The media have been chattering about Hillary and 2016 for so long that it seems like her candidacy is old news.
All of the demurring from the former secretary of state as she was leaving office about how she wanted to take time to smell the roses seem lost in the blur of her giving speeches, working on the foundation she now shares with her husband and generally being out there.
All that was missing was engagement with the press. Knowing that every syllable would be parsed, Hillary kept her distance from journalists—until now.
In an interview with New York Magazine, Clinton addresses the prospect of a second White House bid, but with great circumspection.
Does she wrestle with running for president?
“I do,” she says, “but I’m both pragmatic and realistic. I think I have a pretty good idea of the political and governmental challenges that are facing our leaders, and I’ll do whatever I can from whatever position I find myself in to advocate for the values and the policies I think are right for the country. I will just continue to weigh what the factors are that would influence me making a decision one way or the other.”
See? It has not even been a year since Barack Obama was re-elected. She’s still deciding.
Not so fast. Joe Hagan’s New York piece begs to differ.
“Clintonworld, however, speaks with many voices—albeit many of them not for attribution,” he writes. “Some of her close confidants, including many people with whom her own staff put me in touch, are far less circumspect than she is. ‘She’s running, but she doesn’t know it yet,’ one such person put it to me. ‘It’s just like a force of history. It’s inexorable, it’s gravitational. I think she actually believes she has more say in it than she actually does.’”
And a longtime friend concurs.
“She’s doing a very Clintonian thing,” the friend says. “In her mind, she’s running for it, and she’s also convinced herself she hasn’t made up her mind. She’s going to run for president. It’s a foregone conclusion.”
What a formulation. Pay no attention to the potential candidate. She just doesn’t know it yet!
Nice one, because then a Clintonian denial simply says she’s still in denial.
Since Hillary always must be analyzed in psychodrama terms, the piece also says that her tenure at the State Department served as a liberation from Bill, and that Chelsea, taking on a bigger role in the foundation, is the new Clinton “gatekeeper.”
So what will HRC do?
“I’m not in any hurry,” she says.
But the media are.
The Pope, At Length
Pope Francis made worldwide headlines with his comments about gays, contraception and abortion. But what was equally remarkable, in my view, is the way in which he did it.
The Pope spoke in a lengthy interview obtained by America, the Catholic magazine, in conjunction with other Jesuit publications, which yielded a 12,000-word article that is stunning for its candor and nuance.
Some of his predecessors granted interviews, of course. But I can’t recall a sit down as rich and revealing as this, not just by a religious leader, but by just about anyone in public life.
We are so accustomed these days to politicians speaking in carefully massaged, poll-tested sound bites that it’s almost a shock when a famous person speaks like a real human being.
When Pope Francis said he was a “sinner,” it wasn’t just a “literary genre,” as he put it. He was also recalling how he was too “authoritarian” in his youth.
Kudos must go to Father Matt Malone, editor-in-chief of America, who pursued the long-shot interview, and Father Antonio Spadaro, who conducted it.
On “MediaBuzz” yesterday, Malone told me that Pope Francis is creating a whole new genre of papal communication.
Yes, the text had to be pre-approved by the Vatican, a condition that no news organization here would accept from an American politician (though some have given the White House “quote approval” for background conversations).
Malone was untroubled by the process, saying, "We actually have a dog in this fight as Catholic journalists. ...We consider ourselves a part of the church."
But the tone from the Vatican has clearly changed. This is a pope who is on Twitter, after all, a revolutionary move in itself. This is a pope who held a wide-ranging news conference while in flight with a group of reporters.
I suppose some might say that such accessibility reduces the mystery surrounding the papacy. But the former Jorge Bergoglio seems determined to be a humble leader who reaches a broader audience.
In the interview, his most widely quoted words involved his view that the church should not obsess on such issues as homosexuality.
“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” the pope said. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
But there was so much more, including this answer on the role of women in the church.
“I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man,” he said. “But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo. Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role.”
Pope Francis must have known his words would stir controversy, especially with the church’s more conservative and doctrinaire wing.
But he pressed ahead anyway. Whether you agree with his views or not, he did not sugarcoat them.
For the media, Pope Francis is a great story, especially after the Benedict years. But he is also proving remarkably adept at utilizing the media.
For the head of such a tradition-encrusted institution, this is a breakthrough.
The Beast Still Growling
Things looked grim for the Daily Beast, where I’d been Washington bureau chief, after Newsweek was sold.
Tina Brown announced she was leaving, and Barry Diller, who runs its parent company, IAC, refused to make any promises for the future.
But the staff can now breathe a sigh of relief. The interim CEO, Rhona Murphy, said in a memo that “the Daily Beast is not for sale and is not closing. IAC has approved in concept the operating budget for 2014.”
Executives are talking about giving the site a digital makeover. Still on the agenda after five years: making money.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.