Throughout a live townhall event on Monday’s Today, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton was treated to one softball after another from her adoring supporters at NBC. One sycophantic fan set the tone: “Secretary Clinton, you've had a lot of tough questions this morning. This may be the toughest one you get all day. But many years ago we saw another Clinton at his inauguration play an instrument and have a song. What song or instrument would you play at yours?”
As the crowd laughed, Clinton declared: “Well, you know on Saturday Night Live, Saturday night I sang "Lean On Me" with Kate McKinnon, who plays me better than I play me, and so maybe that will be the song because it wasn't as bad as I feared.”
Moments later, attendee Esther Dickinson proclaimed: “Well, first, I want to thank you for your candidacy, you’re such a role model for women my age. And so thank you for putting yourself out there.”
After the friendly group applauded the declaration, the woman got to her hard-hitting question about Clinton’s e-mails: “So in your e-mails you told Senator Mikulski you guys should go out and celebrate with something unhealthy to drink so I'm wondering what your favorite celebratory unhealthy drink is.”
Clinton quipped: “A martini, a vodka martini. And the James Bond way, you know, shaken.”
Minutes later, one man asked: “Hi, Secretary Clinton. My question is what is your favorite book?”
Clinton pretended to struggle with fawning question: “Oh my gosh, my favorite book?”
Some of questions that were actually substantive were designed to tee up Clinton to promote her liberal policy agenda:
> Like so many, I'm very distressed about the recent mass shooting last week in Oregon, and frankly a bit ashamed to be – about the uncontrollable gun violence in our country right now, especially compared to other developed nations. Again, my son is eight. I'm nervous to talk to him about it. You know, there's regular lockdown drills at his school now. I mean, it's part of life. And yet, I feel like I know I’m not alone in saying enough is enough and I would like to know as president how – what specifically you would do for gun control or gun control.
> Well, Secretary Clinton, like you, I'm a grandmother, I have my grandson Evan Simon here with me today. I'm concerned about my grandchildren and young children in this country, and my question for you is how and what can you do, what will you do to make college more affordable so that our grandchildren here, from middle class families, can get the education they need without overwhelming debt?
> When I talk to my kids, I talk to my kids about politics, I’m a bit of a junkie when it comes to that sort of thing, and I tell them about how in order to make government work there needs to be cooperation, there needs to be compromise, there needs to be consensus. Honestly is there anyone left in the Republican Party -- I’m talking about the Senate and the House -- that you can work with. I mean, you're not going to be able to do most of what you want to do by yourself. Who’s there? Anyone?
Only two of the townhall questions challenged Clinton, both hitting her from the left:
> I’m a lifelong Democrat and I've admired your service to our country for many years but you don't yet have my vote. My biggest concern is what I see as the growing disparity in wealth and income in this country. And I really feel it to my bones that this is becoming an existential threat to our country. We're just increasingly becoming a country of haves and have-nots and unfortunately for many of us we’ve come to know that the game or the system, whatever you want to call it, is just rigged against us and we really desperately want a champion who will stand with us. So my question to you is, and if you would please set aside the issue of who – which candidate’s more electable in the general election, help me understand why I should vote for you rather than Bernie Sanders.
> I served in Iraq as an army infantryman in 2004 and 2005, I lost friends, a year of my life, and I suspect I'll be coping with the experience as long as I live. You gave a rather famous rousing speech in support of the War Powers Act which allowed President Bush to go into Iraq. Given your history and your close ties to elements within the military industrial complex, what assurances can you provide that companies and individuals who profit from war and militarism will not have undue influence in a Clinton administration?
Co-host Savannah Guthrie – who interviewed Clinton prior to the townhall event – wrapped up the infomercial by wondering: “You often say you're not running because you're a woman, you're running on the merits, and one of your merits is that you are a woman. So my question is, what are the merits of a female leader? What does a female leader bring that a man doesn't?”
As the hour-long segment ended, fellow co-host Matt Lauer remarked: “It was interesting to see her in that type of a situation, in that kind of forum. I thought the questions were good.” News anchor Natalie Morales chimed in: “Really great questions, a very informed crowd...”