Ezra Klein, Chris Hayes Lament Hillary’s Sometimes Too Wonky for Voters to Grasp

Discussing the fallout of Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate on the Monday edition of MSNBC’s All In, host Chris Hayes and Vox Editor-in-Chief Ezra Klein lamented that Clinton’s “tremendous command and mastery” of subject material when working with colleagues hasn’t exactly shown through to voters as she’s “seemed paralyzed by her knowledge of how many ways a straightforward position can get attacked.”

Hayes first raised the issue in complimenting Klein for a Vox piece that he saw as “a really perceptive piece about what kind of Hillary Clinton's strengths are in terms of who she is when she has worked in government and you talked about people that worked with her.”

Adding that he’s also talked to many Clinton coworkers and what they both heard was that Clinton has “this tremendous command and mastery, really like — willing to get in the weeds, loving to get in the weeds, remarkably well prepared and you talked about the challenge of presenting that side of herself in the confines of something like a debate.”

Following a soundbite from a skeptical Democratic primary voter reacting to the debate, Hayes fretted that Clinton’s supposed masterful Benghazi hearing performance is “a tough thing to sell in any kind of format.”

Klein picked up from there and began by fretting about how voters are unable to see a Hillary Clinton that others see behind closed doors: 

I think that there is something more to what Hillary Clinton is able to do behind closed doors and not in the public's view that's important here. Behind closed doors, Clinton is very good at working with Republicans. She's very good at working with folks she doesn't agree with, very good at building alliances that aren't expected and she is when you talk to people who worked for her, very honest. 

“It isn't just that she's incredibly prepared. She is that, but it's her ability to marry the tactical and the strategic, the abilities to see the details of policy with what would be the way forward, with what is the opportunity for common ground,” Klein gushed.

The liberal panelist opined moments later that, unfortunately, “she is very afraid to tell voters things they don't want to hear and something I think that Sanders is able to do and that brings people over to him.” 

Tell the Truth 2016

Klein ended his elongated lecture to voters by observing that: 

Clinton seemed paralyzed by her knowledge of how many ways a straightforward position can get attacked that she seems very concerned when taking them and then she'll levy those same kinds of very small, often technocratic and unfair attacks on Sanders, which again, to that woman's perspective you that just played, makes her look kind of tactical. They come off as digs. They don't come off as sort of an appealing way to campaign.

The relevant portions of the transcript from MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes on January 18 can be found below. 

MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes
January 17, 2016
8:09 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS HAYES:  Ezra, you wrote I thought a really perceptive piece about what kind of Hillary Clinton's strengths are in terms of who she is when she has worked in government and you talked about people that worked with her. I've heard the same people that worked with her, just this tremendous command and mastery, really like — willing to get in the weeds, loving to get in the weeds, remarkably well prepared and you talked about the challenge of presenting that side of herself in the confines of something like a debate

(.....)

HAYES: It's hard to create those sorts of opportunities, right? To show that —like I — saying I have 11 hours worth of command of details is a tough thing to sell in any kind of format. 

EZRA KLEIN: I think, though, that — and I appreciate the kind words. I think that there is something more to what Hillary Clinton is able to do behind closed doors and not in the public's view that's important here. Behind closed doors, Clinton is very good at working with Republicans. She's very good at working with folks she doesn't agree with, very good at building alliances that aren't expected and she is when you talk to people who worked for her, very honest. It isn't just that she's incredibly prepared. She is that, but it's her ability to marry the tactical and the strategic, the abilities to see the details of policy with what would be the way forward, with what is the opportunity for common ground and that requires a sense of — you know, for lack of a better term, real talk. An ability to kind of say look, here's where we really are, here's what I really think and that's the thing you don't get the sense from her out in public. I think you're seeing it a little more actually in the debate than you were certainly the week before the debate, but Clinton doesn't — she is very afraid to tell voters things they don't want to hear and something I think that Sanders is able to do and that brings people over to him is he stakes out positions that because those positions actually have detractors, they also have people who really appreciate them. 

HAYES: Right. 

KLEIN: Clinton seemed paralyzed by her knowledge of how many ways a straightforward position can get attacked that she seems very concerned when taking them and then she'll levy those same kinds of very small, often technocratic and unfair attacks on Sanders, which again, to that woman's perspective you that just played, makes her look kind of tactical. They come off as digs. They don't come off as sort of an appealing way to campaign.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center