FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 11, 2015
THE HILLARY CLINTON REALITY SHOW
BY BOB FRANKEN
What do Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have in common? They both despise the idea of apologizing. Those of us past puberty might remember the book/movie “Love Story,” which really should have been called “Sappy Story.” Perhaps the most cloying line in the entire maudlin melodrama was, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Yeah, I don’t know what it means either, but The Donald and The Hillary have made it a watchword of their love antithesis — which, of course, is politics.
Except that — as her campaign started to implode and with Joe Biden menacing offstage — Hillary’s huge royal court of advisers, consultants, poll takers and assorted other sycophants decided that desperate times called for desperate measures. (I made that up. You believe me, don’t you?) With her email debacle and history of lawyerly public statements that at least sound like dissembling, survey after survey shows that the bulk of Americans consider her a “liar.” That’s clearly not a plus for a presidential candidate. So after going through her usual dismissive responses and disparagement of the reporter lowlifes who insisted on asking her about such things, her advisers convened a few more focus groups and then bravely suggested it was time for another strategy: humility.
One of the most entertaining New York Times headlines in a long time, maybe the only entertaining New York Times headline in a long time, read: “Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say.” It brings to mind that George Burns line I like to quote: “They key to success in show business is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” In politics the key is faking authenticity, or in rare cases actually being authentically authentic.
That has never been Hillary Clinton’s strong suit, although nearly everyone who has spent one-on-one time with her agrees that she lights up a small conversation. But put her in the typical political situation and her bright spontaneity disappears, replaced by the appearance of extreme caution ... like she’s reading off a market-research-tested script. Maybe that’s because oftentimes she is reading her ad-libs off a market-research-tested script — but successful candidates can look loosey-goosey when doing that. Others clutch up.
It’s much like TV news. Some very good reporters freeze when they go on camera. Others give great live shots. Hillary Clinton would not make a good TV reporter. She thinks too much.
Actually, though, she didn’t do a half-bad job as she sat down for her various interviews, managing to not show her clenched teeth as she inched toward an apology. With NBC’s Andrea Mitchell she was “sorry that this has been confusing to people,” which was the passive-aggressive approach.
But after that answer didn’t test well, she took the big step in her interview with ABC’s David Muir and went aggressive-aggressive, directly apologizing for her decision to set up an off-the-books, unofficial email account to handle her official secretary of state business as well as her personal stuff: “I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.” There it was; David got the big trophy, as she went the full Brenda Lee for him.
And guess what? The earth did not move, although those of us starved for stories made a big deal out it. But there are a lot of tremors ahead and still a bunch of unanswered questions: Did she mishandle classified information? Was she hiding anything in the personal emails that she and her lawyers deleted before she turned over what they and they alone deemed to be public records? What about her close aides at State and some eyebrow-raising financial arrangements? Etc.
But now we’ll see whether this heralds another “new” Hillary Clinton.
As for Donald Trump, don’t expect apologies anytime soon. He’s still riding high in the polls, which itself may be sorry.
© 2015 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.