Clinton staffers pointing the finger of blame at everyone but themselves
John Kennedy is quoted as saying, "Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan." Translated into modern politics, no one wants to admit responsibility for losing an election. That includes the losing candidate's closest advisers.
The postmortems on the campaign have barely begun, but Hillary Clinton's top aides are already pointing the finger of blame at others, absolving themselves of responsibility for a debacle that will go down in presidential campaign history as the most shocking outcome ever.
It should be noted that campaign staff blaming everyone but themselves for defeat is nothing new. John McCain's aides in 2008 began a whispering campaign against Sarah Palin, blaming her for the loss before the election was even held.
But in this case, where the advice that Clinton got was so spectacularly wrong and a billion dollars was spent in a futile attempt to sell the voters a candidate with no accomplishments and little to offer, it's unseemly for aides not to recognize their own shortcomings.
One DNC staffer stood up at a meeting and screamed at temporary DNC chair Donna Brazile.
The staffer, only identified as Zach, had some choice words for Brazile and her failure to lead the Democratic Party to victory on Tuesday night.
Brazile was giving a post-election rallying speech to a group of approximately 150 DNC staffers on Thursday when Zach stood up and offered his unfiltered thoughts on her leadership during the 2016 election, the Huffington Post reported.
“Why should we trust you as chair to lead us through this?” he asked, according to two people in the room. “You backed a flawed candidate, and your friend [former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz] plotted through this to support your own gain and yourself.”
Some DNC staffers started to boo and some told him to sit down. Brazile began to answer, but Zach had more to say.
“You are part of the problem,” he continued, blaming Brazile for clearing the path for Trump’s victory by siding with Clinton early on. “You and your friends will die of old age and I’m going to die from climate change. You and your friends let this happen, which is going to cut 40 years off my life expectancy.”
After his tirade, Zach reportedly packed up his belongings and stormed out of the room as Brazile called after him. He then told Brazile that she needed to go outside and explain to the “people there” why she should still be leading the DNC.
On a conference call with surrogates, Clinton campaign manager John Podesta offered plenty of excuses but refused to say the strategy or the candidate was flawed.
On the call, Clinton surrogates who have supported the campaign from the outside for the past 18 months offered their thanks to the Brooklyn-based operatives. The mood was light and supportive, with Podesta and Palmieri expressing gratitude for everyone’s hard work.
But some people on the call were seething.
“They are saying they did nothing wrong, which is ridiculous,” said one Clinton surrogate. “She was the wrong messenger and everyone misjudged how pissed working class people were.”
As the reality of a Trump presidency began to set in on Thursday, there was a growing sick sense among longtime Clinton allies and advisers that the aide who long ago advised the former secretary of state against mounting a second presidential bid, Cheryl Mills, may have been right. In interviews with close to a dozen top Clinton allies and former operatives, who did not want to publicly criticize the losing campaign or candidate, many expressed a deep frustration that the party had pinned its hopes on a divisive establishment candidate. And they wondered why no one fully embraced the reality that despite President Barack Obama’s soaring approval rating, 2016 was ultimately a change election.
The issues were crystal clear as early as January 2015, but the campaign thought it could overcome it.
“Make a virtue of her longevity,” Palmieri advised in an email that month to Podesta, released by WikiLeaks. “Embrace all the Clinton-ness — the forty years in politics, the decades on the national stage...Maybe folks had Clinton fatigue at one point, now they are just seen as part of the fabric of America. (Hillary won’t go away, she is indefatigable, she just keeps at it, and you can trust her to get the job done.)”
But in a change election, pitching longevity and experience as a positive simply didn’t add up to a resonant message.
Despite being the wrong candidate for the moment, many allies who have helped the campaign for months were still in disbelief that Clinton did not succeed in putting away a man they see as unqualified to serve as commander in chief.
It's entirely human to seek to deflect blame from one's failed efforts, especially in an enterprise where the stakes are so high. But it would be refreshingly honest if John Podesta would step forward and say something like "the buck stops here." This one's on me. Hillary is blameless, and my staff performed brilliantly.
But then, Podesta would be finished in politics if he said that. The cost of making a mistake in national politics is so high that fessing up to one's failures simply isn't possible if a career in running campaigns is what you want. So every four years, the losers shift blame everywhere but where it belongs.