New calls to let Hillary be Hillary
© Getty Images

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts Hickenlooper announces Senate bid MORE is carefully dipping her toes into the 2016 waters — too carefully, some of her supporters say. 

Clinton’s allies say she’s been too cautious and scripted with some of her actions this year, such as when she was slow to put out a response to the August shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. 


They argue that if the former secretary of State learned one thing during the 2008 primaries, it was this: Voters like to see Hillary Clinton uncut and unvarnished, not deliberative and cautious. 

They prefer the Hillary Clinton who speaks off the cuff, cracks jokes and shows emotion.

They like the woman who dodged the shoe in Las Vegas and responded with a funny retort. Or the woman who made a spontaneous appearance on “The Daily Show” and quipped about wanting an office “with fewer corners.”

When she cried in New Hampshire ahead of the state’s primary in 2008, voters saw a rare glimpse of a relatable Clinton, and days later she pulled off a remarkable victory.

Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist who worked closely with Clinton when he served as the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy’s press secretary and an aide on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he’s witnessed a different Clinton behind the curtain.

“In years past, when I used to see her, I was often struck by how much more open she was behind the scenes than she was in her public persona,” Manley said, adding that there’s a “cautiousness based in part on the fact that everything she does is so heavily scrutinized.”

Asked if the cautiousness is something Team Clinton recognizes as a problem should she run in 2016, Manley continued, “If they’re looking for lessons from 2008, I sure as hell hope so.”

Clinton was the favorite in 2008, too, and ran a notably cautious campaign in trying to fend off then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Unlike the Obama campaign, for instance, she failed to highlight the historic nature of her campaign until her concession speech. And she was criticized for acting standoffish with the press.

She ended up placing second to Obama in the Democratic primary.

This year, her caution has been partially rooted in a desire to stay out of the news, particularly while she’s not a candidate and is out of public office.

Her first comments on the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson came on Aug. 28, weeks after the shooting had become headline news across the country. Clinton had been on vacation, but her absence from the public debate was notable and drew calls for her to weigh in from MSNBC host Al Sharpton. 

Clinton has also sought to avoid gaffes, such as when she spoke about how she and former President Bill Clinton were “dead broke” at the end of his presidency.

The remarks during a promotional appearance for her book Hard Choices, which may have been intended to make Clinton seem relatable, led to criticism that the former first lady was out of touch. It amounted to a major misstep that drowned out part of the message of the book tour.

“It did seem surprisingly tone-deaf,” said Katherine Jellison, a professor of history at Ohio University, adding that Clinton “overplayed her hand.”

“I think it showed her that she has to be more careful with her comments than when she was secretary of State,” said Jellison. “I think gaffes like that are what her advisers are helping her avoid.”

Clinton, who is not yet a formal candidate for the White House, is transitioning from her four years as secretary of State. She was followed at Foggy Bottom by a wonky and substantive State Department press corps — not a political press scrutinizing her every word.

During her time at State, Clinton seemed to relish the unscripted moment. She danced in South Africa, drank beer in Colombia and was in on the joke when two savvy public relations types came up with the now famous meme “Texts from Hillary.”

Over the weekend, when the Democratic front-runner in the presidential race visited Iowa, she held up her arms and quipped, “I’m ba-ack!” The crowd, looking for any sign that the former secretary of State would once again be running for president, reveled in the moment.

“I sensed she was being a bit more open in her body language,” said Jellison. “She had a more folksy persona than she does sometimes. She did seem loosened up a bit compared to some of her other appearances.”

Some in the Clinton orbit acknowledge Clinton is cautious — more so than her husband, who relishes retail politics.

But they argue those are “net positives.”

“ ‘Careful and cautious’ are different from ‘orchestrated and scripted,’ primarily in that the latter adjectives imply the candidate is being told what to do, which is not the case with her,” said a former Clinton aide who still maintains contact with the former secretary.  

Calls for Clinton to completely let her hair down in public are going to be in vain, the aide said.

In the end, Team Clinton doesn’t think that would suit her.

“Anyone expecting her to go Bulworth is dreaming and a Bulworth would never win, no matter how appealing to the media,” the aide said, referencing the eponymous 1998 film.