The Democrat lets reporters trail her but tucks them away to keep them out of sight and herself out of reach.
By Annie Karni
Hillary Clinton has never felt comfortable with the traveling political press.
As first lady, she would sometimes arrange travel for herself and Chelsea separate from her husband, partly to avoid the protective pool of reporters assigned to the president. In 2008, she “fought tooth and nail,” former aides said, to avoid sharing the plane with her press corps and relented only when her campaign was running out of money and had to either bring the reporters on board or downgrade to commercial.
And in 2016, with plenty of cash and a winning position in the race, Clinton has managed to keep the press at arm’s length – preserving her private plane as a refuge where the only people around are her trusted campaign aides.
That changes on Labor Day, when the reporters and their press-leery candidate will for the first time board a “Stronger Together”-wrapped 737 from New York to Ohio to Iowa, and remain flying companions for the final stretch of the campaign.
Her team insists Clinton is on board with the set-up, despite her distrust of the national media. “She does understand that there is very good reason why it’s important for everyone to be together in the thick of a general election,” said her traveling spokesman Nick Merrill. “We’re going wrap the plane in blue and get on it together. There’s a desire to be efficient and be able to do things a little more impromptu.”
But closer quarters are no guarantee of a new level of access. “The times she’ll go back and schmooze will be few and far between,” predicted one longtime Clinton ally. “She’ll send other people back there, instead.”
Indeed, trailing Clinton since she has become the Democratic nominee has been less about developing a relationship with the candidate and more like a sensory deprivation experience.
When she’s speaking at a fundraiser, reporters camped outside can sometimes hear a muffled voice but can rarely make out her actual words. When she’s greeting voters at a coffee shop or on a rope line after a rally, the former secretary of state often looks right through the reporters hovering around her, like they don’t exist. And when she does acknowledge their physical presence, she smiles through the questions barked at her and encourages reporters to sample a coffee, or a chocolate, instead.
There are full days when the rotating pool of traveling press does not even set eyes on Clinton (in one instance earlier this month, Clinton slipped out to Martha’s Vineyard from New York, ditching the pool of reporters assigned to cover her altogether).
Certainly, the past month has been somewhat out of the ordinary for the campaign — Clinton has been on a cash dash, spending the bulk of the end of summer at private, closed-press fundraisers rather than public events. (Twice, she popped up to call into cable television programs.) But there has hardly been a halcyon period of accessibility since she launched her campaign 18 months ago.
As she enters the final stage of the race sparking new hopes of accessibility on board Hill Force One, here is a sampling from life on the road with Clinton, culled from the print pool reports for the last 20 days:
Drowned Out By a Jet Engine, Aug. 31: Clinton’s plane landed in Cincinnati, from East Hampton, ahead of her speech to the American Legion. On the tarmac, Clinton was greeted by a group of county Democratic party chairs. But, “your pooler was not close enough to hear any conversations over the noise of the plane.”
They Paved Paradise and Put up a Parking Lot, Aug. 30: Clinton hit up three big fundraisers in the Hamptons. While she raked in the cash, the pool didn’t have much to report on. “Pool was unable to hear a word of HRC’s remarks at first cocktail party. She also took questions, which pool was also prohibited from hearing.”
At an evening fundraiser hosted by Jimmy Buffett, Clinton was inside dancing with Paul McCartney, according to attendees. Pool reporters were stationed about 400 yards away from the house, “among the parked cars.”
Basement Blues, Aug. 29: While Clinton entertained donors who coughed up $33,400 a head to attend a Hamptons fundraiser at the home of Jay Snyder, there was “no chance of your pool hearing Clinton here. We are being held in a quaint, but lovely guest house, while Clinton is in the main house.” Earlier in the day, there was a brief window at a fundraiser when the pool could hear Clinton’s remarks. That was quickly remedied. “Staff shooed us into a hidden room farther in the basement out of earshot.”
Exclusive Interview with a Caretaker, Aug. 28: Clinton attended four fundraisers in the Hamptons. In Bridgehampton, pool “had a funny exchange with the man who described himself as the caretaker of the house where we waited. He asked when we were leaving to go into the fundraiser and see her. We told him no, we aren’t allowed to do that. He seemed incredulous.” Pool reported no sighting of Clinton the entire day.
Intel Briefing, Aug. 27: Clinton attended her intelligence briefing in White Plains, while the pool loitered in a parking lot outside. Pool was driven out to Sag Harbor while Clinton returned to her Chappaqua home, post briefing, and did not know her whereabouts for the rest of the day.
Chocolates > Questions, Aug. 25: Clinton popped into Hub Coffee Roasters after a rally in Reno. There, she ignored questions about Donald Trump lobbed at her from the reporters in the coffee shop. Instead, she encouraged them to sample Dorinda’s Chocolates. “It’s really good!” she said.
Muffled Mumblings, Aug. 24: Hillary Clinton attended a full day of fundraisers in California, but at the end of a long day that ended at 10 p.m., “pool lost sight of the motorcade as it pulled into the hotel garage, marking a full day without a glimpse of Clinton.” While Clinton raised money at the estate of Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, the pool didn’t even catch a glimpse of the house, instead “we have to hold at a nearby restaurant.” At a fundraiser earlier in the day, “pool could hear Clinton’s voice, but could not make out any exact words.”
The Wave, Aug. 23: In Burbank, California, as Clinton entered Justin Timberlake’s mansion for a fundraiser, pool reported that Clinton “waved to us.” Also, a Jennifer Aniston sighting.
Magic Johnson’s Driveway, Aug. 22: After a fundraiser at Magic Johnson’s house, pool “was able to see Magic wave goodbye to HRC from the driveway.”
We Can Hear Her! Aug. 21: Clinton attended a fundraiser headlined by Cher in Provincetown. The pooler was able to catch snippets of Clinton’s remarks, which touched on issues like infrastructure, health care, mental health and the fact that she plans to include LGBT people in her administration. “Friends don’t let friends vote for Trump,” Clinton told the audience.
Martha’s Vineyard, Aug. 20: At a fundraiser on the island, attended by both Clintons, pool didn’t have as much luck as in Provincetown. “At one point we could hear HRC’s voice followed by large cheers, but nothing more.”
Stranded in New York, Aug. 19: Straight from the pool report: “Clinton went out to Martha’s Vineyard a day early, without the pool. Although we had a pooler on standby in New York, the campaign told us about this development only after the fact.”
Ignoring Questions, Aug. 17: Clinton ignored questions shouted at her about Trump’s campaign shakeup, while she took a tour of John Marshall High School in Cleveland, ahead of a rally there, one of her two public events of the past two weeks.
Police Reporting, Aug. 11: Sitting at a Starbucks across from Clinton’s Chicago fundraiser, pool noted that “opposite us on Wabash Avenue a blue minivan is on fire.” Pool called 911. When Clinton departed about 90 minutes later, pool had “abandoned its position at the Starbucks on Wabash — opposite the charred husk of the minivan — to get a glimpse of her on the way out. No such luck.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/hillary-clinton-reporters-press-227700#ixzz4JFnC9Gwn