As we discussed yesterday, Hillary Clinton finally snapped her nearly month-long streak of completely avoiding media interaction, fielding five questions over a few short minutes following an event in Iowa. She served up a brief string of superficial, specious and incomplete replies, then called it a day. Her perfunctory performance underscored the lack of substantive answers the press has managed to wring out of Democrats' presumptive nominee, who hasn't consented to a bona fide sit-down interview in months. Mrs. Clinton's answers, such as they exist, are curt, shallow, and are subjected neither to follow-up probing nor challenge. This unsatisfactory state of play has spawned a flurry of columns and commentary proffering queries that journalists might hypothetically pose to the candidate, should she ever submit to extended questioning (this option is, no doubt, 'on her list for due consideration'). Ramesh Ponnuru's list of 16 questions for Hillary Clinton is well-conceived. A sampling:
2. Senator Elizabeth Warren says that a future Republican president could use trade promotion authority to undo financial regulation. Obama says that's nonsense. Who's right in your view?
6. What in your view has the U.S. intervention in Libya achieved?
7. The New York Times reported last year that you "seemed flustered" and gave a "halting answer" when asked for your greatest accomplishment as secretary of state. You eventually said that "we really restored American leadership in the best sense." Could you elaborate on what specific accomplishments you had?
10. You've said that you would go further than Obama in shielding unauthorized immigrants from deportation if Congress doesn't act. The Obama administration says that it has already done everything within its power. What legal steps do you think it has failed to take?
11. How much does the gender gap in wages reflect discrimination by employers, in your view, and how much does it reflect factors beyond employers' control?
16. Does a candidate's willingness to regularly answer questions from reporters tell us something about her attitude toward democracy?
Click through to read Ponnuru's relatively innocuous-seeming questions touching on Hillary's ongoing foreign donations and email scandals, as well as a straightforward challenge on the outer limits of her abortion extremism. Question two is an attempt to force Clinton to take sides in the increasingly bitter feud between two progressive icons on an issue that is dividing her party. She's stayed almost entirely silent thus far, offering only the most laughably anodyne of "insights" into her thinking on the matter. Question six puts Clinton on the spot to defend one of the most catastrophic misadventures of this administration's foreign policy, for which she personally advocated, developed and oversaw. Libya is now an unmitigated failure (much like Yemen, also once touted as a emblem of Obama-era success), a breeding ground for jihadists, and the latest base of operations for a surging Islamic State. And question seven presents Hillary with another opportunity to provide her baffled supporters with dearly-needed guidance on the "accomplishments" front. At the Daily Beast, Ron Christie suggests a Democratic equivalent to the retrospective Iraq War questions that have dogged and tripped up various Republican contenders (who, in fairness, actually accept and answer questions as a matter of course):
Rather than chase announced and presumed Republican candidates such as Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL)—gentlemen who weren’t in the Congress to cast a vote going to war with Iraq more than a decade ago—why won’t the media ask this question of America’s two top diplomats who have steered our foreign policy since 2009: If they knew then what they know now, would Clinton and Kerry still have supported President Obama’s decision to remove our troops in Iraq, which has led to a void now filled by ISIS? Do they agree that the president’s belief in December 2011 that the U.S. was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” that was a “moment of success” is still true today? The media should demand that the current administration account for the deterioration in Iraq as well as ask potential candidates on either side of the aisle running for president how they would move to stabilize the region.
What about that, Madam Secretary? In light of (a) the extraordinary American sacrifice to liberate and stabilize Iraq in a war that you voted to authorize, and (b) the terrifying rise and march of ISIS, was President Obama's utter abandonment of that country a mistake? Relatedly, Ponnuru asks, "given what we know now, were you right to oppose the surge of troops that President George W. Bush ordered into Iraq in 2007?" The surge was an empirical success -- one that Mrs. Clinton adamantly opposed, besmirching the character of our top general in the process -- because that's what the politics of the moment demanded. What other "bedrock principles" and deep-seated convictions might be subject to change in the future, based on polling and cynical self-interest? Hillary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq, voted against the Iraq surge, supported President Obama's decision to recklessly wash his hands of Iraq, called Syria's Assad a "reformer" before impotently demanding that he "must go," and avidly supported the disastrous, unauthorized Libya intervention. Here's Allahpundit paraphrasing MSNBC's Chris Hayes: "How many big intervention decisions does she get to be wildly wrong about before the media concludes that she’s not very good at foreign policy?" Video, via RCP: