Monday, May 08, 2017
Last week, Hillary gave her first major interview since Donald Trump moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. She gave the three reasons she’s still stuck at her old address: James Comey, those meddling Russians, and “just a lot of funny business.”
If not for these, she confidently declared “I would be your president.” She curiously said she takes “absolute personal responsibility” for her campaign—but none of the blame.
An important and smashingly successful book, “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” considers what actually went wrong here. Its two authors, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, are gumshoe political journalists working in DC who don’t seem to have an axe to grind with Hillary, not even a hatchet or a pocket knife. They have given us a brutally honest and carefully documented tale.
The stark element of the book is that Allen and Parnes could only scare up a few measly breadcrumbs of anything the Hillary campaign did right. Here are eight of the most interesting “Shattered” revelations.
1. Hillary Only Got Two Things Right
Even the most charitable reader is hard-pressed to find anything Allen and Parnes found that the campaign did well. By my reading, their list totals two.
First, she “whipped [Congressman Trey] Gowdy and his crew of amateur interrogators” in her marathon congressional testimony on how she handled the Benghazi tragedy. She made a successful showing simply by staying calm, cagey, and confident. Her “serenity in a crisis” created the high-water mark of her campaign to date, the authors say.
They judged her debate performances against Trump successful as well. They offer no real good news for Hillary’s ego beyond these two. But consider the abilities these two assignments called on from Hillary: dodging accusations and returning volley. No wonder she nailed it. Who’s better at this than Hillary?
2. The Campaign Was Long Slog Between Self-Induced Crises
The book’s narrative is largely the telling of how Hillary and her executive team effectively executed a simple if unintended model: Set fire to campaign. Distract attention from, explain away, or deny the fire. Repeat.
Early in, it’s noted that “her campaign was under fire every minute of every day. Worst of all, it was the candidate who was responsible for” setting each blaze. Not just due to her shifty email management, but her obsession with diverting the voter’s eye from it. Her top staff and exclusive vacation friends at the Hamptons pleaded with her to admit her mistake in the email scandal and stop the blood loss. She dismissed all of them. She was Hillary, d-mn it.
She finally relented, offering the best she could muster in an interview with Andrea Mitchell: a non-comitial “sorry for the confusion” throw-away. She was sure this would do the trick. At this, one of her high-level and long-trusted aides sought to create a silver lining. At least the candidate “didn’t seem like a bitch in the interview” and the word “sorry” did actually come out of her mouth. The lowest bar of admission seems like a victory when one’s norm is no bar.
3. ‘I Don’t Understand What’s Happening with the Country’
Another major conclusion of the book is that Hillary’s boyish campaign manager, Robbie Mook, and his wonkish voter demographic analytics failed miserably to detect and measure the nation’s concerns. When Bill Clinton registered his intuition that the campaign was not helping Hillary connect with voters, Mook confidently told him the data refuted his anecdotes. Both Bill and Hillary sensed better. This put Hillary in a near-debilitating funk.
Hillary aide Huma Abedin enlisted Minyon Moore, an old and trusted friend from White House days, to travel with Hillary as her personal counselor. It was an emergency call. Hillary confided to Moore in rare transparency that she seemed to have a flat spot in understanding the common citizen. “I don’t understand what’s happening with the country. I can’t get my arms around this?” As Moore listened, Hillary asked in desperation, “How do I get answers to this?”
Allen and Parnes confess disbelief that after hundreds of thousands of miles on the road, endless appearances before all manner of voters at diners, barbeques, high school gyms, and factories, and studying the granular minutia of weekly polling data, “Hillary still couldn’t figure out why Americans were so angry or how she could bring the country together.”
The answer was unmistakable to her closest staff and even Bill. But none dare speak it to the one who needed to hear it the most. When your habit is to wall yourself off from “unscripted interactions with voters,” people tend to judge you as mechanical, arrogant, and untrustworthy. They write, “She was often a terrible judge of how her actions could backfire and turn into full-blown scandals.” This is a whole lot of tone-deafness in one candidate.
4. Hillary Knew People Disliked Her Deeply
Hillary was attentive enough to know a disturbing number of people found her dislikable. She wondered what was wrong with them. She couldn’t for the life of her understand why voters felt this way. She found herself to be quite wonderful. Of course, there are plenty of reasons for this, and each one avoided Hillary’s grasp. No small number of Hillary’s top aides admitted to Allen and Parnes that their campaign’s problem was “the Candidate herself.”
