December 28, 2007

Ask Me No Questions ...

As the Iowa caucuses approach, the time has come for risk-taking for those who trail, and risk avoidance for those who lead. Hillary Clinton has decided to take the latter approach, even though she has dropped into a dead heat in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Peter Nicholas reports that Hillary has stopped taking questions at campaign appearances:

As she races through Iowa in the days before next week's caucuses, Hillary Clinton is taking few chances. She tells crowds that it’s their turn to “pick a president,’’ but over the last two days she has not invited them to ask her any questions.

Before the brief Christmas break, the New York senator had been setting aside time after campaign speeches to hear from the audience. Now when she’s done speaking, her theme songs blare from loudspeakers, preventing any kind of public Q&A.

She was no more inviting when a television reporter approached her after a rally on Thursday and asked if she was “moved’’ by Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Clinton turned away without answering.

Retail politics, especially in Iowa, always includes accessibility. If all Hillary wanted to do was to broadcast messages, she could buy television ad time. In order to get voters to caucus for a candidate, they have to get inspired to show up and stand their ground with all of their neighbors watching. Stonewalling hardly serves as inspiration.

This also plays directly into her negatives. Hillary is seen as haughty, arrogant, and ill-tempered. Refusing to answer questions underscores every one of those characteristics, especially when asking for support from voters. Iowans certainly should ask themselves why Hillary feels she cannot handle extemporaneous questions -- especially after the revelations of planted questions at earlier events.

No one else has refused to take questions on the stump, in Iowa or anywhere else. Spokespeople for both Barack Obama and John Edwards told Nicholas that they have no plans to stop engaging with people on the campaign trail, and no Republican has even considered it. It looks like an admission that Hillary cannot be trusted to respond to honest questions without extensive support from her campaign team. This certainly reflects on her ability to handle the job for which she's campaigning, and prompts the question of who exactly will be in charge if she succeeds in getting it. (via Memeorandum)

UPDATE: Let's put up today's Hot Seat poll, which asks about Hillary's experience, courtesy of John Hinderaker at Power Line:


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