Diary

The real meaning of the Atlantic Monthly article

The thoroughly-hyped article in The Atlantic, on the demise of the Hillary Clinton campaign is out, and it makes interesting reading, but one point I haven’t seen anyone make yet is that this article puts a real damper on any plans she has to run for president in 2012 if Barack Obama loses to John McCain.

    Two things struck me right away. The first was that, outward appearances notwithstanding, the campaign prepared a clear strategy and did considerable planning. It sweated the large themes (Clinton’s late-in-the-game emergence as a blue-collar champion had been the idea all along) and the small details (campaign staffers in Portland, Oregon, kept tabs on Monica Lewinsky, who lived there, to avoid any surprise encounters). The second was the thought: Wow, it was even worse than I’d imagined! The anger and toxic obsessions overwhelmed even the most reserved Beltway wise men. Surprisingly, Clinton herself, when pressed, was her own shrewdest strategist, a role that had never been her strong suit in the White House. But her advisers couldn’t execute strategy; they routinely attacked and undermined each other, and Clinton never forced a resolution. Major decisions would be put off for weeks until suddenly she would erupt, driving her staff to panic and misfire.Above all, this irony emerges: Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence—on her capacity, as she liked to put it, to “do the job from Day One.” In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel. What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make. Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency. What follows is the inside account of how the campaign for the seemingly unstoppable Democratic nominee came into being, and then came apart.

Senator Clinton made the rather amazing claim that she was the candidate of experience, “ready to lead on day one.”¹

The economy needs help and fast, Hillary Rodham Clinton declared Monday, claiming the experience for the job and saying the nation can’t afford to break in a newcomer.In speech excerpts provided by the Clinton campaign, the New York senator suggested Democratic rival Barack Obama and other candidates lack the experience necessary to address the nation’s fiscal challenges.”There is one job we can’t afford on-the-job training for: our next president. That could be the costliest job training in history,” Clinton said. “Every day spent learning the ropes is another day of rising costs, mounting deficits and growing anxiety for our families. And they cannot afford to keep waiting.”

I noted late last year that her claim was ridiculous, that the only executive experience she had was an experience in failure, a point I made again and again.

And here Mrs Clinton proved my point. I had harped on noted that her only executive experience — the abysmal Clinton Health Care plan — was an experience in failure. Well, her presidential campaign counts as her second attempt at a really big executive job, and, once again, she failed.

The damning sentences again:

What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make. Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.

When faced with the necessity of taking hard decisions, she simply couldn’t do it. The article continues to note where Mrs Clinton couldn’t seem to take a decision or put off a decision, and then, near the end, where it is her husband to takes an important campaign decision — on whether to use the “3:00 AM phone call” ad — rather than the candidate herself.

Most of the article deals with the loggerheads to which the campaign came on strategy, yet, reading it, the reader would conclude — assuming he knew nothing else — that the fiercely savaged Mark Penn, her arrogant “chief strategist,” was the one who was actually right in figuring out how Mrs Clinton could win. That’s somewhat speculative, because there is no way of knowing whether, had Mr Penn’s advice been closely followed, Mrs Clinton would actually have won, or whether it didn’t matter: she was going to lose regardless. Many of our friends on the left (such as the Delaware Liberal and Pandagon) seemed more interested in the meme that. oh my God, Hillary Clinton’s campaign advisors and staffers were such [insert plural slang term for the sphincter here] that I’m glad she lost/she deserved to lose, and I can see their point, but, to me, that is the less important information to be gleaned from it. Far more important, to me, is the fact that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be president because she just can’t do the job. If she can’t take decisions between opposing sides among a relatively small campaign “cabinet,” how can she be expected to be able to handle the tough questions in foreign policy? If she can’t decide between the advice given Mark Penn and Harold Ickes, how could we expect her to decide what action to take in a shooting war between Russia and Georgia? If she can’t decide to get rid of a poor campaign manager, how could she ever be expected to take the hard decisions that could send American soldiers in harm’s way?

I have long speculated — and speculated is the proper word, though I think I’m right — that Hillary Clinton not only doesn’t believe that Barack Obama can win he general election, but does not want him to win. Her only chance to become president is for Mr Obama to be defeated, and for her to run in 2012 against John McCain. But the Atlantic article may well be her worst nightmare: it demonstrates that Mrs Clinton’s claimed best strengths, her (sham) experience in government and her fitness to lead from day one, are simply political smoke. She cannot do what she claims she can do, and her 2008 presidential campaign has demonstrated that fully.


¹ – A humorous reference, since it comes from an article in which she gave an interview to the editors of the Concord Monitor, and said, concerning her statements that she was going to be the next president:

I don’t think it’s presumptuous; I think that it is sensible to say I intend to be elected president, I’m going to run a winning campaign against the Republicans, and here are some of the things I’m going to do on day one, day two, day three.

Oops!


Cross posted on Common Sense Political Thought.