Hillaryland: What The Heck Happened?

In a brilliant article, the New Republic's Michelle Cottle lets Hillaryland advisers, aides and adjuncts speak for themselves. Here are the insights I find to be most accurate or not so accurate.

"Devastating vulnerabilities such as Obama's associations with Wright and Ayers were not unearthed by the campaign's vaunted research team in time to be fully taken advantage of--despite being readily available in the public domain."

ME: This relates to the larger problem of not having taken Obama seriously and then, when the time came to take him seriously, being trapped in the wilderness of racial politics.

"Harold Ickes's encyclopedic understanding of the proportional delegate system was never operationalized into a field plan. The campaign inexplicably wrote off many states entirely, allowing Obama to create the lead of 100+ delegates that he has today. Most notably, we claimed the race would be over by February 5, but didn't devote any resources to the smaller states that day and in the weeks that followed, allowing Obama to easily run up margins and delegate counts on the cheap--the delegate margin he will win by."

ME: Ickes wrote memo after memo; none of them answered. And the Clintons, after Iowa (and Nevada) viscerally recoiled from caucuses. That Ickes does not regularly speak to the Clintons might have contributed to this problem.

"She never embraced the mantle from the beginning of being a different kind of candidate. Why did the campaign not do that? Because Mark Penn wanted to do it a different way. Read his book. He thought that you have a list of policy prescriptions. Voters are into that, and that's how you win. This came at the expense of--and it's a decision he really pushed for--saying to folks, 'Yes, she's a pretty inspiring figure herself.' ... There's no reason why she's not a change agent also. But once the CW is set, it just doesn't change."

ME: This one I kind of disagree with. In a race with Barack Obama, Clinton was never going to be seen as more of a change agent. And while Penn's strategy has been widely debated, criticized and caricatured, had other strategic decisions been amended, we would be writing about its success today.

"The Senator is as loyal as she is smart. And I think that removing Patti is where those two things came into conflict. She knew the right thing to do. At same time, she was very loyal to Patti, who had been very loyal to her."

ME: Excessive loyalty within the inner circle has been a trademarked Hillaryland problem ever since it became a trademarked asset. PSD, as she's known to her friends and others, made mistakes, as did Mark Penn and others. But the chain of cause of effect does not begin with personalities; it begins with persons and their reaction to events. If Clinton had contested the caucus states, she might be the nominee today. The decision not to contest the caucus states was made by the Clintons in response to Iowa and Nevada and a fairly prismed view of their role in the party.

"Mark Penn and Mandy Grunwald dismissed the possibility of youth turning out heavily in Iowa for Obama, saying on the record after the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, 'They don't look like caucus-goers.'"

ME: Everyone but the Obama campaign dismissed the possibility of a surge in voter turnout.

"Even among Clinton spokespeople long known for their heavy-handed ways, Phil Singer stood out for his all-too-common and accepted profanity-laced tirades and abusive behavior--both at colleagues and the media, who were all too happy to direct his comeuppance toward Hillary at a time she needed them most."

ME: Phil can be tough to deal with (and I've been on the receiving end of some of the profanity), but he is loyal to a fault, and the kind of guy you you'd want in the foxhole next to you. Most reporters who cover the Clinton campaign, if they had disputes with Phil or others, didn't train their sights on Clinton: they're adults. They just found someone else in the campaign to talk to.