Hey, Hil­lary. Can we talk?

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Ruth Mar­cus

— There is no equiv­a­lence — none — be­tween the cam­paigns of Don­ald Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton when it comes to mis­treat­ment of and con­tempt for the me­dia. The Trump cam­paign’s lat­est ou­trage on this score in­volved the has­sling of a Wash­ing­ton Post re­porter, Jose A. DelReal, at a rally for vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mike Pence. DelReal was de­nied a me­dia cre­den­tial — Trump last month barred The Post from be­ing ad­mit­ted to his events

WASH­ING­TON

— and then was pre­vented from en­ter­ing as a mem­ber of the pub­lic with his lap­top and cell­phone, even though other at­ten­dees were per­mit­ted phones. When DelReal stashed his elec­tron­ics in his car, he again sought ad­mit­tance, only to be pat­ted down and de­nied en­trance by a se­cu­rity per­son who an­nounced, “I don’t want you here. You have to go.” That this is un­ac­cept­able goes with­out say­ing. Pence, who imag­ines he has a fu­ture in pol­i­tics af­ter the Trump cam­paign, needs to make cer­tain this type of in­ci­dent does not re­cur.

But to say that the Trump cam­paign’s treat­ment of the me­dia — they are “dis­hon­est” “hor­ri­ble” “scum,” the can­di­date is de­lighted to an­nounce — is in­tol­er­a­ble is not to ex­cuse the Clin­ton cam­paign’s eva­sion of the norms of cam­paign­ing (and, in the fu­ture, gov­ern­ing): hold­ing reg­u­lar news con­fer­ences. Yes, Clin­ton has made her­self avail­able for some tele­vi­sion in­ter­views. Yes, there are scat­tered, in­fre­quent “avails” at which re­porters may get to sneak in a ques­tion or two. But a news con­fer­ence? It has been, as Trump pointed out at his own un­hinged event Wednes­day, “235 days [now 236] since Crooked Hil­lary Clin­ton has had a press con­fer­ence.”

Clin­ton cam­paign man­ager Robby Mook was ques­tioned about the is­sue at a lun­cheon Wednes­day spon­sored by The Wall Street Jour­nal. Ed­i­tor-in-chief Gerard Baker asked if Clin­ton would hold a news con­fer­ence be­tween now and the elec­tion. Mook’s un­en­thu­si­as­tic, un­ac­cept­able an­swer: “We’ll see.”

I fol­lowed up: “On the sub­ject of press con­fer­ences, you’ve talked about how Don­ald Trump’s press con­fer­ence has proved him, in your view, un­fit for the pres­i­dency. But as has been noted, we haven’t seen a press con­fer­ence from Hil­lary Clin­ton for some time. ... Why is that? When will we see her have a press con­fer­ence? And what can we ex­pect in a Hil­lary Clin­ton pres­i­dency in terms of press con­fer­ences? Is the past pro­logue to a Clin­ton pres­i­dency?”

Mook mostly brushed this off. “On the third point, I will not spec­u­late about any­thing af­ter the elec­tion be­cause I’m go­ing to be on va­ca­tion,” he said. As to the cam­paign trail, Clin­ton “has pro­vided a va­ri­ety of in­ter­views one-on-one with re­porters al­ready. She speaks oc­ca­sion­ally with her trav­el­ing press corps, and so we con­tinue to eval­u­ate these ques­tions on an on­go­ing ba­sis.”

Me: “So is your ar­gu­ment that press con­fer­ences just don’t play a sig­nif­i­cant role and don’t mat­ter and aren’t a part of what can­di­dates should reg­u­larly do?”

Mook: “I’m not say­ing that. I’m say­ing that, I can’t even tell you what we’re do­ing, you know, 10 days from now. So we make these de­ci­sions on a rolling ba­sis.”

Pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates’ past be­hav­ior is an in­di­ca­tor of fu­ture per­for­mance. A can­di­date who ducks the me­dia on the cam­paign trail isn’t about to be­come sud­denly more trans­par­ent in of­fice. A Pres­i­dent Clin­ton would have less con­tempt — cer­tainly less overt con­tempt — for the me­dia than Pres­i­dent Trump, and would not en­gage in the same sort of high-handed, puni­tive tac­tics. But her in­ac­ces­si­bil­ity is trou­bling, as is Mook’s dis­mis­sive­ness of the le­git­i­macy of this con­cern. He may be on va­ca­tion af­ter the elec­tion, but we won’t.

Ruth Mar­cus is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact her at ruth­mar­cus@wash­post.com.

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