Hillary Clinton gave her first formal press conference in more than nine months on Thursday and, all things considered, it was a non-event.
Which might make you wonder: Why did it take so long?
In recent weeks, the national media have been clamoring for Clinton to take formal questions from the press. Her refusal to meet reporters on their terms was described by turns as “troubling” (by Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post) and “beyond ridiculous” (by her colleague Chris Cillizza).
It was also strategic: Donald Trump was out on the campaign trail drawing negative headlines nearly every day, and there was no reason to risk a gaffe or controversial remark that might get in the way of that.
But in the wake of a performance at Wednesday night’s NBC “Commander-in-Chief Forum” that some observers saw as sub-par, Clinton appeared to have decided it was finally time to meet the demands of her press corps. She had held gaggles over Labor Day weekend; now, she would take questions from the podium.
Standing on the tarmac at the Westchester County Airport, the Democratic presidential nominee spent four minutes slamming Trump as ill-informed on foreign policy before fielding five questions from reporters.
The five questions ranged from polls to process to policy specifics, but none seemed to faze Clinton.
Asked why she didn’t have a more commanding lead over Trump, she said the race was always going to be close but her campaign was “in a strong position.”
Asked about her promise to not put troops in Iraq, she reiterated her belief that “putting a big contingent of American grounds troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria would not be in the best interest in the fight against ISIS an other terrorist groups.”
Asked to respond to a criticism from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus that she was too serious and didn’t smile enough at Thursday night’s forum — a remark many liberals criticized as sexist — she said that these were “serious issues” that warranted serious responses, and said she would leave the questions about gender to journalists and campaign historians.
And so, in a press conference that lasted less than 20 minutes, Clinton achieved exactly what she set out to do: End the criticisms that she had gone the entire year without a press conference, and move the narrative beyond Thursday night’s forum.