Nets Provide Warm Welcome for Candidate Hillary Clinton with Fairly Easy Questions

Senator Hillary Clinton sat for interviews aired Monday night on all three broadcast network evening newscasts to promote her presidential candidacy, though only ABC’s World News got her live. CBS’s Katie Couric first pushed her from the left: “You're against sending additional troops to Iraq, and according to our latest poll, 66 percent of Americans agree with you. So why not vote to cut off funding so the President can't carry out this policy?” Couric did note that “some” call her health care policy management in the Clinton administration “a disaster” before worrying: “Even those who approve of you as a candidate have questions about your electability, some of those people. What would you say to them?” The “Couric & Co.” blog features a picture of Senator Clinton and Katie Couric, both smiling, posing together shoulder-to-shoulder.

NBC anchor Brian Williams treated her as a victim of the “burden” of celebrity: “Is it any kind of a burden for you, Senator, that so many opinions are pre-formed? Americans know Hillary Rodham Clinton.” And, in a question not aired, but posted in an online transcript, Williams fretted: “Because you've been a public figure, is it a burden for you to go back and amend or explain issues like health care, the vote for the war, things like that?” ABC’s Charles Gibson dared to raise a unique point: “You are a strong, credible, female candidate for President of the United States, and I mean no disrespect in this, but would you be in this position were it not for your husband?”Gibson pressed her from the right (“Would you take a pledge not to sign a bill that raised taxes?”) and then the left (“Can we finance this war without raising taxes?”) before echoing Couric: “Was your vote to authorize war in Iraq a mistake?”

Hillary Clinton will make the rounds of the mornings shows and cable channels on Tuesday, including MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann just before President Bush’s State of the Union address.

The MRC’s Brad Wilmouth collected the questions posed to Senator Clinton on CBS and ABC and I got the questions on NBC, all on the January 22 evening newscasts:
# Katie Couric interviewed Senator Clinton in the afternoon and highlights ran on the CBS Evening News:
- “Senator Clinton, you're against sending additional troops to Iraq, and according to our latest poll, 66 percent of Americans agree with you. So why not vote to cut off funding so the President can't carry out this policy?”

- “Let's talk about your candidacy. There are some people who say another Clinton administration, even if it's a different Clinton, will feel eerily like Groundhog Day. What would you say to them?”

- Couric, referring to Clinton’s promise to get back to “bold but practical changes, like universal health care” that were not possible during the Clinton administration: “In fact, some might say, Senator, that was a disaster when you headed that very committee.”

- “Senator Clinton, even those who approve of you as a candidate have questions about your electability, some of those people. What would you say to them?”

- “And what would you say to those who feel Barack Obama is a breath of fresh air after nearly 20 years of Clintons and Bushes?”

# Brian Williams in a pre-taped and edited interview conducted on the NBC News set aired on the NBC Nightly News:
- “This is not exactly how or when you planned to announce this. How else are you going to have to adjust to counter the presence of this Obama campaign, which is a surprise?”

- “So you had always planned to announce before the President's State of the Union address?”
Clinton: “That was our plan, yes.”
Williams: “What does the ‘Obama factor’ do to the Clinton campaign?”

- “Is it any kind of a burden for you, Senator, that so many opinions are pre-formed? Americans know Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

- “Well, you're one of the few alive who has seen exactly the journey that is ahead of you. I don't know if that helps or hurts.”
Questions not aired, but posted in MSNBC.com’s transcript:
- “Because you've been a public figure, is it a burden for you to go back and amend or explain issues like health care, the vote for the war, things like that?”

- “Are you troubled at all? I noticed in the weekend's New York Times, they're already out interviewing voters on the street who are starting to say, ‘You know, we like her plenty as a senator. She's been a great Senator.’ You'd like to be more than that. Does that, ‘She's been a great Senator’ movement concern you?”

# On ABC’s World News, Charles Gibson interviewed Senator Clinton live via satellite. His questions:
- “As we said, a well-known name was added to the list of White House hopefuls this weekend, New York Senator Hillary Clinton. Her announcement immediately shifted the race for President into higher gear. Senator Clinton joins us now from Washington. Good to have you with us, Senator. I'd like to get your mission statement if I could, in 20 or 30 seconds, as to why you think you should be the person elected President.”

- “A lot of people think you've been running for President for years, but you said you were undecided, we took you at your word, can you tell me was there a moment that tipped the scales and you said okay, this is it, I'm going to run and this is why?”

- “You are a strong, credible, female candidate for President of the United States, and I mean no disrespect in this, but would you be in this position were it not for your husband?”

- “Let me get to some of those. I'm constrained by time because you wanted to do this interview in an unedited fashion, and so I'd like to lay down some benchmarks on issues that I hope we'll talk about more in the coming year, and I've tried to frame these as close as I can to yes and no questions. Would you take a pledge not to sign a bill that raised taxes?”

- “Can we finance this war without raising taxes?”

- “Was your vote to authorize war in Iraq a mistake?”

- “Is Barack Obama qualified to be President?”

- “Yeah, but that's something of a dodge. In your mind, is he qualified to be President?”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center