Media Buzz

October surprises: How Wikileaks and ObamaCare hikes are shaking up the race

'MediaBuzz' host Howard Kurtz weighs in on the recent WikiLeaks dump that reveal Clinton's aides referring to her 'terrible' instincts

 

This roller-coaster campaign has a couple of twists and turns left, and that’s not good news for the woman who many in the media are ready to inaugurate.

The reasons:

--The spike in ObamaCare premiums and dwindling insurance options gives Donald Trump a much-needed issue against Hillary Clinton, a longtime champion of universal health care.

--The latest Wikileaks dump shows that Clinton’s own inner circle was worried about her dissembling and reluctance to apologize over the email mess, even as the campaign ripped the press for raising those questions.

--The media are a bit bored with the story line that she’s clobbering him and want the race to tighten.

The hacked emails of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta have largely been background noise in recent weeks, their most troubling disclosures mainly involving staffers or complicated scenarios. But now we have Podesta himself and former Clinton aide Neera Tanden writing frankly about Hillary’s penchant for secrecy and terrible political judgment.

It’s harder to explain away—though the campaign always emphasizes that this is stolen material probably purloined by Russian hackers—when your own people criticize you so harshly.

Podesta ripped two longtime loyalists, lawyer Cheryl Mills and spokesman Philippe Reines, along with Clinton attorney David Kendall, for not being “forthcoming on the facts.” And Tanden, who now runs the Center for American Progress, agreed: “They wanted to get away with it.”

Nor did Podesta let Hillary off the hook: “A lot has to do with her instincts.” Tanden concurred again: “Her instincts can be terrible.”

When the press was harping on the fact that Clinton would not apologize for having a private server, and campaign officials were pushing back hard, it turns out that some privately agreed with the critics. When all Clinton could muster, in an interview last year with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, was that she was “sorry this has been confusing to people,” Tanden wrote: “Everyone wants her to apologize. And she should. Apologies are like her Achilles heel.” And days later, Tanden was still frustrated: “This apology thing has become like a pathology.” Finally, Clinton apologized for her “mistake” with ABC’s David Muir.

What was striking, even accounting for the blunt things said in the middle of damage-control frenzy, is how the aides’ criticism of Clinton matched what many of her critics have been saying.

The disclosure that ObamaCare premiums are rising an average of 25 percent—more in some states, less in others—has provided a measure of vindication for the program’s conservative detractors. It has also given Trump, who wants to repeal ObamaCare, new ammunition against Clinton, who wants to reform it—in part by increasing government subsidies.

The steep premium hikes, and dwindling insurance options in some areas, make clear that President Obama oversold the program. At the same time, millions more are now covered, including young people under 26 and folks with preexisting conditions. And because 85 percent of those in the program get subsidies, the rate hikes will affect only about 7 million people.

Now Trump clearly bobbled a statement about his own employees being affected by ObamaCare—only a small percentage are, his company pays the rest—but that doesn’t neutralize the larger issue. And that issue has enabled Trump to go back on the offensive.

Finally, the press has been hungry for a new story line so people don’t check out in the final two weeks. The Wikileaks dump, ObamaCare news and some tightening polls in Florida are all it takes. Perhaps the media will shelve the speculation about Clinton’s Cabinet and treat this once again as a horse race.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.