my new position,” an answer that I really take no issue with. I wish more people would have the courage to evolve, and more rapidly.In our view, you’re looking at political porn, straight outta the RNC playbook. It's delivered by a grasping young pundit who wouldn’t be on your TV machine if we lived in a more serious culture.
But in her talking-point flail we were reminded of something else—the fact that, for the Clintons, everything is carefully poll-tested, focus-grouped and weather-vaned. If marriage equality was still a drag for Democratic candidates, do you think Hillary would still have come out in support?
Ball went on from there to offer this undisguised nonsense:
BALL: [A]fter decades in public service, we still can only really speculate on what Hillary Clinton is all about.Really? There’s nothing in Clinton’s record at State that would give us clues? In that interview on Fresh Air, Gross marveled at Clinton’s record at State concerning LGBT rights, saying it was so progressive that Clinton must have smuggled it through when nobody was looking. (For full text, see below.)
Is she a triangulating moderate? A secret liberal? A DLC Wall Street Dem? What will she run on? What sort of president would she actually be? There’s no clues in the bland safety of her State Department record and certainly not in Hard Choices. So we can only guess through the bobbles, the accidental deviations from the script, the things that are said that didn’t come from the briefing book.
Ball snarked at Clinton’s discussion of same-sex marriage, then ignored this part of the interview. We don’t think much of people like Ball. We don’t think you should either.
That said, Clinton and Gross did have a rather weird, extended exchange concerning same-sex marriage that day. We thought Clinton’s performance was slightly odd, but Gross’ performance was odder.
This morning, we showed you the Q-and-A which started this exchange. Here it is again:
GROSS (6/12/14): This is Fresh Air. I'm Terry Gross, back with Hillary Clinton. Her new memoir, Hard Choices, is about her four years as secretary of state during President Obama's first term. When we left off, we were talking about her efforts to bring LGBT rights into the international community's framework of human rights. She also made it easier for Americans to change their gender on their passports.Same-sex marriage wasn’t specifically mentioned by Gross. Clinton quickly stated the fact that she hadn’t supported gay marriage when she was in the Senate.
Were there positions you believed in as senator but you couldn't publicly support because you felt that it wasn't time yet? That the positions would have been too unpopular? That the public wasn't ready in regards to LGBT rights? And, you know, I often think that there are politicians who, you know, in their heart really support it but don't publicly support it.
CLINTON: Well, I was fully on board with ending discrimination in the workplace on behalf of the LGBT community. I did not support gay marriage when I was in the Senate or running for president, as you know, and as President Obama and others held the same position. But it, for me, became an opportunity to do what I could as secretary of state to make the workplace fairer, something I had always supported and spoke out about. And then when I was out of the secretary of state position and once again free to comment on domestic matters, I very shortly came out in favor of fully equality, including gay marriage.
That said, Clinton didn’t answer Gross’ question one way or the other. Had she withheld support for gay rights for political reasons? Had she secretly favored gay marriage all along? Had she felt she couldn’t say so in public because the public wasn’t ready?
Clinton didn’t answer that question one way or the other. Gross had every right to ask again. Instead, she fashioned this strange follow-up question:
GROSS (continuing directly): So what's it like when you're in office and you have to do all these political calculations to not be able to support something like gay marriage that you actually believe in? And you obviously feel very committed to human rights, and you obviously put gay rights as part of human rights, but in doing the calculus you decided you couldn't support it—correct me if I'm reading it wrong.That’s a peculiar “question.” Gross starts by simply assuming that Clinton secretly supported same-sex marriage all along. After asking Clinton what it’s like to be caught in that position, she says, as an afterthought, that Clinton should correct her if she’s reading it wrong.
Clinton hadn’t said any such thing. In this, her second question, Gross leaped way ahead of what she had been told.
“Well, I think you're reading it very wrong,” Clinton immediately said. The discussion devolved from there.
As the exchange wound on, Clinton never said when she decided that she supported same-sex marriage. But then, Gross never exactly asked her wither. In our view, the discussion went off the rails with Gross’ peculiar follow-up question, in which she seemed to assume that Clinton had copped to deception.
What did Clinton really think about same-sex marriage in 1993? We don’t know and we can’t say that we hugely care.
There are certain hot-button issues on which, for fairly obvious reasons, major national pols will almost always be the last to speak. Gay marriage was one such issue. Obama didn’t change his position until the summer of 2012, and even then, he had to go through a song-and-dance with Biden. Clinton took the same route as soon as she left State, from which post she didn’t discuss domestic issues.
In our view, Clinton could have handled this exchange better, but that is always true. We thought Gross’ performance was stranger. She seemed determined to say that Clinton had been a secret supporter all along. By the time of her second question, she was simply assuming that point.
That was bad journalism on Gross’ part. For worse journalism, review what Chris Hayes and his pundit guests said about Clinton’s statements.
If you really want to be grossed out, read that bullshit from Krystal Ball, after you read Gross’ account of Clinton’s record at State.
Clinton’s record at State: Once again, this was Gross’ account of Clinton’s record at State:
GROSS (6/12/14): I want to move on to LGBT rights, which was very important to you as secretary of state. You made it one of your priorities. In fact, you gave a speech at the headquarters of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva with the goal to place LGBT rights in the international community's framework of human rights. In that speech, you said, “Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”According to the horrible Ball, none of this ever happened. There are “no clues...in the bland safety” of Clinton’s record at State.
I found it very interesting that you decided to not limit what you were saying to gay rights but to include transgender people. There are parts of the world that are still imprisoning or even executing people for being gay. Being transgender is probably, like, way off the map for them. Was it difficult to decide to include transgender, which would strike some people as being more radical than including—than just including gay and bisexual people?
CLINTON: Well, LGBT includes the T, and I wanted to stand up for the entire community. I don't believe that people who are the L, the G, the B or the T should be persecuted, assaulted, imprisoned, even killed for who they are. And this was the debate that I was having with leaders in many parts of the world who first denied there were any such people in their communities, that it was all an invention and export of the West and then would change the argument to they didn't want people being proselytized. They didn't want children being abused.
And I said well, there are laws against that that are certainly appropriate. No one should be coerced. No one should be abused. But you're talking about the status, the, you know—the very core of who a person is. And it has become, and I think will continue to be, a very important issue for the United States to combat around the world and to stand up for the rights of all people. And as I said, not just women, religious, ethnic, tribal—all people, including the LGBT community.
GROSS: You added gender identity to the State Department's Equal Employment Opportunity policy, and you made it easier for Americans to change their sex on their passport. Did you have to sneak that in without a lot of attention?
I can—I mean, I didn't know you'd done that. But I have a feeling, if a lot of people had known you'd done that, you would've gotten a lot of pushback for that. I mean, because there's still a lot of people in our country who oppose gay rights and would probably even more so oppose, like, any recognition of the transgender community. So did you do that on [laughing] the quiet?
CLINTON: Well, I don't know how quiet it was. Even before I did that, I spoke to the LGBT employees at the State Department. I was aware of their hopes for some changes that might make it easier for them to be the professionals that they had signed up to be. And I don't think it was any big secret. I think it was part of the overall efforts to try to treat people with dignity and equality.
And certainly the Obama administration made some of its own moves at the same time with respect to the larger federal employee pool. And when I had responsibility for the well-being of the 70,000 or so employees around the world who worked for the State Department and USAID, I had an opportunity, through executive action, to recognize that there were barriers and vestiges of discrimination that had no place in a moderate American workplace and so I acted.