The acclaimed WGBH journalist and commentator, Callie Crossley, stood for an hour-and-a-half in a filled-to-capacity community room at the South End library last Tuesday, patiently answering questions about the current political scene, but not before she teased the enthusiastic crowd by sighing, "It's been such a boring season." And not until she professed her love for libraries by reading from an essay she wrote for an anthology by local authors about libraries, called Cambridge Voices: A Literary celebration of Libraries and the Joy of Reading, put together for the opening of the renovated Cambridge Public Library in 2011. "It's impossible for libraries to disappoint me," she said, adding she carries two library cards with her at all times. Then the questions of the Political Gabfest began: Is Hillary lack of transparency a woman's thing or is Hillary held to a different standard? Why are black millennials not more enthusiastic about Hillary? Why was Hillary not indicted? Why did Roger Ailes, the former CEO of Fox News, get $40 million when he was ousted over sexual harassment accusations but Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, who was harassed, only $20 million, when she had done "nothing wrong?" What motivates each of the presidential candidates? What question would Crossley ask if she were a moderator of a candidates' debate? What will Bill Clinton do as First Fellow? What about the hacking threat by Julian Assange?
Crossley's answers were elaborate and direct: Yes, being private is in part a woman's thing, but that's not the whole story. Yes, Hillary has been held to a different standard, and will continue to be. Yes, she and other African-American colleagues are very concerned about the lack of enthusiasm for Hillary among black millennials. Crossley who, like Hillary Clinton graduated from Wellesley College, bemoaned the "meh, meh" approach to voting by many young black women she talks with on college campuses, among them, she confessed, her niece. She attributes it, in part, to the millennials not having a historical context of Hillary's decades-long dedication to families and children, which began well before this generation was even born.
As to the motivation of the candidates: For Hillary it is her desire to find solutions and her belief she knows how to get things done, Crossley said, and, no, Hillary is not power hungry. She took former Secretary of State Colin Powell to task for describing Hillary as having "unbridled ambition." "Here is a man who became a four-star general in one of the most competitive institutions, the US Army," said Crossley. "Yet, he accuses Hillary of being ambitious."
Donald Trump does not like policy, Crossley believes, and suspects Trump had not expected to topple his primary opponents so easily. If he wins the election, he'll wonder, "Now what?" she speculated. As to the question of what she would ask if she were the moderator of a presidential debate, she had her answer ready: She would want to know whether the candidates support the practice to settle with families of victims of police brutality, in return for their silence. "I get it that this is not all cops or even most cops who behave that way," she said, "but huge amounts of taxpayers' money have been paid out under this policy," Crossley said, "even to families who were not asking for it." If you are a conservative, you would not want to have funds spent that way, she added, and would want to know what causes the problem so you can fix it.
To answer a question about "First Fellow" Bill Clinton, should Hillary become president, Crossley referred to an informative CBS News report on six other First Fellows, namely the current spouses of six female governors, including New Hampshire's Thomas Hassan and Rhode Island's Andy Moffit. As to the threat by Julian Assange to release documents to damage the Hillary Clinton campaign, Crossley said it was "weird" but not unprecedented. There was a low-tech way to confirm gossip in office settings decades ago when she worked for ABC News, she recalled with a laugh. "It was the night cleaning lady who would tell me who was having an affair with whom," she said. "She knew."