How did things look on the inside, as they unraveled?
To find out, I approached a number of current and former Clinton staffers and outside consultants and asked them to share memos, e-mails, meeting minutes, diaries—anything that would offer a contemporaneous account. The result demonstrates that paranoid dysfunction breeds the impulse to hoard. Everything from major strategic plans to bitchy staff e-mail feuds was handed over. (See for yourself: much of it is posted online at www.theatlantic.com/clinton.)
I don't doubt. I'm guessing they fought over the office fridge too, and grudges were held about who threw whose salad away before lunch. Which is why my inner office minion finds this revelation about the source of the dysfunction less than revelatory:
Above all, this irony emerges: Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence—on her capacity, as she liked to put it, to “do the job from Day One.” In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel. What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make. Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.
And of course we always knew this guy, apparently more courtier than adviser, was an overpaid hack doing Clinton no favors . . .
[Mark] Penn’s memo is also notable for its tone: it reinforces rather than confronts the Clintons’ biases. “The biggest problem we have is the troika that has been set up to tear Hillary down,” he wrote.It is a vast right and left wing conspiracy. Listening to Brit Hume say that Obama is surging while Hillary failed to do X is almost comical and certainly transparent. The right knows Obama is unelectable except perhaps against Attila the Hun, and a third party would come in then anyway.
By contrast, top consultants like Karl Rove usually aim to temper their clients’ biases with a cold dose of realism. I suspect the damaging persecution complex that both Clintons displayed drew much of its sustenance from memos like this one.
. . . in addition to being a cynical ass:
Penn also left no doubt about where he stood on the question of a positive versus negative strategy. He made the rather astonishing suggestion to target Obama’s “lack of American roots”:All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light.
Save it for 2050.
It also exposes a very strong weakness for him—his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values. He told the people of NH yesterday he has a Kansas accent because his mother was from there. His mother lived in many states as far as we can tell—but this is an example of the nonsense he uses to cover this up.
How we could give some life to this contrast without turning negative:
Every speech should contain the line you were born in the middle of America to the middle class in the middle of the last century. And talk about the basic bargain as about the deeply American values you grew up with, learned as a child and that drive you today. Values of fairness, compassion, responsibility, giving back.
Let’s explicitly own ‘American’ in our programs, the speeches and the values. He doesn’t. Make this a new American Century, the American Strategic Energy Fund. Let’s use our logo to make some flags we can give out. Let’s add flag symbols to the backgrounds.
Finally, this is a really perceptive and thought-provoking take on Clinton's failed candidacy.