The Contextual Candidate
I watched Hillary Clinton’s appearance on Meet the Press yesterday, and was struck by the number of times she used the word context in response to Tim Russert’s predictable fusillade of questions. Russert dutifully walked Clinton through her remarks on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lyndon Johnson, her 2002 vote on the Iraq War Resolution, and Bill Clinton’s fairytale take on Barack Obama. Whether claiming that her comments were taken out of context, or that her actions needed to be put into context, Clinton seemed determined to recast virtually everything that Russert threw at her in a more positive light.
It is true that revisiting the conditions surrounding a particular political moment can sometimes shed new light on past behavior. But an excessive reliance on this approach can also blur the line between clarification and spin. Indeed, after several iterations, Clinton’s calls for context began to feel more like a strategy, and less like a legitimate request for fairness and greater understanding.

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