HH: Joined now by Maggie Haberman of Politico.com, who had a huge story this morning on Hillary Clinton’s potential 2016 run. Maggie, welcome, it’s good to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
MH: Thanks for having me.
HH: Did the reaction to your column flow in today and raise questions about whether or not she’s actually running? Or does everyone assume she’s running?
MH: I’ve heard a mixture of reactions. I think that most people think the preponderance of evidence is that she is running. I had actually been among those who had thought she wasn’t running, and I no longer think that. It’s hard to think it after some of the speeches she’s given recently. I think most people think that there is a chance that she won’t run, that those would be for, you know, mostly personal reasons, or the unforeseen. But that chance seems pretty small at the moment.
HH: Now this is a process story that turns primarily on the argument that the biggest complaint about Clinton in 2008, and I’m quoting now, was that she ran a campaign of entitlement, showing feistiness and emotion only after Obama had surged when it was already too late. Is that what you consider, or what your sources consider to be her biggest potential problem this time around? Or is it her record as secretary of State?
MH: Well, I think that there are two different issues. And I certainly think that her approach to a campaign will be very significant in terms of how she handles it. I think that her record as secretary of State is obviously her most recent, and it is one of the pieces of her curriculum vitae that have been the least looked at, certainly in terms of repeated, in terms of the crux of a campaign and the crucible of a campaign. And I think that it’s relevant. I think that it’s going to come up a lot. I think that people around her are certainly prepared for that, or at least prepared for it to be an issue. How they handle it remains to be seen.
HH: What is her biggest achievement as secretary of State?
MH: I think that the folks around her believe that among the biggest achievements was, and you’ve seen this pointed to a lot, was the amount of travel time she logged. They felt very good about the Chinese dissident, and how the disposition of that case went in 2012. I think that what they, and what most people are prepared for is a lot of questions about the aftermath of Benghazi, and I think there was a 60 Minutes piece about that, that went out yesterday. I think there’s going to be a lot more of that. I think that this is where the fact that most people believe she is running, but she has not set up a team of any kind in any meaningful way, potentially becomes problematic, because if her folks believe that they have something to say in response to that and they’re not, they’re sort of letting time slip away from them.
HH: But pause for a moment with me on the achievement side.
HH: Articulate further. What is it that people say is her achievement? That she logged a lot of miles? What, is she running for George Clooney’s role in Up In The Air?
MH: (laughing) That has been certainly one of the focuses that her folks have talked about. They’ve also talked about how she ran a functional effort at State. Look, I think that when you hear from her world about what her accomplishments were, I think that they genuinely believe that she had made progress in terms of how America was perceived. People can agree or disagree with that. I think that that is obviously been coming into question now, and this is again something I think she’s going to have to talk about more. She’s clearly aware of that, but she’s not saying much about it so far, on the NSA issue. It’s very, very difficult for a former Obama administration official to run a sort of smoke and mirrors campaign on foreign policy. She’s going to have a very hard time doing that.
HH: Well, I know all the critiques, because I’m a conservative talk show host. So I know what all the vulnerabilities are.
HH: I’m just curious as to what they think her strengths are, other than, you know, frequent flyer miles.
MH: Look, they think that she was an effective diplomat. They think that she was good at helping America’s image globally. They have a couple of cases like the case of the Chinese dissident where they think that State played a very effective role. She was among those who was pressing for more action in Syria of a restricted type earlier on than what you saw the Obama administration ultimately do this year. But you know, look, she was not, she certainly was not part of the team that, say, was dealing with Israel. She was not integral in that way, and so I think for some of the issues that are the hottest right now, globally, she was not a key factor in them.\
HH: So a Chinese dissident? That’s it?
MH: Well, I think we will see what they issue as her biggest strength as secretary of State. That has not been a case they’ve been emphasizing so far. You’ve, I’m sure, read the New York Magazine piece, like everybody else, where they talked about again, her time as secretary of State which was largely mechanical, at least in the focus of that piece, and how they thought she had run an effective effort. Everything with Hillary Clinton gets looked at through the prism of how she manages whatever team she’s running, and that’s been where a lot of the focus has been.
HH: Well, it’s very interesting to me, though, as you report early on, they are going to try, Team Clinton is going to try and give you the talking points, which they hope then enter into the bloodstream, and into the circulatory system of Washington, D.C. that is Politico, and then out through the rest of the country. And what I’m hearing you say is they’ve got a Chinese dissident.
MH: No, I think, but I think that when you’ve asked me off the top of my head what are some of the things that her folks have pointed to over the last two years, that has certainly been one of the cases.
HH: Anything else, Maggie?
MH: Yes, there are others, but I’m just not coming up with them at the moment, but, and I’m not trying to avoid the question.
HH: Oh, I know you’re not. I just don’t think there’s anything there. I think, actually, her biggest problem is that there is no there there. She occupied the State Department, and there’s nothing to show for it. I guess there’s this Chinese dissident, but I’m, that’s not, that’s not a name that’s tripping off of my tongue right now. Do you know his name?
MH: I think that, no, at the moment, I actually cannot think of his name. I think that they’re, I think this is going to be an ongoing problem for her. I think that showing sort of a body of work at State is going to be something that she’s going to be pressed to do increasingly, and I think that running sort of a shadow campaign through paid speeches and free speeches over the course of the next year, I think is going to not cut it eventually, not just for conservative critics, but I think on the left. I think she’s going to have a problem.
HH: But doesn’t this sort of underscore the major problem? Here I am, a conservative critic, and I know the critique. And you’re a mainstream reporter, and as far as I know, you have no ideology. You’re one of the people at Politico that I don’t put on the left or the right, you’re just down the middle.
HH: And neither of us can come up with any claim that she has to having succeeded at anything, and they are not able, they didn’t spin you, because they’ve got nothing to spin you with. It’s like the washing machine’s broke.
MH: Well, we’ll see. I mean, I think we need to see what they ultimately come up, to be fair. I think that since she’s not yet running, I think looking at how they present her and present what she did there is an open question.
HH: They’ll come up with something. What I’m getting at is, how long have you been with Politico, five years?
MH: Four years, three and a half years.
HH: Okay, so almost her entire tenure at State, and I’ve been on the air since 2000. And I can’t think of anything, and I’m giving you the floor. If you can come up with anything for her case, lay it out there. Just from the top of mine, it should be front shelf, right?
MH: It certainly is not, there is not a giant list that I think people can point to.
HH: There is no list.
MH: There are a couple, and I think there’s a couple of reasons for that like I said. With the major issue of dealing with Israel, she was not front and center. And she certainly received criticism early on in terms of how the U.S. dealt with Russia. I think these are all going to be issues that she is going to have to address, and I suspect she is going to get asked about them repeatedly, and by many, many outlets.
HH: I mean, it’s just a big, we’re done, but go around the bullpen at Politico and ask them what did she do, and it’s going to be a giant whiteboard, and there’s not going to be anything on it, Maggie.
MH: I like the invocation of whiteboard, though.
HH: It is a whiteboard. Maggie Haberman, great piece today, great process piece, but boy, she’s got problems if after writing it, you don’t have the list at the tip of the tongue. The Clintonistas had better come up with a list, because there’s nothing on it. Really, nothing.
End of interview.