Anonymous Hillary Clinton Aides Think She’s Amazing: Part II in an Ongoing Series

Joe Hagan’s exclusive interview with Hillary Clinton is one of those stories that’s interesting largely because of the get. Clinton doesn’t say much about the issues that could hamper a 2016 presidential bid—nothing, for example, about Benghazi, or about the “reset” with Russia. (Whatever you think of that debacle, Republicans have let everybody know they’re going to hang her with it, portraying her as a heartless blunderer.) She does say that we might get to yes with the Russians if “we push hard.” Terrific!

It’s sort of fun to read Clinton come up with an analogy for endless 2016 talk, sure. “It’s like when you meet somebody at a party and they look over your shoulder to see who else is there,” she says, “and you want to talk to them about something that’s really important; in fact, maybe you came to the party to talk to that particular person, and they just want to know what’s next.” Not quite sure what that means, but it sounds profound.

No, what I took away from the piece, as I obsessively read in every Clinton story, is a delight in how the (possible!) candidate’s allies cling to anonymity like a plank from a capsized schooner. Hagan gets a record number of Clinton friends to actually talk, including Melanne Verveer (“She really learns from her mistakes”) and Tom Nides. But among the most bafflingly guarded quotes, the ones that couldn’t possibly offend anyone, the first from “a friend”:

“It’s kind of jarring when she says ‘Bill.’ Well, who’s Bill? And then you realize that she’s talking about her husband. It happened so infrequently that you were kind of like, Oh, the president.” 

From “a Clinton insider”:

“It’s business as usual. Keep your circle of advisers small, and then you structure things in a way that makes it economically possible for your close advisers to sustain themselves.”

From “a former State Depatrment aide”:

“I mean, she has all sorts of creative ideas, but that’s not how she operates. She is much more systematic.”

From “a person close to Hillary Clinton”:

“To the discredit of whoever is running a campaign, if that happens and they don’t use Bill Clinton—use his strategy, use his thoughts, take his dumb ideas and his great ideas and make sure they’re used effectively—they’re a moron.”

And from “a close aide at the State Department”:

“She felt like she was too closed off from what was happening across the expanse of the [2008] campaign. and that became a hallmark with the leadership in the State Department, and it served her incredibly well.”

To recap: Clinton is humble, strategic, and learns from her mistakes, and if she loses it’s because people don’t trust her and her husband enough. Great—why was any of this anonymous? Again, no disrespect to Hagan, who is operating under the rules of this beat and coming out with a newsy exclusive story. My pre-emptive peeve is that the Obama administration is looking ready to pass the Democratic baton to a coterie that’s even more ridiculous about controlling the press.