Watching senator Clinton attempt to regain some lift as she paraglides into history is almost enough to evoke pity. Almost. The Clintons come with their own boundless reserves of self-pity so further reinforcements seem unnecessary to me. And I suppose they could somehow still find a brutal, soul-grinding path to the nomination. But we've learned something important these past couple of weeks.
Clinton is a terrible manager of people. Coming into a campaign she had been planning for, what, two decades, she was so not ready on Day One, or even Day 300. Her White House, if we can glean anything from the campaign, would be a secretive nest of well-fed yes-people, an uncontrollable egomaniac spouse able and willing to bigfoot anyone if he wants to, a phalanx of flunkies who cannot tell the boss when things are wrong, and a drizzle of dreary hacks like Mark Penn. Her only genuine skill is pivoting off the Limbaugh machine (which is now as played out as its enemies). Her new weapon is apparently bursting into tears. I mean: really.
It's staggering to me that she blew through so much money for close to nothing (apart from the donuts). Without that media meltdown in New Hampshire, she would have been forced to bow out much earlier. She didn't plan for contests after Super Tuesday. She barely planned for any before that. She was out-organized in Iowa and South Carolina, and engaged in the pettiest form of politics in Florida and Michigan. Her fundraising operation was very pre-Internet. She has no message that isn't about her and the Republicans. Her trump card - Bill - managed to foment a 27 point loss in South Carolina. The Clintons, we can now safely say, got lazy. Or rather their old and now forgotten lackadaisical attitude toward governing returned like a persistent flu to campaigning. We tend to forget that their entire governing agenda after 1994 was essentially finessing Gingrich and battling impeachment. (Their entire agenda before 1994 was successful Eisenhower economics, and disastrous Hillarycare). It's been fifteen years since the Clintons actually stood for a coherent message, and it turns out they had forgotten that you kind of need that for a presidential run.
How did they come this close to losing this? They had all the money, all the contacts, all the machine levers, the entire establishment, the biggest Democratic name in decades, and they've been forced into a humiliating death-match by a first-term black liberal with a funny name. It seems obvious to me that the Clintons blew this because they never for a second imagined they could. So they never planned to fight it. Once put in a fair contest, they turned out to be terrible campaigners, terrible politicians, bad managers, useless executives, wooden public speakers. If you're a Democrat, that's good to know, isn't it? All that bullshit about Day One and experience? In retrospect: laughable.
Whatever happens in this campaign, if it finally puts the Clintons in our rear-view mirror, it will have been worth a great deal. We're not quite there yet, and the moment you feel any sympathy for a Clinton, they will use it to their own ends. But I'm enjoying the backward glance, however long it lasts. We're nearly free of them. Nearly.
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