NYT's Haberman on CNN: Hillary 'Uneven;' Will 'Get Better Over Time'

July 8th, 2015 3:59 PM

On Tuesday's Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN, the New York Times' Maggie Haberman did her best to downplay Hillary Clinton's weaknesses, particularly in light of her recent interview with CNN's Brianna Keilar. Haberman asserted that the former first lady was "uneven" during the interview, but quickly added that Mrs. Clinton is "somebody who tends to get better over time." The journalist also played up how "in smaller settings, she [Clinton] tends to be warm, engaging, funny." [video below]

Haberman and CNN correspondent John King gave their take on the Clinton interview during two segments on Cooper's program. The host first underlined that "for all the topics that Hillary Clinton covered in the interview, it does seem like her comments about Donald Trump have probably gotten the most attention, which kind of tells you all you need to know about the dynamics of this race right now."

King replied, in part, by pointing out the "energy and the passion and the emotion in her eyes when she's giving those answers [on Trump], compared to when she's being asked, why don't people trust you....It tells you a lot about what she wants to talk about, and what she just wants to shut down as fast as she can."

The CNN anchor then turned to Haberman and noted Jeb Bush's attack on Mrs. Clinton on immigration. The New York Times correspondent brushed aside the former governor's offensive: "He sees an opening, but actually, that comment is not going hurt her. She is appealing – she is running to the left of President Obama on this issue. So she is able to present that to her voters – I'm the person who Jeb Bush is concerned about on this topic; please vote for me. That's not a problem, in terms of the Democratic base."

Later in the first segment, Cooper did spotlight the CNN poll results on how 57 percent of American think the Democrat isn't honest and trustworthy. Haberman did acknowledge the issue, but zeroed in on Mrs. Clinton's targeting of Donald Trump on the immigration issue:

ANDERSON COOPER: ...Maggie – you know, Brianna asked her, I think, twice about the untrustworthiness issue, and it is a real issue for her. You look at the poll numbers: the majority of Americans say they do not trust her, and those number have gotten worse for her in the past – in the past year. I mean, early on, one of the things about – that people said about Hillary Clinton – her supporters – is that, well, she's a known quantity. Well, if she's a known quantity and the majority of Americans don't trust her, that doesn't seem to bode well.

HABERMAN: Well, the way that her people would look at it, is to say – and they're not wrong – this is a problem if this race is in a vacuum. This race is not in a vacuum. We're going to be running against somebody in a general election. And so, those negatives will be what they will be, and I think they assume, based on a number of statements – including you're seeing – she is trying to make the entire Republican Party own Donald Trump-

COOPER: Right. She's saying – she's basically trying to equate his views with the rest of the GOP-

HABERMAN: Correct, correct – and she is going to do that repeatedly. And frankly, there has been an opening that's been created for that to happen. So the hope is going to be, on the Democratic side, that they are going to make the Republicans so – their negatives so high; so toxic to her voters – to Hispanic voters especially – that it's not going to be that big a problem.

But obviously, she has taken a hit, and I think the fact that she has not answered a lot of these questions – I was in New Hampshire over the weekend – and the number of her voters who said to me in Hanover, New Hampshire on Friday – you know, I really like her, but I would like her to talk about these e-mails. I would like her to answer questions on these issues – these quote/unquote speed bumps was the word a bunch of them used repeatedly – they do want to hear from her.

During the second segment, the New York Times correspondent gave her "uneven" label regarding the Clinton interview overall, but quickly added her "better over time" take regarding the candidate:

COOPER: Maggie, just overall, what do you – how do you think she did in – in this? How do you think she comes across?

HABERMAN: I think it was uneven. There were parts where she seemed very comfortable, parts where she did very well. There were parts where she seemed very uncomfortable – specifically, talking about the e-mails; less so, the foundation, actually – but talking about the e-mails – that is clearly still a topic she is not really enjoying discussing. And she said a couple of things that I was a little surprised by – one, that there was no subpoena. There was a subpoena. She may not consider it legitimate. She may not consider it – she may consider it a political machination – but there was a subpoena. She also said, I didn't have to turn over anything. That did surprise me, because it is technically true – there's no law; there's no anything – but she was doing all of her business on this private e-mail, and there certainly was some government business – some of these records are supposed to kept – there were regulations to that effect. They became much stronger after she left the State Department – but there were some – some form of regulations in effect.

I think that Hillary Clinton is somebody who tends to get better over time. She is not a natural campaigner. She does not like doing these interviews typically. And so, she tends to need a while to get used to doing them again, and – and this reminded me why.

COOPER: Do you think that's why she's being, kind of, not doing any interviews for – now that there – this is, kind of, her getting her – her engine started?

HABERMAN: Sort of. I mean, I think that – I think it's a couple of things. But I think, primarily – look, when she says I wanted to run a campaign early on that was small, where I can interact directly with voters, that is definitely true. And part of the campaign's aim was really, sort of, bringing this person who had been secretary of state – had been traveling around the world for four years – down to earth, for a lack of a better way of putting it. It was about creating, sort of, a comfort zone for her. But at this point, what we saw over the weekend at this parade in New Hampshire, where she was being screamed at by protesters – that was out of her comfort zone. It was an uncontrolled event and the first one. A national interview like this – this is out of her comfort zone historically. She's much better with the local press – always has been.


COOPER: It's interesting – you know, Maggie? Because I mean, the people who like her are fierce – and know her – are fiercely loyal to her, and say that, in small groups, she is incredibly impressive. And yet, on television, to your point earlier – at least early on, that doesn't necessarily come across.

HABERMAN: When she is feeling the burden of, sort of, a political campaign, she tends to be very different. When she did her interviews, with a couple of exceptions, for her book last year, she actually was pretty good. She made a couple of very high profile mistakes, but generally speaking, she handled them well. When there is pressure, she was good in the fall campaigning for other people. But doing for your self is very different. It is true that in smaller settings, she tends to be warm, engaging, funny. When she does off the record encounters with press – which she really hasn't done this cycle – she tends to be much better.

The one thing she said that I was very struck by is, essentially, she said...these character campaigns have been run against me and husband for years. And she made the point that this has been done against her in New York twice, and she won as senator. That is true. Essentially, if she doesn't have an issues problem. What she has is character problem. She's going to make this about the Republican issues, and that is what you're going to see this race shifting forward.