Hillary Clinton's press conference on Tuesday reminded viewers that beyond all of the scandals and politics, the former secretary of state just isn't that likable.
When Hillary first approached the podium, she was all smiles and held her head high; she looked at ease. 'Look at all the little people come to see me,' her demeanor seemed to suggest. She rattled off some information about the Clinton Foundation's latest report detailing the problems women face worldwide. She took a shot at Republicans for sending a letter to Iran. She then read from her prepared remarks addressing her ongoing email scandal.
But as the questions kept coming and moved beyond those that simply allowed her to reiterate her prepared remarks, Clinton became visibly irritated. Her answers were shorter and she began talking over reporters. Finally, a woman touched her arm and it was time to end the event.
If she expected the mainstream media to take her press conference as a signal to end the unflattering story, she was wrong. Politico's takeaway from her responses was that she was essentially telling the media to "go to hell."
Do a simple Google search for "Hillary Clinton" and the stories you'll see are about unanswered questions from her press conference or the problems with her responses or the errors in her remarks. The only favorable articles (more neutral than favorable, really) about her press conference come from her dig at Republicans over Iran.
So maybe the media won't let this go quietly. Republicans and Hillary's primary opponents certainly won't. But if Tuesday's press conference was an insight into Hillary's 2016 run, she failed.
She rarely takes questions from reporters and it's easy to see why. She doesn't like being questioned. The more she's questioned, the more unlikable she becomes.
This has been known for awhile, and it contributed to her 2008 downfall against the affable Barack Obama. At this time in 2007, Hillary was deemed "inevitable" and polls showed her well ahead of her Democratic challengers.
But then Obama happened. It could happen again, as there are plenty of Democrats who come across perfectly sociable — even some whose names have only briefly been mentioned as possible contenders.
Her Republican rivals — as gaffe-prone as the media wants them to seem — have been making themselves available for questions. Hillary has not. They have been forced to answer for things other Republicans say and do (such as Rudy Giuliani's remarks about Obama) in a way she never will be.That means the Republican candidates have been working to improve through experience how they handle themselves in the public eye. Clinton has not. She's been in the spotlight for three decades, yet she still cannot handle the press when under pressure.
It shows up in her favorability polling. Her approval ratings do well as long as she stays out of politics, and suffer every time she gets involved. She enjoyed high approval ratings when she became First Lady but lost ground when she was pushing HillaryCare — her health care reform. She had high approval through the Monica Lewinsky ordeal as the poor, deceived woman. Her approval took a nosedive when she ran for Senate and only improved when she stopped running for president.Her ratings soared above 60 percent when she was out of politics as secretary of state, but have plummeted below 50 percent now that she is widely perceived as a candidate for president.
Hillary is strongest wherever she is least seen. She could do well as a king- or queen-maker. But if she keeps trying to put herself out front, all the while hiding from scrutiny, she'll only be damaging her own aspirations.