In the past two months, Washington Post political reporter Chris Cillizza has used his platform at The Fix to obsess over the question of whether Hillary Clinton has sufficiently explained her family's wealth, dismissing Clinton's comments on income inequality while offering conflicting advice on how she should answer the question in a way that satisfies Chris Cillizza and The Washington Post.
Cillizza's latest post came in response to an interview Hillary Clinton gave to Fusion TV host Jorge Ramos that aired July 29. "Hillary Clinton still hasn't found a good answer to questions about her wealth," according to the July 29 headline over at The Fix. After crediting GOP opposition research firm American Rising with focusing his attention on Clinton's wealth, Cillizza concluded: "Until she finds three sentences (or so) to button up any/all questions about her wealth, those questions will keep coming. And that's not the way Clinton wants to run-up to her now all-but-certain presidential bid."
This is the third time in two months that Cillizza has posted a column fixated on Clinton's wealth and his belief that she is struggling to explain it -- and the third time since June 22 that The Fix has turned to America Rising to help define Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, a June NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll found that 55 percent of Americans say that Clinton relates to and understands average Americans.
"The Clintons are not 'average' people," Cillizza warned just a week before that poll came out. He concluded by advising Clinton to stop talking about her wealth and move on: "Instead of spending her time litigating just how wealthy she is, Clinton should acknowledge her wealth and then spend the vast majority of her rhetorical time making the case that through the policies she has advocated and pursued, she has never lost sight of the middle class."
The reality is that Clinton has already done exactly what Cillizza advises; he just largely chooses to dismiss it. When Clinton has been asked about her wealth, she has consistently paired her personal finances with discussing her lifelong advocacy and work on behalf of the poor and middle class.
"I want to create a level playing field so that once again, you can look a child in the eye and you can tell them the truth, whether they're born in a wealthy suburb or an inner city or a poor country community, you can point out the realistic possibility that they will have a better life," Clinton told The Guardian in June.
Cillizza actually acknowledged that Clinton "effectively" addressed questions about her family's wealth by discussing her desire to "create more ladders of opportunities for more Americans" during the very interview he's criticizing. He just immediately dismissed her response as insufficient to quiet the questions he insists will continue to plague her.
In early June, Cillizza chided Clinton for what he called a "slip up" after she said she and her husband were "dead broke" after leaving the White House. Comparing it to a moment during the 2008 presidential campaign when Sen. John McCain struggled to recall how many homes his family owned, Cillizza observed: "unless she does it again, it will likely be forgotten in a week."
Since that time, The Fix has published at least 13 posts obsessing over Clinton's wealth and the perception that she's struggling to explain it.
The Fix's obsession over Clinton's wealth is in line with a larger pattern at The Washington Post. Since pointing to Clinton's comments on her family's wealth as evidence that Clinton's book tour was "off to a bumpy start" in a June 11 article, the Post has worked to create a perception that Clinton has struggled to explain the question it keeps asking. "Clinton's rarefied life could be a liability in campaign" a June 23 Post headline warned in an article detailing how many homes Bill and Hillary Clinton have while letting a George W. Bush advisor claim that Hillary Clinton sounds "completely inauthentic."
Less than a week later, in an 1,800-word page 1 news article documenting how much money Bill and Hillary Clinton have earned in speaking fees, the Post claimed that the Clinton wealth "is now seen as a potential political liability if she runs for president in 2016."
"You have a money problem," Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus argued on June 27. Marcus claimed that Clinton's "money problem" was rooted both in how she talks about it and the fact that she was "still frenetically collecting it."
"It's doubtful that the public holds the Clinton's wealth against them," Post columnist Dan Balz offered a day later, "so why was she so defensive when the topic was raised?"
A better question is, if the public isn't concerned with the Clinton wealth, why is the Post obsessed with it?