Please Do Better

by Shaker Alison Rose, a fierce queer feminist, avid book lover, and proud cat lady who lives in the northern SF Bay Area.

Tuesday afternoon, Chris Hayes of MSNBC interviewed Hillary Clinton, who called in to the show from California. You can watch the clip here. It's only seven and a half minutes long, and since all politicians tend to give long answers, obviously there wasn't going to be time for a lot of topics to be covered. However, the questions that were asked all...irked me.

I generally like Hayes a lot—I find him to be a very fair and honest interviewer and reporter, one who is well aware of his privileges and tries not to let them cloud his view of the issues, and one who has a deeper interest in our political system than just the horse-race and soundbite morass in which so many of his colleagues are mired.

But in this interview, I felt like he was giving in to that media need for controversy and silliness dressed up as news.

First question:
I wanted to, I guess, start by asking, Donald Trump today said that the press should be thankful to him, to Mr. Trump, for giving, for raising 5.6 million dollars for veterans' charities. He said, "What is Hillary Clinton doing?" What is your reaction to what happened at Trump Tower today?
Do I ever wish she could have answered by making a giant farting noise into the phone. "There, that's my reaction!" But of course, she's more of a grown-up than I am, so she simply pointed out that Trump is a blatant liar, and then she went on to enumerate the work she's done throughout her time in politics on behalf of veterans, including working with Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham to build new rehab facilities, increase death benefits for families, expand health care benefits, and so on.

Now, this is absolutely a worthy and important topic of discussion. But framing the question around Trump—yet again, making the news about him and her "reaction" to his bloviating—was just frustrating. As though the newsworthy part of this discussion is Trump's garbage mouth.

He could have instead referenced that the discussion around veterans was in the news the past couple of days, and asked her for her thoughts and her plans for their care under her presidency. Hayes was, I'm sure, already aware of a lot of the work Clinton has done in this area, and he could have posed the question through that reality, rather than through the mendacious fantasy that exists in Trump's brain swamp.

Second question:
Let me follow up on this aspect of it: there has been a tremendous amount of criticism directed at the V.A. for a variety of issues, chiefly wait times at V.A. hospitals, but a whole set of logistical challenges that veterans have faced. You have talked about how you see yourself inheriting the Obama Administration; in your mind, is the care and the performance of the V.A. under this president acceptable? Is it an acceptable performance from the V.A.?
Again, this is a worthy subject, and this is something we absolutely want to hear about from a presidential candidate. And it is true that Clinton has made it clear that in many areas, her presidency would work to continue the progress and gains made under President Obama.

But listening to the wording here, where he seems to be specifically trying to get her to say something critical about the V.A. in relation to Obama, it felt like the typical media strategy of looking for controversy or even trying, however mildly, to stoke it. Clinton has mostly been positive and supportive of Obama, and even in areas where she has diverged from him, it hasn't felt to me like she was trying to diminish him.

She did say in her answer that she thinks the problems at the V.A. are unacceptable and that those issues need to be solved as soon as possible, but she did not take the bait and say that Obama has failed, that these problems are because of him. Rather, she pointed out how it's the Republicans who have blocked a lot of the paths to fixing these issues. Again, this is something I know Hayes is well aware of, as he has talked about GOP obstructionism quite a lot on his program.

Third question:
Your campaign has canceled some events you were going to do in New Jersey, which of course votes on June 7 along with California, and are headed instead to California. There are people who are interpreting that as a campaign that is nervous about winning California on what is a sort of a big final day, except for D.C. Are you nervous about California?
I mean...I get it. This is the kind of stuff they ask. But does anyone expect a candidate, especially one who is clearly going to be the nominee no matter how you slice it, to say "Yes, we are really nervous! OMG what are we gonna do?" The question could have been simply about the campaign's current strategy for the upcoming primaries, about the issues she feels are crucial in California, the most populous state in the nation, and how they plan to campaign in such a large and diverse area. "Are you nervous" is a leading question, giving a semblance of legitimacy to the absurd premise that she might have reason to be nervous.

Fourth question:
Donald Trump and Republicans have made a great deal of both the [Inspector General] report on email use, but more than that they've invoked the specter of the FBI quite often, so I need to ask you if you have been contacted by the FBI about an interview regarding the email situation?
Well, no, he didn't "need" to ask this. If the FBI did actually contact Clinton and request an interview, I'm pretty sure that would be front page news all across the country. And as Clinton said in her response, the IG report said that previous Secretaries of State had had similar practices with regard to email, and that the rules governing these practices were clarified and changed after she had stepped down. She also reiterated her regret for things she should have done differently.

The Republicans bleating about the FBI getting ready to burst through her front door is just more of the same from them—trying to paint her as basically the most deceitful, malicious, incompetent or perhaps evilly competent politician alive today. The GOP has invoked a lot of "specters" over the past few years (or decades), but they have pretty much all turned out to be about as dangerous as the monster under your kid's bed.

Fifth question:
One final small follow-up on that: there was just one line in that IG report that stuck out to me and I just wanted to get clarification from you directly, in which the IG found that a subordinate of yours had told people to stop asking about your use of private email. That was a striking phrase. Is that true, to your knowledge?
Clinton said that she doesn't know who that subordinate might be or what they said. If people under her were in fact doing this, I can see how it might look bad, but it also just looks like someone trying to defend their boss when she's being raked over the coals for months. Perhaps this is just me being stupendously tired of this conversation and of people looking for fathomless depths of deviousness in a kiddie pool of imprudent decisions.

To reiterate, this is not about how much Chris Hayes sucks. 99% of the time, I like him and his work, and have a lot of respect for him. But I listened to this interview and just kept thinking that there were so many more substantive, important questions that could have been asked, and less clickbaity ways to ask others.

I'm tired of Clinton having to react and respond to every dipshit thing Trump says. I'm tired of her campaign always being framed by the media as having one foot in the grave and the other in quicksand. I'm tired of things being rehashed over and over because some people refuse to believe they've been settled.

I know this won't end, and will in fact get worse, once we're into the general election. I know it will also probably get even more annoying after she's elected. Obama is still dealing with stuff like this, seven and a half years into his presidency.

But I always try to be optimistic, and that includes hoping that once Trump has scuttled off to his golden cave, the news media will take a good look around, and at least climb a few steps out of the muck he's left in his wake.

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