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Obama Loses Patience Over Clinton Email Grilling by Fox: ‘How Many Times Do I Have to Say it, Chris?’

Obama Loses Patience Over Email Questions: 'How Many Times Do I Have to Say it, Chris?'

President Obama granted Fox News Sunday its first interview with him since becoming president, and it quickly became apparent why that was. Host Chris Wallace took the interview from a tough but fair grilling about the Hillary Clinton email “scandal” to a badgering and yellow interrogation that laid the groundwork for post-email conspiracy theorizing. Wallace asked the reasonable question of whether Hillary Clinton will be treated the same as anyone else by the FBI and the Justice Department, but when he asked it an unreasonable five times, President Obama lost patience with him:

WALLACE: Can you guarantee to the American people, can you direct the Justice Department to say, “Hillary Clinton will be treated — as the evidence goes, she will not be in any way protected.”

OBAMA: I can guarantee that. And I can guarantee that, not because I give Attorney General Lynch a directive, that is institutionally how we have always operated. I do not talk to the Attorney General about pending investigations. I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations. We have a strict line, and always have maintained it, previous president.

WALLACE: So, just to button this up —

OBAMA: I guarantee it.

WALLACE: You —

OBAMA: I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, or the FBI, not just in this case, but in any case.

WALLACE: And she will be —

OBAMA: Full stop. Period.

WALLACE: And she will be treated no different —

OBAMA: Guaranteed. Full stop. Nobody gets treated differently when it comes to the Justice Department, because nobody is above the law.

WALLACE: Even if she ends up as the Democratic nominee?

OBAMA: How many times do I have to say it, Chris? Guaranteed.

The answer to that is, apparently, six. There will come a day when the FBI completes its review of Hillary’s emails, and conclude that she did nothing wrong, and on that day, Republicans will need something to say. Frankly, so will the right, left, and center media, who have all acted as a de facto PR arm for Republican leaders. Wallace’s questioning of President Obama sets them all up to insist that no matter what the FBI, the Justice Department, or President Obama says, it was all a conspiracy to let Hillary off.

Here’s how that works: asking a question once or twice is, arguably, good journalism, but after that, you’re planting a suggestion. Can you guarantee you won’t kill a puppy? You guarantee it? So, are you absolutely sure you won’t kill a puppy? Just to button this up, no puppies will be killed by you? You won’t kill a puppy even if Hillary is the nominee? Oh my God, Obama’s going to kill a puppy! Yeah, I’m sure it was “natural causes!”

It wasn’t all bad, though. President Obama began with a forceful and clever response to the question of whether he still believes that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not jeopardize national security in her handling of emails, departing from Hillary’s message in the process:

I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America’s national security. Now what I’ve also said is that — and she has acknowledged — that there’s a carelessness, in terms of managing e-mails, that she has owned, and she recognizes. But I also think it is important to keep this in perspective. This is somebody who has served her country for four years as secretary of state, and did an outstanding job. And no one has suggested that in some ways, as a consequence of how she’s handled e-mails, that that detracted from her excellent ability to carry out her duties.

Actually, no, I don’t think Hillary has acknowledged “carelessness,” except maybe in the way her actions have been perceived. But by framing it this way, the President has given truly undecided voters a soothing recognition of their anxiety over the story, allowing them to make the pivot to his larger point. People who don’t already hate Hillary but don’t love her yet, either, are wondering why there’s all this noise about emails if it’s really nothing, and Obama’s tactic allows them to square that and move on. It’s a bit of messaging “give” that Hillary ought to consider using.

Elsewhere in the interview, the President responded to the right wing-driven media narrative that he doesn’t care enough about terrorist attacks with some fairly irrefutable evidence:

WALLACE: And some people wonder, I think the concern is, do you worry about terrorism and feel the threat of terrorism the way they do?

OBAMA: And I would say this — there isn’t a president who’s taken more terrorists off the field than me, over the last seven-and-a-half years.

I’m the guy who calls the families, or meets with them, or hugs them, or tries to comfort a mom, or a dad, or a husband, or a kid, after a terrorist attack.

So, let’s be very clear about how much I prioritize this. This is my number one job —

WALLACE: Then why is it —

OBAMA: — and we have been doing it effectively. You’re —

WALLACE: So why do people sometimes think you’re diffident —

OBAMA: Well, I think part of it is that, in the wake of terrorist attacks, it has been my view consistently that the job of the terrorists, in their minds, is to induce panic, induce fear, get societies to change who they are.

And what I’ve tried to communicate is, “You can’t change us. You can kill some of us, but we will hunt you down, and we will get you. And in the meantime, just as we did in Boston, after the marathon bombing, we’re going to go to a ballgame. And do all the other things that make our life worthwhile. And you have nothing to offer.”

That’s the message of resilience that we don’t panic, that we don’t fear. We will hunt you down and we will get you.

All in all, the interview was a success for President Obama, despite Wallace’s propagandizing, because it showed the President’s ability to shine even under the most unfriendly questioning. Given the huge win that the 11-hour Benghazi hearing was for Hillary Clinton, she might consider popping up on Fox News Sunday a few times herself.

Update: And along comes Joe Scarborough to prove my point.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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