In the wake of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s fairly disastrous press conference at the United Nations on Tuesday, there’s only one conclusion shared by all parties: This was not how it was supposed to go.
This was supposed to be the month Clinton led with her chief selling point: her gender. She had put together a whole “I Am Woman, Hear Me Bore” speaking tour in which women’s issues — particularly the women’s issues that poll well among women who care a lot about women’s issues — would be the main subject.
The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation unveiled a big foofaraw over Hillary’s “No Ceilings” campaign. What a wonderfully convenient theme for Mrs. Clinton’s massive and mysterious foundation, given that smashing the “highest glass ceiling” — i.e., the presidency — is the central rationale of her planned presidential bid. It was just a coincidence that the tax-exempt foundation with her name on it happened to be rolling out a big light show on that very subject during the rollout of her presidential campaign.
It was all carefully scripted, because everything Hillary Clinton does is carefully scripted. Normally, that’s a figurative expression. But with Clinton, when things are carefully scripted, they are literally carefully scripted.
On Monday, Hillary had a “No Ceilings” event at the Clinton Foundation. After her opening remarks, The Associated Press reported, she declined to take any questions. “When she sat down to lead more informal conversations with invited speakers, participants appeared to be reading from teleprompters.”
I’ll give the AP reporters a pass on this odd locution since they at least conveyed the truth to the reader. But for the record, a dialogue between people on a stage in which they read from teleprompters is not an “informal conversation” — it’s a play.
The trouble for Clinton is that, despite all of her preparation, all of her coordination, the world is going off her script. And for a woman who thinks off-the-cuff speaking is switching from her prepared remarks to her prepared note cards, that’s a scary place.
That is surely why she set up her own private Internet server. Four times at the U.N., Clinton said she had created her “home-brew” email system simply for “convenience.”
“I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two,” she said.
Never mind that it’s much easier to set up two email systems on one device than it is to set up a whole dark server hidden from the government. And leave aside that a woman who travels with a very large entourage on noncommercial flights could probably manage two devices.
I’m sure she’s right. She set up the server for convenience — but not the convenience of sparing her the load of an additional 4-ounce phone. When you want to hide what you’re doing, a private server is definitely the way to go.
Hillary has only two comfort zones: deep in a bunker or high on a pedestal. Drag her out of the former or knock her off the latter and she’s at sea.
In her very brief press conference Tuesday, she essentially admitted to the transgression she’s been accused of for the past week. She admitted to deleting thousands of emails. She turned over the public emails she deemed safe to give to the public and kept the rest, saying they were private, anointing herself to be the sole arbiter.
“I fully complied with every rule that I was governed by,” she said. And: “I have no doubt that we have done exactly what we should have done.”
This hints at the attitude that binds her and her husband: the belief that they are governed solely by what they choose to be governed by and what they do is right because they have done it.
The problem for Hillary is she can’t sell it. That’s why she prefers everything to be scripted. For example, Mrs. Clinton needed to tell the public not to ever come looking for any more email from her, including the allegedly private ones she chose not to share. So she claimed they no longer exist.
“At the end, I chose not to keep my private, personal emails — emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends.”
Clinton’s vast marketing division has been toying with rolling her out as the “Grandmother in Chief.” Well, here’s a tip: Grandmothers save that kind of stuff.
Jonah Goldberg is a columnist for Tribune Media.