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Clinton Seeks A 'New Relationship' With The Press


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. In the next few weeks, the field of presidential contenders will get a little more crowded. Ted Cruz announced his candidacy this past week. And in the next couple weeks, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are expected to throw their hats further hats in the ring. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is expected to announce next month as well. Hers is an unusual candidacy. She has no significant opposition, and that means she might find some challenges in the media. Joining us now is NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Hi, Mara.


MARTIN: So this past week, Hillary Clinton gave a speech at this awards ceremony for political journalists. And in it, she takes some digs at the press, right? What happened?

LIASSON: Well, this is an annual journalism award in honor of the late Robin Toner, who was a wonderful reporter who covered policy and politics equally well. And Hillary Clinton took the opportunity to make some remarks about her relationship with the press. Now hanging over her emerging campaign is this big question of what has she learned, will she be a different kind of candidate this time around? And she gave a few clues in her speech, unless she was only kidding. So let's take a listen.


HILLARY CLINTON: I am all about new beginnings.


CLINTON: A new grandchild, a new email account.


CLINTON: Why not a new relationship with the press? So here it goes. No more secrecy. No more zone of privacy. But first of all, before I go any further. If you look under your chairs, you'll find a simple nondisclosure agreement.


LIASSON: So ha-ha-ha. Anyone not living under a rock for the last 20 years would know that Hillary Clinton and her husband have been covered like no other politician. And she feels, sometimes justifiably, that sometimes she's been burned by the press. In the email controversy that she eluded to in learned to in that joke, her supporters complained about double standards, that Jeb Busch also had a server in his home and didn't turnover his personally-selected private email's till seven years after he left office. On the other hand, the Clintons have been fairly criticized, I think, of being overly secretive and often unduly defensive with the press.

MARTIN: So as you mentioned, the press scrutinized her for this use of a private email account during her time at the State Department. Where are things now? What's her relationship like with the media?

LIASSON: Well, I think it's TBD. The last time she took questions from reporters was at that United Nations press conference to answer questions about the email controversy. And it was a real Rorschach test. Politico pronounced the unspoken message of her appearance was, quote, "go to hell." Other reporters wrote that she answered the questions, quote, "through gritted teeth." And some people thought she worked pretty hard and succeeded in not looking defensive or angry or dismissive of the media's interest in this controversy. So going forward, her soon-to-be campaign aides say she is going to surround herself with people who do not share her previous bunker mentality. And her earlier hires in the communications department shows that that might be true.

MARTIN: Why does she care, though, Mara? I mean, doesn't it play to a politician's advantage sometimes to get angry with the press, to stand in opposition? I mean, the - it's a great target if you're trying to gin up populace kind of mentality?

LIASSON: Well, that's a very good question. Just go ask President John McCain what a good relationship with the press will get you. He loved hanging out with reporters for hours on end at the back of the bus. And they knew him, they understood his thinking, and they liked him. And he's not the president. And she is the most famous female politician in the world without a great relationship in the press. So why change? But people close to her say that if she approaches journalists with an attitude of mutual intellectual respect, she can develop familiarity. And that can help her because the more the press understands her thinking, the more these strategists suggest she can reduce the tension.

MARTIN: OK, so managing her relationship with the press is just one of the many challenges she will face with the potential candidacy. What are the others?

LIASSON: There are a lot them. First of all, she's running without a serious opponent. How do you use that kind of uncontested primary to set yourself up for a general election, hone your debate skills, etcetera? The other challenge is what's her rationale? Why is she running? Why is she the answer to the problems that middle-class families face now? She'll also have a challenge of how does she distance herself from President Obama in areas like foreign policy, where we know there have been differences, without looking like she's criticizing him? I would just say that all of these challenges are what Bill Clinton used to call high-class problems. There are plenty of other presidential hopefuls who would love to have these problems.

MARTIN: Mara Liasson, NPR's national political correspondent. Thanks so much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.