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Why is candidate Clinton not taking many reporter questions?

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join Gwen Ifill to discuss Bernie Sanders’ chances to become the Democratic nominee for president, why Hillary Clinton isn’t talking much to the press and Jeb Bush’s changing stance over supporting the Iraq war.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now to our weekly analysis of the politics, and the politicians, driving the national debate.

    It’s Politics Monday, with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    We just listened to Senator Sanders just now.

    Tamara, what do we think? Is there room on the stage for an alternative to Hillary Clinton whose name is Bernie Sanders?

  • TAMARA KEITH, NPR:

    Well, I think there are a lot of Democrats who would like an alternative.

    They don’t — Democrats on the whole are anti-establishment types, at least some of them are, especially the kind who get involved in the caucuses in Iowa, and they don’t really want to be told, well, here’s your option. And so there are a lot of people who are flirting with Bernie Sanders, like the idea of Bernie Sanders, want to — they like what he has to say.

    And so I think that there are a lot of people who are into this. I don’t know — I don’t exactly see what his path is.

  • AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:

    Well, that’s — there’s the path to victory and then the path on messaging, which, listening to Judy’s interview with Bernie Sanders, he was saying a lot of things that, boy, we have been hearing from Hillary Clinton a lot, right?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Today.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Today, in fact.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And Secretary Clinton was talking about income inequality and using almost the same language in Iowa.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Yes, talking about hedge fund managers making more than all the teachers, and billionaires, and the deck is stacked, which is an Elizabeth Warren-ism that she is now using.

    She’s clearly — on economic issues, I don’t know that there is that much room in terms for somebody like Bernie Sanders to outflank her. I think where her problem points are with a lot of these liberal Democrats will be on the trade issue, though likely it will be over by the time we hit Iowa, and really on foreign policy.

    That’s really going to be the question for somebody like a Sanders or Martin O’Malley to really get to Hillary Clinton on questions of what — not only what did she do in 2003 on the war — vote for the war in Iraq, but what about now and what about her time as secretary of state?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Which brings us to, who is going to ask those questions? What about now?

    Tamara, you had a good piece this week on the radio about Hillary Clinton’s question-taking, which is to say, not very much.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    She doesn’t — well, first of all, tell us what you found when you looked to see how many questions she’s taken since being a candidate.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    So, she — and she had another event today and she didn’t take any questions from reporters. So we can keep the numbers the same.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    She has taken 13 questions that she has answered. Some of those included, how are you feeling, and something along the lines of how awesome is Iowa?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Not exactly.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But close.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    But close.

    And her campaign feels like this is the ramp-up phase, where it’s not about her answering questions, it’s about her hearing from people, and that’s what they’re pushing. And guess what? There aren’t a lot of consequences. Most of the reaction I got to my story was, like, hey, reporters, stop whining.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, Amy, is that right? Is that a pretty good bet, that it’s not worth it for reporters to press?

  • AMY WALTER:

    This is definitely inside baseball. This is definitely the sorts of things where voters say, you know what, this is stuff reporters care about, not anybody else.

    At the same time, it is turning into an issue that Republicans are using, too, to bang Hillary Clinton across the head with, saying, you know, see, this is just part of the theme around her. She has a secretive e-mail server. She has secretive donors to the Clinton Global Foundation. She has this imperial sense around her that she is better than us or she can play by different rules.

    That becomes problematic. Answering questions? Tamara is right. She doesn’t need to answer her questions. But if this starts to really develop that she just now seems out of touch…

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Let’s flip this on its head, because last week we saw what happens when Jeb Bush does answer questions. And he didn’t have a good week because he kept coming up with different versions of his answers. And he gave people some room to run against him. So, does maybe Hillary Clinton have a point that it doesn’t pay at this stage to make yourself too open?

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    And she is not competing against 19 other people.

    Jeb Bush, the people who would defend him say will say, well, at least he was answering questions. But, gosh darn it, if there is…

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Did it help?

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    … one question that Jeb Bush has to answer, it’s about the Iraq War. And he really struggled with it. It was a real problem and it sort of pointing to all of that sort of family baggage that he’s trying to get away from.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    What struck me is he at one point, one of — part of his answer, I don’t need to answer these hypotheticals. And we heard Mike Huckabee said, I don’t have to defend everything I have ever done, when he was asked about something he tried to — a diabetic medication he used to peddle.

    And you think to yourself, well, isn’t running for president a hypothetical? Isn’t that the whole point?

  • AMY WALTER:

    Exactly. Everything that you do, it’s, hypothetically, something really bad could happen. How are you going to respond to it?

    I think the best way for these candidates to respond to it is to say, OK, this has already happened. We know that. Let’s stop trying to parse around hypothetically what would happen if X, Y or Z had happened, but now what are we doing going into the future? And I think that’s the bigger problem, quite frankly, for all of these candidates.

    Look, Iraq is a mess. The Middle East is a mess. We have been pointing fingers now for the last few years. The parties have between, it was Bush’s fault, it was — it’s Obama’s fault. Now the candidates have to come up with, what is your plan going forward? I think that’s what voters want to hear and they are not really interested in whose fault it was that it’s such a mess.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    We started this conversation talking about whether there is room on the left for the Bernie Sanders of the world to run against the Hillary Clintons of the world.

    Is there a lot of room on the right for Republicans like Rand Paul or Marco Rubio to take down Jeb Bush, if he is considered still to be the front-runner?

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    I think Jeb Bush has this big target on himself, but these other candidates are finding plenty of lane, and it’s really unclear.

    Jeb Bush at some point is going to say he is officially running for president, and he’s going to have this amazing amount of money, but it’s unclear whether he is going to have the excitement of voters or whether these other folks who are officially running are going to just keep beating him up, up until then.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Well, and this is what’s fun about this race, honestly, which is, you have so many candidates. They are very qualified and they have so many different positions.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Yes.

  • AMY WALTER:

    This is not one sort of monolithic group singing from the same book.

    They have many — you know, they have many different positions, which is really the big question for Republicans in 2016. Who is going to be able to unite all these many voices into one focused voice going into the general election? This is really a crossroads election for the Republican Party, who they are, what they stand for, do they have a positive message going forward? I think this primary process is going to be good for them.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    If we can fit them all on the debate stage.

  • AMY WALTER:

    That’s a problem.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Panorama.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Amy Walter and Tamara Keith, thank you both very much.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Thanks.

     

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