Hey, Hillary. Can we talk?
— 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
— 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 email@example.com.