If she doesn’t run, the single biggest factor holding her back will be the media, according to an informal survey of three dozen friends, allies and former aides interviewed for this article. As much as anything else, her ambivalence about the race, they told us, reflects her distaste for and apprehension of a rapacious, shallow and sometimes outright sexist national political press corps acting as enablers for her enemies on the right.
Clinton isn’t insane, and she’s not stupid. “When you get beat up so often, you just get very cautious,” says Mike McCurry, her husband’s former press secretary, who joined the White House team to find a first lady traumatized by the coverage of her failed Hillarycare initiative. “She [has] had a very practical view of the media. … ‘I have to be careful, I’m playing with fire.’”
And while the white-hot anger she once felt toward the media has since hardened into a pessimistic resignation (with a dash of self-pity), she’s convinced another campaign would inevitably invite more bruising scrutiny, as her recent comments suggest. Public life “gives you a sense of being kind of dehumanized as part of the experience,” she lamented a few weeks ago to a Portland, Ore., audience.
“You really can’t ever feel like you’re just having a normal day.”
When asked why Clinton hasn’t done more to reach out to reporters over the years, one Clinton campaign veteran began to spin several theories. She was too busy, she was too prone to speaking her mind and the like—then abruptly cut to the chase:
“Look, she hates you. Period. That’s never going to change.”
Where does her hatred of the media comes from?
But consider this recent speech by one of the more improbable rising stars in Clintonworld: her tormentor-turned-defender David Brock, who exposed many of the ugliest Arkansas scandals of the Clinton years when he was a conservative investigative reporter in the 1990s. “Fox has accused Hillary Clinton of murder, compared her to a murderer and suggested she commit suicide,” Brock told a crowd at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service in March, arguing that she’s the ultimate victim of “misogyny.”