Presidential races

Hillary makes nice with the press

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took time to hang out with the press Monday night, joking with a room packed with national political reporters about their sometimes-testy relationship, as she sought to hit the reset buitton with the press.

“I’m well aware that some of you may be a little surprised to see me here tonight. My relationship with the press has been at times, shall we say, complicated,” Clinton said to laughs at a dinner for the Robin Toner Program in Political Reporting in downtown Washington. 

“But I am all about new beginnings: A new grandchild, another new hairstyle, a new email account, a new relationship with the press,” she continued to guffaws from the reporters in the room, referencing her recent email scandal. “So here goes. No more secrecy. No more ‘zone of privacy,’ after all, what good did that do me? But first of all if you’ll look under your chairs you’ll find a simple non-disclosure agreement. My attorneys drew it up. Old habits last.”

{mosads}The stop is the latest effort from Clinton to turn over a new leaf and rebuild her relationship with reporters as she prepares for a presidential campaign launch many expect is imminent.

The Clinton campaign has rolled out a cadre of new hires known for their strong relationships with the press and lack of campaign drama, a shift from the often hostile relationships Clinton’s 2008 team had with many reporters.

Clinton has spent much of the last few weeks looking to correct the problems that plagued her 2008 campaign. Earlier on Monday she looked to shore up her left flank, speaking at the Center for American Progress alongside a number of labor leaders.

Clinton stuck around after her speech for close to half an hour chatting with reporters, a sign she’s going to look to be more open with the press this go-around.

But while Clinton was willing to joke about herself Monday night, she used the speech to challenge the journalists in the room to live up to the example of former New York Times reporter Robin Toner, who covered her for decades and died a few years ago.

Clinton described Toner as a reporter “who really liked to delve into the substance of the issues” and “understood the details really mattered,” before challenging the reporters covering her to step up and do the same rather than fall prey to “Twitter storms drowning out substantive dialogue and reporting.”

“It’s gotten even harder to do the kind of work that she did,” she said. “Every day, you, the reporters, the writers in this room are under more and more pressure from changes in technology and the marketplace and of course in our politics. You’re facing fundamental questions that may not fit into 140 characters but are nonetheless vital to our democracy.”

“We need more Robin Toners, more reporters who can cut through the noise and get to the hard truths that matter,” she said.

The likely presidential candidate didn’t get the last word, however, in a moment that suggested things won’t be completely hunky-dory going forward between Clinton and the press.

The Washington Post‘s Dan Balz, taking the podium to accept his award, offered to step down.

“I’m happy to yield my time back to you if you want to take some questions,” he said to laughs, tweaking Clinton for her recent penchant to do events without accepting press questions.

Clinton turned to the debate over ObamaCare on its fifth anniversary to prove her point.

“Over these five years we’ve heard plenty of scare tactics, wild claims about socialism and death panels, but not nearly enough about how to keep expanding access, lowering costs and improving quality,” she said. “These are complicated but very consequential questions.”

She took a shot at one of the event’s sponsors — Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America — asking rhetorically if the rising healthcare costs of most Americans were being driven because “too many pharmaceutical companies take advantage of the lack of competition to charge Americans the highest prices in the world” — and warned against the “new Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it.”

Clinton said improving healthcare coverage will be “impossible if we don’t have those in this room explaining what’s at stake.”

— Updated at 9:19 p.m.

Tags Hillary Clinton

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