Kellyanne Conway should demand a raise.
The Trump campaign manager’s Clinton counterpart, Robby Mook, just “flummoxed” Joe Scarborough, his panelists — and likely many people watching MSNBC’s morning show — by sidestepping the most basic, predictable questions about his candidate.
The “Morning Joe” hosts’ frustration began Wednesday when Mook tried to deflect a question from Willie Geist.
GEIST: What’s her biggest regret about the way Syria’s been handled?
MOOK: Well, obviously, she’s been out of office for some time now.
GEIST: But she was there when it started.
MOOK: Well, right, but, but, uh, you know, she, I, I think she’s well regarded for her leadership as secretary of state. She came out of that office with a 70 percent approval rating. In contrast to Donald Trump, she has released a clear and decisive plan to defeat ISIS. Donald Trump has said that he thinks he knows more about it than the generals and refuses to tell us what his secret plan is.
GEIST: I understand, Robby. What about in Syria, though? She supported the drawing of the red line. Obviously, she was out of office when Assad used chemical weapons. Was it a mistake to draw the red line if the president was not willing to go — to do something about it when it was crossed?
MOOK: Well, as you pointed out, the decision regarding that was made after she was out of office, so I think you’d have to ask President Obama —
GEIST: Was she disappointed that the president didn’t act when the line was crossed?
MOOK: I think you’d have to ask her about that question, how she would characterize —
GEIST: Well, you’re here to speak for her, Robby, so you haven’t discussed that at all?
MOOK: She — look, what matters is what she’s going to do as president and, as I said, she has a clear plan to defeat ISIS. Donald Trump does not. It’s a secret; he won’t tell anybody what it is, and he says he knows more about it than the generals. I think the choice for voters is clear.
To be fair, Geist’s followup about Obama and the red line put Mook in an uncomfortable position. The Clinton campaign surely does not want to criticize a president who is also a top surrogate, nor does it want to look weak on foreign policy. But Mook put himself in that position by refusing to answer Geist’s initial, open-ended question.
Mook really couldn’t come up with some lament about the current state of Syria that wouldn’t look like a shot at Obama?
Things got worse moments later when Mike Barnicle posed a question that might come up in next week’s debate.
BARNICLE: So, Robby, we do realize you are not secretary of state, but in the debate next Monday evening, how would Secretary Clinton respond to somewhat of a version of the following question: We’ve had a relief convoy bombed — potentially a war crime — leading into Aleppo. What would you do, Secretary Clinton, about providing food, water and medicine to the citizens of Eastern Aleppo today, right now, differently than what the Obama administration is doing? What would she do differently?
MOOK: I, I, again, I think you’re going to have to ask her that question. That’s a matter of policy I’m going to leave it to her to determine that.
SCARBOROUGH: What are you here, what are you — we love you, buddy, but what are you here for, if you can’t answer basic questions? That, I mean, I don’t know if there’s — I mean, we may be tiptoeing into Gary Johnson territory here, if you don’t know the answer to that basic of a question — “What is the response to Aleppo?” — then why do we have you here?
MOOK: I think, I — look, you’re asking new policy questions. You would have to ask the secretary for that. My job is not to set policy.
SCARBOROUGH: No, Aleppo’s been around — Syria’s been around for some time. The red line being drawn’s been around for some time. I’m not being difficult here at all. These are basic questions.
Like Geist, Barnicle was trying to find some daylight between Clinton and Obama. We get it — that’s a little awkward. But Clinton’s campaign manager needs to be able to talk about how the Democratic nominee would try to improve upon existing relief efforts.
Mook’s final dodge was his most inexplicable.
GEIST: One aspect of the Syria policy for Secretary Clinton we do know is she has supported no-fly zones in the country. Is that still her belief, that no-fly zones are a good idea?
MOOK: I’m gonna, I’m gonna let her statements speak for themselves.
GEIST: Robby, Robby, aren’t you here representing her point of view?
MOOK: I am indeed, and I’m going to let her language speak for itself.
GEIST: Well, you’ve been saying that Donald Trump won’t tell us what the policy is, but here you are not telling us what the policy is.
Questions don’t get more straightforward than that: Does Clinton still support no-fly zones over Syria? Mook wouldn’t say.
When the interview was over, Scarborough attempted to sum things up: “What’s going on? I mean, like, even — I don’t understand that. I am completely flummoxed by that interview. I mean, first of all, are they pleased with the openness with the press? I had heard after the pneumonia deal they all were chastened, and they were changing their relationship and trying to be more open with the press. Won’t even respond to Aleppo, won’t respond to the no-fly zone. What’s going on here? Better not to come on.”
Scarborough hit on the real mystery here. The Clinton campaign has tried since Labor Day — and even more so since Clinton fell ill at a 9/11 ceremony — to engage the media more often and more openly. But interviews only help if you bring answers.
It’s nice that Clinton and her team are willing to talk these days, but it would be even better to have something to say.