Former first lady of Arkansas, former first lady of the United States, former senator from New York, former secretary of state and -- by all appearances -- future candidate for presidency, Hillary Clinton, has been part of public life for more than 30 years, but her appearance this week before reporters revealed much about her that we had never known.
Clinton's performance on Tuesday at a news conference at the United Nations came after a week during which she avoided public discussion about why she had used her personal email to carry out public business while serving as secretary of state.
Her appearance provides a window into her personality and her process and revealed an image far different from the one she has cultivated over the years.
In the best of all worlds, news conference participants answer reporters' questions honestly and openly and give themselves an opportunity to get out their messages. After the news conference is finished, reporters report and life moves on. In really well-handled news conferences, the performance of the party handling the tough questions can enhance that person's persona.
In poorly run press conferences, on the other hand, newsmakers are not truthful, do not provide answers, and raise more questions than they answer. Poor performances can lead to a downgrading of a public figure's persona.
This news conference ended up in the middle: Answers were given, but not all questions were answered; the issue was not put to bed. What was most startling initially -- but upon reflection makes sense -- was the poor performance of the principal party.
After all, If Clinton fumbles a news conference about work/ personal emails, how can we expect her to handle more difficult issues?
She appeared tired, and the campaign has not yet started.
She appeared to be reading notes for her opening statement and referred to the notes throughout the news conference. While this focus may have helped her stay on message, it made the event appear staged and made her appear stiff, as if she were acting out the role of the underling staffer for her campaign rather than the principal with intimate knowledge of the event.
Clinton's message of convenience fell flat after a week of "no comment."
When she finally addressed the questions, she appeared too evasive, bored or tired.
She showed that she lacks her husband's charm and affability, and left journalists wanting real answers.
Poor delivery was made worse with poor messaging:
"I opted, for convenience, to use my personal email account," she said. "Looking back, it would've been better if I'd simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn't seem like an issue."
Convenience over effort; hindsight better than foresight. Not the best messages for a presidential candidate.
"The vast majority of" the emails "went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system," according to Clinton. But that raises another question: What about those that were not in the vast majority?
When asked about the process she used to separate personal emails from private ones, Clinton responded, "We went through a thorough process to identify all of my work-related emails and deliver them to the State Department. At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal emails."
The other emails are all gone -- deleted.
When asked, "could you answer the questions that have been raised about foreign contributions from Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, that abuse women or permit violence against women to the family foundation and whether that disturbs you?" Clinton gave a non-answer answer, noting, "So I think that people who want to support the foundation know full well what it is we stand for and what we're working on."
And the email math simply doesn't add up. Maybe her aides processed most of her communication while she was at State -- in which case, this should have been the lede a week ago. Clinton noted that "the process produced over 30,000, you know, work emails" that were then passed over to the State Department. Based on four years of work, this equates to 21 emails per day during her tenure. I get more emails than that in my personal email account spam file alone, and I'm not secretary of state.
Poor messaging; half-hearted delivery.
Tough, hardened, sure of herself, and moving forward whatever the cost. Hillary opted for convenience, but for her it just hasn't worked out that way.