Hillary Clinton's Gift to the Media
By Anne E. Kornblut
MILFORD, N.H. -- In the spirit of the season, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton passed out candy canes to reporters here on Saturday. Then she took numerous questions. All this just one day after Clinton sat down for a rare off-the-record session with her traveling press corps in Manchester on Friday night.
Playing a little Mrs. Santa Claus with the media? Perhaps.
But Clinton is also in close competitions both here and in Iowa, and her advisers believe she can gain an edge if she keeps showing more of her personal side. Although she is the first to admit she is uncomfortable opening up in public, Clinton has tried her best over the last week, holding "The Hillary I Know" events with testimonials from supporters, bringing her mother and daughter onto the campaign trail and now, apparently, charming the press (arguably one of her least favorite segments of society, given her history with the media, ranking somewhere in the neighborhood of the vast right-wing conspiracy).
During her press availability, Clinton got her favorite type of question: A substantive one. She was asked about a comment Sen. Barack Obama made the night before about having more foreign policy advisers from the former Clinton administration on his side. Her advisers had jumped on the remark as it happened, circulating the quote to the press corps, and the senator followed up with objections of her own.
"Well, obviously, we demonstrated that that was inaccurate," Clinton said (her team said it counts more foreign policy advisers from the 1990s than Obama's, underscoring a running feud in the foreign policy establishment over which candidate has a better approach). More to the point, though, Clinton said, is whether a candidate has the experience to make a good judgment call, regardless of who the advisers are.
"At the end of the day, the president has to make the decisions," she said.
She stopped short of comparing Obama to George W. Bush, who was elected with little foreign policy experience and relied on his advisers during his campaign to shore up his credibility. At earlier moments, Clinton has drawn that parallel. But she did say that Obama "has opened the door" to the discussion by bragging about his advisory team.
Before taking questions, Clinton wandered through the River House CafÃ© shaking hands with patrons, as dozens more gathered carrying signs outside, with Chelsea Clinton, 27, trailing close behind. Although Chelsea Clinton has declined all interviews, she warmly embraced regular voters, asking several, "Are you going to support my mom?" One elderly lady replied: "I love her."
"I like that answer," Chelsea Clinton said, beaming. The woman then asked where Chelsea's grandmother, Dorothy Rodham, who has been traveling with the entourage, was. Chelsea replied that she had stayed outside during the event. "She's 88," Chelsea told the woman, describing her grandmother as a "rock star."
When it came time for the miniature press conference, Sen. Clinton deliberately worked her way around the press scrum first, giving each participant a chance to grab a candy cane from a cup. And without skipping a beat, she smiled and admitted it was her effort to "sweeten up the press first."
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