The sentence jumps out of Hillary Clinton’s op-ed piece on how she’s been listening to “everyday Iowans.”
“We can fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment,” she writes in the Des Moines Register.
Um, is this the right time for Hillary to be talking about “unaccountable money”?
The optics of her fledgling campaign are mighty strange, almost like it exists in one universe and the media coverage occupies a parallel universe.
In her initial forays, Hillary is defiantly trying to avoid making news. Meeting with small groups of students and business owners, it’s all about the listening tour, the humble grandmother connecting with “everyday Iowans,” as she says in the piece. Pretty pictures, carefully choreographed scripts, and no hint of controversy.
But the media coverage of the campaign could not be more different. I’d say 99.9 percent of it is about the Clinton Foundation—which wealthy tycoons or foreign interests donated money or paid for Bill Clinton’s $500,000 speeches, who needed State Department approval for projects when Hillary Clinton ran the department.
With the candidate assiduously avoiding the press, Hillary is running one campaign and the media are covering another—a disconnect more dramatic than any I can recall in modern political history.
The Republican candidates, meanwhile, are engaging the media on their own issues—sometimes being put on the defensive, of course—or talking about the Clinton Foundation. Which Hillary isn’t talking about. Sometimes her surrogates are talking about it—mainly by attacking the messenger, conservative “Clinton Cash” author Peter Schweizer, although the New York Times, Washington Post and Fox News, among others, have done original reporting on the complicated story.
So which narrative will ultimately be persuasive to the voters: Hillary chatting about middle-class issues, or Hillary under fire for being the furthest thing from middle class?
Politico says Hillary, of “dead broke” fame, has always been the breadwinner in the family, having worked as a lawyer when Bill was drawing a $35,000 gubernatorial salary:
“Clinton’s compulsion to raise as much cash in the past two years (she commanded $200,000 to $300,000 a pop for anodyne spiels before such august groups as the National Association of Convenience Stores) doesn’t exactly fit in with her woman-of-the-people campaign. She had her reasons — Clinton dipped into her own savings to pay staffers before she formally announced earlier this month, a campaign spokesman told me. But her insistence on delivering paid speeches until the eve of her campaign announcement reflected a deeper pattern of behavior stretching back decades, a drive to maximize the family earning potential during periods when she’s off the public payroll, friends told me.”
Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor Joe Trippi is quoted as saying he doesn’t get it: “She had to give just one more speech? She just had to push it right up to the moment she announced? The family was going to fall off the cliff if she didn’t do that?”
Liberal Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus says Hillary is paying the price for a “toxic combination of sloppiness and greed.”
She says greed reminds her of “the Yiddish word, chazer. It means ‘pig,’ but has a specific connotation of piggishness and gluttony. This is a chronic affliction of the Clintons, whether it comes to campaign fundraising (remember the Lincoln Bedroom?), compulsive speechifying (another six-figure check to speak at a public university?) or assiduous vacuuming up of foundation donations from donors of questionable character or motives.”
In the end, without a smoking gun, the complicated allegations involving the foundation may blow over. But what won’t recede so quickly is the overall impression, fueled by media coverage, that the Clintons are up to their old shenanigans.
Staying in the bunker is ultimately a losing strategy, as we saw when a week of silence over her private email server led to that disastrous news conference. At some point, Hillary Clinton has to move beyond the photo ops and answer these questions. Only then can she reduce the huge gap between the way she is campaigning and the way she is covered.
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.