NY Times Reporter On Morning Joe: Hillary ‘Really Good At Answering Questions’

Pointing to 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s declining poll numbers when it comes to favorability and honesty, a panel on Morning Joe discussed the implications of these numbers on the former First Lady’s campaign. While host Joe Scarborough and former Bush staffer Nicolle Wallace agreed that the numbers are concerning, the New York Times’ Jeremy Peters was frustrated by the campaign’s strategy: 

Nicolle, what is really interesting is – and maybe you would agree with this – I’d be curious to hear what you think, she's really good at answering questions. Like, Hillary is no slouch when it comes to putting her on the defensive. 

Scarborough chimed in by asking if Hillary was good at answering questions “at the United Nations,” where she gave unsatisfying responses to questions about the email scandal. Peters didn’t back down from his original statement: “That's what I don't understand. I don't understand why the campaign isn’t allowing her to showcase her strengths.”

Wallace – in continuing her well known grudge against Sarah Palin – stated that she has “thin skin on this front. Lots of people said let Sarah Palin be Sarah Palin.” However, Wallace did question the wisdom that Hillary answers questions well: 

The last few times she did interviews, she described herself as flat broke, which let me tell you something. Before you can explain to someone about the Clinton Foundation taking foreign donations, you don't have to explain to anybody how troubling it is for Hillary Clinton – who hasn’t driven herself in her own vehicle in 20 years – to call herself flat broke. People understand that that is not the case. They are very rich people. So she has had some major flubs that have done great damage to her brand. 

This is not the first time that the media have espoused the idea that Hillary Clinton is great at answering questions and that the real problem lies with her campaign for shielding her. Just last week, Susan Page of USA Today argued on Andrea Mitchell Reports that Hillary not answering questions was a “mystery...because she does it very well.” 

The relevant portion of the transcript is below.  

MSNBC
Morning Joe
June 2, 2015
7:09 a.m. Eastern

JOE SCARBOROUGH, host: You're talking – you’re talking about a grand design. And unfortunately right now, Hillary's problems are much more direct than that. She needs to figure out how she can answer questions in the press. She has been sealed off because there are – despite what her supporters say –  really troubling questions about her server. Where is the server? Did she destroy the server? Why did she destroy the server? Reporters will ask that question. Whether her people like it or not, they’ll ask that question. And then they’re going to start asking all the questions about, you know, uranium deals, they’re gonna be asking all the questions about India. They’re going to be – they have 1,000 questions they don't want Hillary to answer right now. And you know Nicolle, I said they don’t have answer these questions for a while. The problem is when you start seeing numbers like this. Do you trust Hillary? And 42% say yes, 57% say no. That's not dangerous now because Jonathan is right, the campaign is a long way off.

But two or three months at that number, they start having the Mitt problem. The Obama campaign was brilliant as painting him as a mean son of a bitch industrialist and they did that in early spring and it stuck with him. And he could never shake that. These numbers are fine right now. You have those numbers for two or three months, any political person will tell you they start to stick. And for a Democrat being minus 15 on ‘do they care about people like you,’ is toxic. Because that's where Republicans usually lose.

NICOLLE WALLACE: Yeah, listen. I incorrectly predicted that the e-mail – her not releasing her e-mails would not have a lasting effect on her poll numbers with the Democratic base. But I think they were – that story broke and then the Clinton cash book came out and she now has a problem. I've worked for politicians that have had this problem of the narrative getting cemented in a little too early. And so these numbers reflect a narrative, not a single scandal, but a narrative of them not answering questions, taking money from foreign governments for the foundation, not being transparent, of really going against everything that at this moment inspires and excites the progressives in her party. So I think the problem is that the entire narrative is contrary to the hunger that the progressives feel in that party. So everything that she's about right now is a turn off and staying silent is a really, really risky gambit for her right now. 

JEREMY PETERS, New York Times: Nicolle, what is really interesting is – and maybe you would agree with this – I’d be curious to hear what you think, she's really good at answering questions. Like, Hillary is no slouch when it comes to putting her on the defensive. 

SCARBOROUGH: Was she at the United Nations?

MIKA BRZEZINKSI, host: Let her talk! 

PETERS: That's what I don't understand. I don't understand why the campaign isn’t allowing her to showcase her strengths. 

WALLACE: Easy, I've got thin skin on this front. Lots of people said let Sarah Palin be Sarah Palin. Let Hillary Clinton be Hillary Clinton. 

PETERS: Well, I don't know if that’s quite an appropriate comparison.

WALLACE: The last few times she did interviews, she described herself as flat broke, which let me tell you something. Before you can explain to someone about the Clinton Foundation taking foreign donations, you don't have to explain to anybody how troubling it is for Hillary Clinton –  who hasn’t driven herself in her own vehicle in 20 years –  to call herself flat broke. People understand that that is not the case. They are very rich people. So she has had some major flubs that have done great damage to her brand. 

SCARBOROUGH: And Willie, you look at the United Nations press conference, I mean they had to clean that operation up for a month. 

2016 Presidential Morning Joe Jeremy Peters Joe Scarborough Nicolle Wallace

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