Hillary Clinton could have campaigned on big ideas, she told Vox’s Ezra Klein in an interview Tuesday morning. But “unlike either my primary opponent [or] my general election opponent,” she said, “I would have been hammered all the time.”
“I don’t think I’m held to the same standard as anybody else,” she explained.
Klein had asked her if the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump might show that a presidential campaign should offer big ideas and inspiration, rather than technocratic details. While other politicians might get away with sweeping promises, Clinton responded, she’d be questioned at every turn during her 2016 presidential campaign: “How are you going to do that? Where’s the money going to come from?”
She wasn’t entirely clear on what she meant about different standards. Among other roles like first lady and secretary of state, she noted that Americans also know her as a former legislator, so they wouldn’t let her get away with claiming Congress would work out the kinks in her big plans.
Unspoken in her exchange Tuesday, of course, was the question of Clinton’s gender, which is inextricably bound to how she’s perceived. Would Americans have been receptive to a broader, more transformative message from their first female major-party candidate for president? Would they have been receptive to such a message from Clinton in particular, a woman so vilified and mistrusted by some segments of the electorate that she was routinely portrayed as a witch?
Maybe it doesn’t matter, because making big promises and figuring out the facts later has never been Clinton’s style. Had she come out with a bigger message, she said, she would have been “hit with a thousand different legitimate questions” and she would have felt an “obligation to answer,” because “policy matters.” Say what you want about Hillary Clinton — she does her homework.
For this, though, she’s faced criticism: After the first presidential debate in September, Chuck Todd of MSNBC called her “overprepared.” Donald Trump, meanwhile, was “filled with emotion” in Todd’s analysis, as Danielle Paquette noted at the Washington Post.
Clinton’s comment about being held to different standards may read like sour grapes to some, especially those who want a full-throated apology for her campaign missteps. But it’s hard to argue that she’s wrong.