• Politics

Hillary on ABC: Big on Smiles, Small on Substance

3 minute read

With a smile, Hillary Clinton deflected tough questions on Monday on the eve of the release of her book Hard Choices.

Interviewed by ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer in Clinton’s Washington home, the former Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential candidate offered little insight into her political thinking with relatively safe answers.

Clinton navigated thorny issues like the Monica Lewinsky scandal and her health with a faint grin. “I am not going to comment on what I did or did not say in the late ’90s,” the 66-year-old stonewalled when quizzed about her husband’s sex scandal. She confirmed previous statements about her concussion and blood clot, but was vague about releasing medical records should she run for the White House. She blamed the failure of her first presidential campaign on “bad strategy,” while bemoaning a double standard for women in American politics that compounded matters.

Clinton drew Sawyer, a fixture on nightly television for millions of Americans, to note she was older than her interviewee, saying, “Isn’t it good to be our age,” in an effort to deflect an emerging GOP line of attack.

Although promoting a book that seeks to cast her policy record in a positive light, Clinton was tripped up by questions on Benghazi and her personal finances. She noted that Ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, “of his own choosing,” while refusing to say whether there was anything she should have done differently to avoid the loss of four American lives. “I take responsibility, but I was not making security decisions,” Clinton added.

She also claimed to have been “dead broke” after leaving the White House, defending her and Bill Clinton’s decision to accept more than $100 million in paid speaking engagements. “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,” she said, notably using the plural. “You know, it was not easy.” All throughout Clinton leaned in and smiled at Sawyer, straining to avoid appearing bitter or angry, as she did last year when testifying before one congressional probe into the Benghazi attack.

She said the incident would make her more likely to run for President, but offered few other reasons for people to vote for her.

But Clinton offered subtle hints at what a 2016 campaign could look like. She admitted not being “as effective” as she should have been at calling out a double standard for women in politics in the past, illustrating new resolve when asked whether becoming a grandmother would affect her 2016 decision. “Of course, men have been serving in that position as fathers and grandfathers since the beginning of the Republic,” she said. Later she said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “not the first” world leader to make a sexist comment when last week he questioned her “grace.”

And asked whether she would restate her criticism of a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” Clinton said she probably would not, because “I don’t think we need more political combat in this country.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com