5. She Never Answered the Key Two Questions
Two questions any candidate must ask long before declaring his candidacy are: “Why am I running?” and “What’s my plan for fixing the gut-level concerns of our nation’s citizens?” A key aide noted the basicness of this: “I would have had a reason for running or I wouldn’t have run.” You can’t explain to others what you’ve never come to terms with.
Hillary never seemed to bother that she didn’t have a reason to run that she could articulate. But it bothered her staff and speech writers to no end. So many people believed Hillary thought it was “her turn,” that the White House was hers by Divine Right. She gave the voters nothing to dissuade them of this belief.
6. President Obama Was Shocked at Hillary’s Server Stupidity
President Obama regularly “scratched his head and rolled his eyes” at the dense stupidity of Hillary’s private server. But he only did so in the confines of the Oval Office. His secretary of State and legacy-protector had put the president in a place you never put your boss: caught being uninformed and unprepared.
When blindsided by reporters about the server, all Obama could say was he learned about it in the papers like everyone else. The campaign knew this put the president in a terrible pinch. He was either lying or terribly inattentive. Years of emails from his secretary of State clearly did not come from a state.gov email account.
The president, his administration, and the campaign could not comprehend how Hillary could be so bold about being so careless and, on top of that, systematically “obfuscate, deny, and evade” the truth. To the president it was “political malpractice.”
7. The Convention: ‘A Full-on Backstage Circus’
The 2016 Democratic National Convention began and continued throughout to teeter “on the brink of disaster.” Its organizers enjoyed only nominal success in keeping its stunning ineptitude and internecine fighting out of view from television cameras. Our authors described a “full-on backstage circus” as its chairwoman was ceremoniously ousted on the convention’s first day for favoring one candidate and working to sandbag the other.
In numbers and volume too great to ignore, scores of convention participants booed when Hillary’s name was mentioned from podiums. The campaign had to organize a sophisticated back-stage “boiler room”—a highly reactive call and command station—to dispatch workers to the floor to physically stop anti-Clinton outbursts.
The only thing that went right for the convention—and it went very right—was Michelle Obama’s elegant speech. But the week ended with a warm turd laid atop this hot mess: Hillary’s acceptance speech.
The authors of “Shattered” spend a number of pages on the train-wreck that was the speech-writing process. The proud and momentous words of the first woman in American history to accept the presidential nomination of a major political party were not coming together. It was a speech that should have written itself. But the case for Hillary rested in the candidate herself, and of course, it wasn’t there.
All her husband could do was try to humanize her and introduce a woman who has been in public life since 1992. There simply wasn’t a Hillary narrative to overcome the miserable one that already existed. Her gifted scribes didn’t know what words to put in her mouth. Finalized just an hour before delivery, theirs and her best efforts “fell flat.”
Allen and Parnes rated the Democratic convention as a just short of a “four-day Dumpster inferno.” One attendee told Mook how she loved the attractive use of the American flags in the arena. Mook was glad she could not read the thought-bubble rising from his head: “That was to hide the crazy people shouting things.”
At the end, all the campaign had to comfort themselves was the consolation that at least the disaster “looked great.” It did not. It was only Trump’s schoolyard bullying of Khizr Kahn in the days following that was offensive enough to mask the residual stink that was the Democratic National Convention.
8. The Campaign Had Two World-Class Liars
Time magazine recently asked on its iconic cover, “Is Truth Dead?” They only seemed concerned with truth’s well-being with Trump’s ascendency. “Shattered” confirms what most people knew: Hillary did her fair share of threatening truth’s life, with signature deft and no reservation.
“It was hard to keep track of how many times Hillary and her press team had said things on the record that were contradicted” by discoveries in journalistic and federal investigations of her official doings as secretary of State. The authors remind the reader that when voters were asked to describe Hillary with a single word, of all the descriptors available in the human language, “‘liar’ was the one most frequently used.”
Despite her confident claim at the Women for Women International event last week that if not for the actions of others, Hillary would be our president, “Shattered” ably documents the total opposite. Neither Bill nor Hillary could “accept the simple fact that Hillary had hamstrung her own campaign and dealt the most serious blow[s]” by her own choices, behavior, and sense of entitlement. Hillary was the reason Hillary lost.