Yesterday news broke of a potential shakeup in the Clinton campaign. Those rumors were quickly denied by the candidate herself. Despite that, the problem is eerily reminiscent of 2008. And with that, today Chris Cillizza opines in the Washington Post if the problem is really with the campaign staff, or the candidate herself, of which he brings to attention something I have felt:
It’s no secret by this point that Clinton’s skill set (resilience, perseverance, deep policy knowledge) translates better to being president rather than running for president. As a candidate, she tends to be deeply cautious, guarded and suspicious of all but her most loyal advisers (and sometimes them, too). She is slow to react on issues and problems that she believes are trumped up or not serious; the controversy over her email server and the rise of Bernie Sanders are just two examples of that tendency.
That’s a great summation of what is happening, but it does deserve a much deeper look into actual incidents and how Clinton has handled them.
The issue of Clinton’s use of a personal email server while serving as Secretary of State arose last March. Knowing she was going to run for President, the logical choice would have been to instantly put everything forward in hopes of putting the issue to rest. Instead the lawyer in Clinton kicked in, and she went into defensive mode. That has prolonged the issue into the primary, and now, if she wins the nomination, the general. Rather she did anything wrong or not, the fact of the matter remains that the average voter won’t care. This issue alone is enough to eat into the much needed voter enthusiasm and decrease her chances at winning.
Hypocritical Attacks On Sanders
A couple of months ago an attack started circulating saying Sanders adviser Tad Devine was a lobbyist for Monsanto. In the 80’s, Devine did work for a law firm that represented Monsanto, as a junior lawyer. Now that could be an issue, except for this:
What that tweet fails to mention is that Elmendorf also lobbys for Monsanto. And while he is just sitting there with Clinton Surrogate and former DNC chair Howard Dean, it’s also worth pointing out that Elmendorf is a paid advisor to the Clinton campaign:
Steve Elmendorf, a campaign adviser and fundraiser who has collected $30,505 for Clinton, was retained by Goldman Sachs as one of the bank’s “primary lobbyists” working to weaken the Dodd-Frank bill. Records show that after the bill was signed into law, Elmendorf continued to work on behalf of a number of Wall Street clients to ensure the implementation was favorable to financial industry interests. Elmendorfwas tapped by Citigroup, for example, to help the House of Representatives pass the Swap Jurisdiction Clarity Act, a bill strongly supported by Republican leadership in Congress to allow banks to avoid financial regulations by moving some operations overseas — a change that experts say could lead to another financial meltdown.
And that brings me to my next point…
In politics optics are every bit as important as words. Clinton knew that the paid speeches to Glodman Sachs would be an issue at the debate last week, and they thought it was a good idea to have Elmendorf sitting in the audience? She’s sitting up there, praising Dodd-Frank and talking about strengthening it, yet has one of the key lobbyists that has worked to destroy it advising and raising money for her campaign. How can she call Sanders raising questions about rather she can be trusted to do what the people want, and not Wall Street, a “smear”, when she does this?
The optics of Hillary Clinton are horrible. It’s like sitting in a bar, with your car keys, throwing back shots while campaigning to eliminate drunk driving.
To see how bad this is, let’s take a common Clinton line on the trail and debates; “The Republicans have been coming after me for years, and yet I’m still here”. Yes, that is very true, but how strong is she? Consider the fact that she is neck in neck with a relatively unknown senator from Vermont, who is a self-described Socialist Democrat. Something has taken a ding out of the proclaimed next Democratic nominee. Ok, actually a lot of things, but I’m sure the attacks over the year is part of that.
Then there’s the issue of her surrogates, which plays into that. Over the weekend Gloria Steinem made news when she said young woman flock to Sanders because that’s where the boys are. I didn’t put much stock into that, as she was appearing on Bill Maher’s show and there is a tendency to try and be funny with the comedian host. But then Sunday Madeline Albright said “there’s a special place in hell for women that don’t help other women“. Now since sexism has been a big part of this campaign, I can’t help but feel that Albright’s line isn’t rather sexist. It’s basically saying women should support women, simply because they are women. If I said there was a special place in hell for men not supporting Bernie, I would be blasted as a sexist, and rightfully so.
And for the biggest failure on optics, the same day Albright made that comment, Bill Clinton is out there blasting Sanders supports for “making sexist comments”. Ummm….what? Does the Clinton campaign really think it’s a great idea to have the former President, who was famously impeached for getting a blow job from his young intern, talking about sexist? We can debate just how wrong Clinton engaging in this action with Lewinsky, but I believe we can all agree that at a minimum it amounted to sexual harassment, which I always thought was a front and center issue of the feminist movement.
Perhaps these final two issues on sex also explain something else:
That made the rounds on social media last night, with people in the Clinton camp jumping to conspiracies from the likes of Steinem to them being just “dumb and young”. But let’s not forget optics here. In that age group you’re talking about people growing up with the news focusing on blue dresses with white stains. That period of time was also the rise of anti-sexual harassment rules and laws. Perhaps a part of the reason for these poll numbers is that these young women remember the news of the President of the United States admitting to violating a core issue of women’s rights, much the same as my memories are of “I am not a crook” and Iran-Contra.
When you put everything together here, you can start seeing that the problems really are with the person and not the campaign. I’m not saying Hillary Clinton won’t make a great President, I’m simply saying that when it comes to being a candidate, she just isn’t that great.