As Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushes on promoting her new book, Hard Choices, her list of missteps grows.
From groan-inducing attempts to downplay her family's estimated wealth of $150 million to her head-scratching claim that the so-called 2009 “reset” with Russia “worked,” Clinton has, in recent weeks, come across as someone who's clearly not ready for primetime, even as her supposed 2016 presidential bid seems to edge closer to reality.
And her rusty, clunky attempts to connect with the public have drawn sharp criticism from both the Left and the Right, from conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh to the very left-leaning MSNBC, and damaged the public's perception of her record at the State Department.
Here's a list of the top seven missteps from Clinton’s fledgling book tour, in no particular order:
7. "Dead broke":
The Clintons are currently the wealthiest living first family, with an estimated worth of nearly $150 million.
"We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt," Clinton said, noting the legal fees the family accrued while in the White House. "We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea's education. You know, it was not easy.
"Bill has worked really hard — and it's been amazing to me — he's worked very hard. First of all, we had to pay off all our debts, which was, you know, he had to make double the money because of obviously taxes and then pay off the debts and get us houses and take care of family members,” she added.
Yes, the Clinton's did have debt and they were forced to borrow money from Virginia's Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, but they weren't exactly living off of Ramen noodles.
In fact, the family turned its financial problems around almost immediately as Hillary and Bill Clinton quickly became a top-billed act on the speaking circuit, each charging roughly six figures per appearance.
6. Walking back:
Hillary Clinton scrambled to walk back the "dead broke" comments, admitting eventually that her family has for a very long time done quite well.
"Let me just clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today," Clinton said during an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America." "It's an issue that I've worked on and cared about my entire adult life. Bill and I were obviously blessed, we worked hard for everything we got in our lives and we have continued to work hard.
"For me, it's just a reality. What we faced when he got out of the White House meant that we had to just keep working really hard," said Clinton, who hasn't sat behind the wheel of a car in 18 years. "I want to use the talents and resources I have to make sure other people get the same chances."
Now, although this isn’t technically a gaffe, Clinton should know better than to trot out the “I understand the struggle” rhetoric. It comes across as extraordinarily patronizing and only furthers the perception that you’re out-of-touch, which goes against the likely point of her book tour.
5. Rich, but not that rich:
After the infamous “dead broke” comments, Clinton made things worse with a second attempt to downplay her wealth, saying in an interview with the Guardian that her family isn't truly “well-off.”
"They don't see me as part of the problem," she said, referring to the people most concerned about “income inequality.”
"Because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well-off, not to name names; and we've done it through dint of hard work,” Clinton said.
One way you can make a gaffe worse is to scoff at it as a big nothing, which is exactly what Hillary Clinton did when asked about her wealth slip-ups.
"I can't ... I can't. It's just overwhelming," Clinton said during a C-SPAN interview, referring to the press' breathless - and oftentimes sympathetic -- coverage of her book tour. "I can't do it. So I skim it. If it's important it will come to me, I assume. A lot of it is inaccurate or unimportant to me. I try to keep up with it, but I can't possibly read it all. I would be doing nothing else."
Later, during a softball interview with Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, Clinton joked that a lot of reporters would lose their jobs if she came out suddenly and said she has no intention of running in 2016, the implication being that the only reason people are hitting her for her gaffes is because she may or may not run in the future.
“I think a lot of people would lose their jobs if it all stopped,” she joked. “I've been amazed at what a cottage industry it is. And so I kind of expect it would continue.”
3. Gay marriage and NPR:
In the midst of what was most likely supposed to be a softball NPR interview, Clinton was put on the spot and asked to explain her evolution on gay marriage.
And Clinton whiffed hard, coming across as testy, indignant and extremely defensive.
“[Y]ou are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue,” she said in response to NPR's Terry Gross' persistent questions.
“I don’t think you are trying to clarify. I think you are trying to say that I used to be opposed and now I am in favor and I did it for political reasons. And that’s just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like I think you are implying and repudiate it. I have a strong record,” she said. “I have a great commitment to this issue and I am proud of what I’ve done and the progress were making.”
Former President Bill Clinton in 1996 signed the Defense of Marriage Act, giving states the right to refuse to recognize gay marriage.
Clinton laughably stated in an NPR interview that the United States' 2009 "reset" with Russia "worked," a claim that flies in the face of Moscow’s obvious intentions to expand its influence in the West and undermine U.S. hegemony.
“The reset worked,” Clinton said. “It was an effort to try to obtain Russian cooperation on key objectives while [Dmitry] Medvedev was president, and of course [Russian President Vladimir Putin] still pulled the strings, but he gave Medvedev a certain amount of independence to negotiate, number one, a new arms control treaty which was absolutely necessary.
“We brought Russia around to understanding why we thought there needed to be international sanctions against Iran,” she added.
So the “reset” basically had a shelf life of a few weeks and it “worked” so long as the players involved weren’t named Vladimir Putin. That’s not much of a “reset.”
1. Hard errors:
This one doesn’t quite count as a book tour gaffe made by Clinton, but it’s a mistake involving her book.
Clinton's book claims that that during the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. Marines were stationed at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli.
However, as it turns out, Marines weren't deployed to defend the Tripoli embassy until after terrorists had already attacked in Benghazi.
Noting how many members of the public and Congress were surprised upon discovering "there were no U.S. Marines assigned to our Benghazi compound," Clinton notes that Marines are assigned to only slightly more than 50 percent of the diplomatic posts throughout the globe, focused primarily on protecting, and, if need be, destroying classified items.
"So while there were Marines stationed at our embassy in Tripoli, where nearly all of our diplomats worked and which had the capability to process classified material, because there was no classified processing at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, there were no Marines posted there," Clinton writes. [...]
But, as Gen. Carter Ham, the former commander of Africa Command, testified before Congress on June 26, 2013, “there was no Marine security detachment in Tripoli.”
It wasn’t until after the attack that Marines were sent to the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, a contentious issue before and after the attacks, since so many diplomatic officials and security forces before the attack had been pleading to the State Department for greater military protection in Libya. The former regional security officer at the Embassy in Tripoli, Eric Nordstrom, testified that the most frustrating part of his job had been "dealing and fighting against the people, programs, and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me … For me the Taliban is on the inside of the building."
Bonus: Really, Bill?
Bill Clinton offered a tepid defense of his wife’s handling of the Benghazi terrorist attacks when she was secretary of state by arguing that hey, embassies all over the world get attacked all the time.
“When 10 different instances occurred when President [George W.] Bush was in office where American diplomatic personnel were killed around the world, how many outraged Republican members of Congress were there? Zero,” Clinton said during an interview with NBC News' David Gregory.
Perhaps he missed the part where Hillary Clinton’s critics have made it clear that they’re concerned about her handling of the attacks, not just that there were attacks.
It’s one thing when Clinton steps in it while trying to impress the American public. She has never been particularly famous for her rhetorical abilities or her knack for selling herself to voters.
But Bill Clinton should know better. He’s the explainer in chief, remember?
These are her biggest mistakes, so far. We expect this list will grow by at least a few more entries before Clinton is through promoting her book.