AUG. 3, 2016 — The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday, Aug. 3:
Hillary Clinton has less than 100 days to show the country why she, rather than Donald Trump, should be the next president. It’s time she started acting like the president she wants to become.
The first thing she can do is stop hiding from the news media. It’s been months since she has held a formal news conference, and even the relative handful of impromptu chats with campaign reporters she’s had this year have tended to last less than five minutes.
Surely, she doesn’t plan to conduct herself as president, should be elected, in such an aloof manner? So why do so now? Voters have every reason to hear how she would respond to questions, present new ideas, and show that she gets the fact that all politicians, even presidents, are accountable to the voters.
The media is far from perfect, but it remains among this nation’s best and most important bulwarks against tyranny. Its work certainly goes beyond participating in presidential — and candidate — news conferences, which are often overly deferential and sometimes manipulated.
News conferences act as a reminder that no matter how high the office, in this country, the official is accountable to the pesky impertinence of a free press.
But they are far more than mere ritual. News conferences — and any prolonged give and take with a free press — expose their subjects to the risk of being asked question they can’t avoid and whose answers cannot be spun. They subject the day’s pronouncements to a degree of in-person rigor that is otherwise entirely missing from the campaigns. And they act as a reminder that no matter how high the office, in this country, the official is accountable to the pesky impertinence of a free press.
Clinton has been able to get away with stiffing the media for months. Maybe she’ll get away with it for another three months. But we hope not. It’s a sad way of modeling the behavior she’ll use in the White House, should she be elected. Voters should and will take note.
But there’s another reason, too, why Clinton should both schedule a handful of news conferences and expand her engagement with the media after her campaign. Trump has engaged regularly with the media, and as a result has dominated that coverage of the campaigns. This no doubt is partly the fault of the media itself, but Clinton can hardly complain about being overlooked when she refused to engage in the first place.
Clinton has the opportunity to change that narrative by injecting her own ideas and voice into the coverage. Voters, and the media that works on their behalf, want to see her off script and spontaneous.
Many may conclude that she could do no worse than Trump, whose appearances seem to dull his luster daily. But if Clinton refuses to engage with the media at all, voters in both parties will be right to note that Trump’s opponent can’t be bothered to even try.
Clinton should engage with the press because Americans shouldn’t have to depend on candidates’ good graces to get answers to questions that pop up during a campaign. There are many things we’d like to hear more about from her, and not just in scripted commercials and heavily programmed public events. For instance:
•Her plans with regard to the Trans Pacific Partnership, the trade pact she touted as it was being negotiated but has since abandoned as insufficient. What does that mean in real terms? Will she oppose it altogether, or seek to somehow reopen negotiations to strengthen the deal?
•Her plans for the Islamic State and Libya. Just this week, President Barack Obama has widened the U.S. assault on the Islamic State into Libya, the same nation where Clinton worked so hard to empower rebels in 2011 to topple their dictator. The administration did not plan the next steps well, and the country has been in chaos ever since. We’d like to hear Clinton discuss whether she believes the president’s expansion of the war is wise and sufficient.