Campaign Autopsy: Clinton’s 1,000 Cuts

A month after the most surreal, bizarre Presidential election in my lifetime, I find I have almost as many questions as answers.
Not about Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory, which seems clear, unless the Michigan recount and the Electors who actually cast their votes on December 19, decide otherwise.
Nor about Hillary Clinton’s defeat, which, in hindsight, I guess more of us should have seen coming.
Rather, my questions are about why:
Why did Trump win? What combination of the man, the moment, his message, his blatant manipulation of facts and brilliant self-marketing caused the upset?
Why did tens of millions of voters describe Trump as not qualified to be President and vote for him anyway?
Why did Clinton lose? What combination of the woman, the moment, her message and largely self-inflicted wounds caused the result?
Donald Trump’s victory is history-making and fascinating. To come from nowhere, politically, with no prior experience in elective office, little understanding of the issues or the world and a questionable personal reputation, especially with 52 per cent of the population, is nothing short of amazing.
Indisputably, Trump tapped into some deep-seated sentiments in the voting public, exploited them shamelessly and against all odds, pulled off the most remarkable electoral achievement in modern political history. He broke all the rules of American politics, and won. He lost the popular vote, but won the presidency.
Hillary Clinton’s loss is amazing as well.
Arguably the most qualified person to run for the presidency, with deep experience and an intimate knowledge of the issues confronting the nation, the support of her party and a vast campaign chest, she nonetheless lost. She played by the rules of American politics, and lost. She won the popular vote by more than 2 million votes, and lost.
It is not an easy answer. The question was put to 20-some veteran Democratic operatives, many of them White House alumni, at a private dinner Wednesday night in a plush, paneled dining room in Washington. It was a collective autopsy of a campaign they all expected to win. The mood was set at the outset by the host, who passed out “Emergency Canadian Residence Applications” as a gag.
Then, seated beneath a glowering portrait of a long-dead Civil War general, the guests were uniformly critical of the strategy and execution of the Clinton campaign. More in sadness than anger, they described a defeat inflicted by a thousand cuts.
In almost telegraphic shorthand, they ticked off the campaign’s failings: No message…took minorities and women for granted…essentially promised a third Obama term…assumed urban supporters would out-number rural opponents, as they had twice for Obama… failed to address economic concerns of white working class men…expected Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to be in the bag, and on and on.
Victory was always going to be tough, they said, given widespread Clinton fatigue…sclerosis of the Democratic Party…polarizing nature of the economic divide over the last 25 years…public disgust with “the establishment”…the challenge of a “change” election, etc.
Hillary herself came in for sharp criticism for mishandling her email controversy, the on-again FBI investigation, especially Director Comey’s bombshell 11 days before the vote, her sarcastic “basket of deplorables” and her remote style and reluctance to answer questions. She ran like a 20th-century candidate, it was said, in a 21st century election where all the old rules went out the window.
Then a single question stopped the conversation cold. Is it possible, one former senior official said ruefully, that running a woman candidate on the heels of the first black president may have been “a step too far” for the average American voter? “Not a pretty thought,” muttered one guest in the silence that followed.
As the dinner broke up, the guests consoled themselves with the thought that American politics have always been cyclical, that parties that seem devastated usually rise from the ashes, and that, as used to be said among enlisted men in the U.S. Army, nothing very good or very bad lasts very long.



Barack Obama is getting hell from the left and the right for his handling of the people’s revolution in Egypt.

Critics on the left, like Niall Ferguson, in a new column in Newsweek today, argue that the President should have pulled the rug from beneath Hosni Mubarak and openly aligned the U.S. with the protesters in Tahrir Square from the outset.

Critics on the right, like Glen Beck and others, chastise Obama for failing to publicly support our “ally” Mubarak .

Since Obama did neither, Obama’s performance is being dubbed a “foreign policy debacle” and a “colossal failure.”

Wrong, on both counts.

This was a case, not uncommon in diplomacy, where ambiguity was the highest and best use of the bully pulpit. If the President had come down decisively in favor of the protesters, it would have pushed Mubarak out all the more quickly. But it would also have given the revolution a “Made in America” label and stripped it of its legitimacy.

Instead, the President spoke repeatedly of the need for an orderly transition that would accommodate the legitimate desires of the protesters and all Egyptians. Going forward, he should do exactly the same thing. Rather than endorse this candidate over that, or even this general over that general, the Administration should stick to the principles of democracy and openness and equality.

If the U.S. adopts and stays with that posture there is a chance — just a chance — that this extraordinary, grass-roots revolution will result in elections and a democratic government later this year. It is crucial that the outcome be seen as the choice of the Egyptian people, not that of Washington-based foreign policy commentators from the left or the right.