Clinton meets the press in rare Q&A

Hillary Clinton speaks to the Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, United States on Sept 8.
Hillary Clinton speaks to the Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, United States on Sept 8. PHOTO: REUTERS

Previous refusal to hold press conferences had critics saying she lacked transparency

WHITE PLAINS (United States) • A podium, a microphone, journalists, questions - on the tarmac at the White Plains airport, Mrs Hillary Clinton revived an ancient tradition that she appeared to have forgotten: the press conference.

Standing in front of a plane emblazoned with the logo of her campaign - an immense "H" with a red arrow through it - she denounced Republican rival Donald Trump, sketched out her vision for the fight against terrorism, and accepted one last question as she turned towards the stairs.

She heaped scorn on Mr Trump for asserting that Russian President Vladimir Putin was a better leader than US President Barack Obama, saying Mr Trump's praise for the authoritarian leader of an adversarial power "is not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our commander-in-chief, it is scary".

There was nothing very extraordinary about Thursday's scene. Except that the Democratic candidate's last press conference was on Dec 5 last year, an eternity in politics. Her stubborn refusal to submit to questioning by the press became fodder for critics who said she lacked transparency and that her approach to politics was too cold and calculating.

Online trackers kept count of the number of days that passed without a Clinton press conference.

 

The Trump camp and the Republican party happily stepped into the breach, denouncing her penchant for secrecy and needling her about her controversial use of a private server to send e-mails as secretary of state.

Then early this week, there was a change in the air: Not once but twice, the former first lady came back to the rear of the campaign plane to take questions from the 40 or so journalists travelling with her.

Diplomacy, the economy but also the polemics and grey areas surrounding her candidacy: standing in the cramped cabin of her plane, Mrs Clinton answered questions at length.

If she makes it to the White House, will her daughter Chelsea keep her ties with the Clinton Foundation? "We'll reach that if I'm elected," she said.

Are the Russians helping Mr Trump to win the elections?

She cites a saying in Arkansas, where her husband Bill was governor before becoming president: "If you find a turtle on a fence post, it didn't get there by accident."

Were these high altitude exchanges really a press conference? The journalists were divided.

Whatever the case, the long spell without a Clinton press conference definitely came to an end on Thursday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline 'Clinton meets the press in rare Q&A'. Print Edition | Subscribe