Epic Fail: The Hillary Clinton Story


For months, newspapers and magazines have been sitting on their Hillary Clinton obituaries, adding details from loose-lipped Clintonland exiles, waiting for the former frontrunner's campaign to finally hit the reef. First, Jackie Calmes at the Wall Street Journal:

The bottom line is this: She called the biggest plays, and she got them wrong.

This contrasts with the bottom lines of Michelle Cottle's sources:

One respondent sent in a list of Top 25 screw ups, the first three being:

1. Patti
2. Solis
3. Doyle

While from another corner came another list, reading:

1. Mark Penn
2. Mark Penn
3. Mark Penn

Solis Doyle being Clinton's overmatched campaign manager, who got the job after being her assistant since 1993, and Penn being the "microtrend" pollster who thought what the country really wanted in 2008 was technocratic answers to mundane problems. I think even a badly-run campaign, though, could have survived if its candidate made a different decision six years ago. If Hillary Clinton had voted against the authority to go into Iraq, there never would have been enough oxygen to fuel the rise of someone like Obama. The modern Democratic party has a book of Genesis with two chapters: the "stolen election" of 2000 and the "war built on lies." If Clinton had voted against the war, even if (especially if) she'd voted for every funding package after that, she'd be entering the general election as the most credible critic of Iraq policy. She could get away with a whole lot on her broader foreign policy views as long as she opposed Iraq from the get-go. But she didn't, and she got tangled in the same spider web as John Kerry.

That said, let's laugh at Clinton's misteps.

When one insider pleaded during meetings in 2007 to humanize the candidate, witnesses say Mr. Penn responded: "Being human is overrated." His polls, he said, showed "soft stuff" -- talking about Sen. Clinton's mother, for example -- had no effect. Her early attacks on Sen. Obama, on the other hand, had moved numbers in her favor. "People don't care if you have a beer with the guys after work, or whether you're warm and fuzzy about your mother," Mr. Penn argued -- they care about issues like health care.

Sen. Clinton, issue-oriented and intensely private, backed Mr. Penn.

She ended up compensating for that "beer after work" thing, huh?

Veteran Iowa organizer Steve Hildebrand had sought a job with Sen. Clinton in mid-2006. In a 45-minute interview, the senator talked about congressional elections but never mentioned the coming presidential race, Mr. Hildebrand says. Months later, he signed on as Sen. Obama's deputy campaign manager and oversaw his Iowa push.

Joe Trippi, formerly of the Howard Dean machine, also reportedly sought a job with Clinton and was turned down. His big idea was to mobilize Clinton's army of white women into a Dean-like fundraising ATM. In retrospect, now that Clinton supporters are rending their garmets at Rules and Bylaws Committee and threatening to start a third party, that probably would have worked.

Also, more evidence that it's over for Clinton unless something truly damaging, Eagleton-like comes out about Obama: Some of his over-the-top delegate surge last night came from people who switched from Clinton, like Pennsylvania's Ian Murray, Washington's Ron Sims, Minnesota's Rick Stafford, Georgia's Michael Thurmond, and a few others we're going to see popping up.

Who should Obama choose as a running mate? Obviously, Colin Powell. He fixes Obama's national security deficit, strengthens the Republican/independent appeal, and completes Obama's narrative about post-partisanship.