For a presidential candidate who has consistently gone to great lengths to isolate herself from the media, Hillary Clinton partially conceded to reporters’ persistent demands last week — a choice met with begrudging approval. She allowed her traveling press corps to fly with her, instead of in a separate plane, for the first time in her 16 month-long campaign. In addition, she gave her first press conference in nearly 300 days. This is just the most egregious example of her long running trend of shutting out the press. As Americans’ trust in government continues to plummet, Clinton’s tendency to sidestep media inquiries does not inspire confidence in her ability to run a transparent administration. In an election that has been decidedly anti-press, even the better of two candidates has bucked more than 50 years of precedent by barring reporters from her plane
Even when Clinton acquiesced to the standard by allowing the traveling corps to fly with her, the attempt seemed halfhearted at best. The press was separated from the candidate herself by rows of seats and a security detail, preventing the kind of off-the-record moments important for building general trust with reporters, and by extension, the public.
While this is a welcome change from Clinton’s usual guarded attitude, it is problematic that it took a year for her campaign to take this basic step. The precedent that these actions set is beyond disconcerting. Rarely are candidates more transparent during their presidency than they were during their campaign. President Obama insisted during his campaign in 2008 that his administration would be one of the most transparent in modern history, yet it has proven to be one of the most secretive. This does not bode well for those who suggest that Clinton’s press oversights are merely accidental or insignificant.
Transparency, at every level of government, should be the goal of all candidates. For Clinton, lack of trustworthiness has been a frustrating barrier between her and the voters. This essentially guarantees that, if elected, her presidency will be excessively scrutinized from day one by the media and watchdog groups wary of her spotty record with journalists. This watchful eye, however, should be the norm for every candidate and every presidential administration. As citizens, we all have a stake in the decisions of our government, and therefore, we should all be advocates for open recordkeeping. Every decision made in the White House eventually trickles down in some way to the individual. While we should be able to trust our government to make those choices, we must also be able to ensure people in power do not make those decisions lightly.
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