The Republican National Committee is worrying about Hillary Clinton’s absence from the public arena at the moment. “We’ve noticed it. You’ve noticed it: Hillary Clinton is hiding,” the committee notes in a public memo. “Potential Republican presidential candidates are out in public, speaking to voters, and sharing their ideas. But Hillary Clinton is nowhere to be found.” Their point has resonated. Others parse the who, what, when and where of it all. “Come out, come out wherever you are,” Where in the world is Hillary Clinton? Over the past several weeks, she has been behaving like a reclusive third-world dictator some claim.,”
Journalist and author Sharyl Attkisson wonders why Mrs. Clinton who once erroneously claimed she was shot at in a Bosnian war zone, isn’t scrutinized as closely as NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who falsely claimed he encountered enemy fire in the skies over Iraq. It’s ironic, Ms. Attkisson told NewsMax TV, that he could lose his career, “yet we didn’t care enough to have it matter with someone who became our Secretary of State.”
The GOP, meanwhile, points out that it has been 202 days since Mrs. Clinton held a press conference, and 184 days since offering a major interview. Mrs. Clinton had two public speaking engagements in Canada in late January, notable for a moment when she imitated Russia President Vladimir Putin. She is now said to be hard at work on a “modern, aggressive campaign.”
Accessibility to Clinton and her campaign is at a premium. So a tweet from the presumed Democratic nominee sounds more like a roar.
Clinton has taken to Twitter to weigh in on major issues of the day. She’s not prolific, she’s only tweeted six times this year, but she can be influential. Twitter allows her to choose if she wants to insert herself into the conversation, and when. It provides a way for her to generate a healthy dose of publicity in a news cycle without the immediate imperative to elaborate or answer questions. And, it allows her to ding opponents.
Clinton can launch a debate when she chooses, with as few words as she chooses. But there will come a point when the presidential hopeful will have to engage beyond 140 characters especially, as she starts to assume the role of the nominee and, by default, the new leader of the Democratic Party.
For now, though, the strategy appears to be working for the candidate who seems to prefer strategic silence to scrutiny.
“It doesn’t work for everyone, but it certainly works for her because she’s already got the stature, and she’s actually done a really good job not weighing in on everything, because then her voice gets diluted,” one Democratic media consultant said. “Every five times she doesn’t comment makes the one time she does that much more effective.”
Last week, for example, she addressed the vaccine controversy late in the day after a media storm had already consumed her potential GOP rivals. “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids,” she wrote, using the hashtag “GrandmotherKnowsBest.”
“Social media moves fast, but slowing down can be a plus in certain situations, like Hillary Clinton’s. Because she has time, she doesn’t have to be the first to weigh in. “She can wait, see how it’s playing out and where the pitfalls are. She can sit on her perch and watch the game go on and insert herself when she is ready.”
“The platform gives her a chance to insert herself into the discussion in a really easy way that doesn’t require the traditional trappings of a campaign, but does allow her to get her words into the discussion,” he says. “Twitter is, in some ways unique, such as it’s like a press room, the place where the media discussion happens.”
Last month, during congressional debate over a spending measure that included revisions to the financial reform law, Clinton decided to enter the conversation that had been dominated by Elizabeth Warren. “Attacking financial reform is risky and wrong,” she tweeted. “Better for Congress to focus on jobs and wages for middle class families.”
Republicans don’t want Clinton to get away with this social media strategy for much longer, especially as a potentially divisive and long primary builds up on their side. This week, the Republican National Committee launched a “Hillary’s Hiding” campaign, tracking the number of times her campaign has declined to comment in articles and her lack of public appearances, especially in places like Iowa and New Hampshire.
“If she wants to lead the American people, surely she can face the American people,” Republican National Committee Communications Director Sean Spicer in a statement.
Clinton is reportedly expected to meet with the Mayor of London Boris Johnson during his visit to New York City on Wednesday, according to the Wall Street Journal. It should be an interesting meeting as the London Mayor once wrote in the Uk’s Daily Telegraph in November 2007, when Mrs Clinton looked the favourite to win the 2008 presidential election, Mr Johnson mused about whether he could support her candidacy.”She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital,” he noted.
Perhaps more damaging than his colourful remarks about her appearance was Mr Johnson’s conclusion that he thought Mrs Clinton should win in 2008 because it would bring Bill Clinton back to the White House:
For all who love America, it is time to think of supporting Hillary, not because we necessarily want her for herself but because we want Bill in the role of First Husband. And if Bill can deal with Hillary, he can surely deal with any global crisis.
Mr Johnson also made a reference to conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Vince Foster, a close friend of Mrs Clinton’s who killed himself with a gun in 1993.
Some opponents of the Clintons have suggested that he may have been killed and they had a hand in his death – a theory refuted by multiple official investigations.
In his column, Mr Johnson referred to “worrying allegations” about “the anomalies in the position of poor Vince Foster’s gun”.
He also said Mrs Clinton appeared to have spent her eight years as First Lady behaving like “a mixture between Cherie Blair and Lady Macbeth, stamping her heel, bawling out subordinates and frisbeeing ashtrays at her erring husband”.
When reminded about his eight-year-old comments by ITV News, Mr Johnson said: “I’m delighted to be able to meet Senator Clinton. I’m sure that whatever I’ve said in the past will be taken by the Senator who is a very distinguished politician in the light hearted spirit in which it was intended.”
Even his efforts to make amends may cause new issues.
While Mrs Clinton was once a senator from New York, and therefore entitled to be called “Senator Clinton”, that title was overtaken by her work as US Secretary of State.
Americans universally refer to her as “Secretary Clinton”, which may have been the title Mr Johnson was grasping for.
How much longer will Hillary be in hiding? Maybe we’ll just have to ask Boris after their meeting.