Tag Archives: Politics

Book Discussion – Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

Jonathan Allen covered the White House and the 2016 campaign for Bloomberg News. Amie Parnes is the White House correspondent for The Hill. In 2015, they published a book titled HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton.

Allen and Parnes covered the Clinton campaign starting in 2014, planning to write another book about it. In their introduction, they explain that they thought they’d be writing about the election of a woman for the first time as President. Instead, they, like most of us, were shocked and now we have a book that chronicles infighting, mistakes and strategic errors. It’s: Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

It’s getting a lot of press. Matt Taibi in Rolling Stone is unforgiving:

Allen and Parnes here quoted a Clinton aide who jokingly summed up Clinton’s real motivation: “I would have had a reason for running,” one of her top aides said, “or I wouldn’t have run.”

The beleaguered Clinton staff spent the better part of two years trying to roll this insane tautology – “I have a reason for running because no one runs without a reason” – into the White House. It was a Beltway take on the classic Descartes formulation: “I seek re-election, therefore I am… seeking re-election.”

— www.rollingstone.com/…

Even if you detest Taibi, which doubtless many here do, it’s worth paying attention to one of his conclusions:

The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway.

Ron Elving over at NPR reviewed the book more sympathetically:

‘Shattered’ Picks Through The Broken Pieces Of Hillary Clinton’s Dream

There is no Big Reveal, no shocking secret answer. Instead we get a slow-building case against the concept and execution of the Clinton campaign, with plenty of fault falling squarely on the candidate herself.

Far from a juggernaut, the campaign we see in these pages is plagued with division, unease and anxiety practically from the outset. When things go right, it only means they are soon to go terribly wrong. Win a primary, lose a caucus. Quash a rumor, see three more go viral. Close one wound and find another torn open again. […]

The Clinton we see here seems uniquely qualified for the highest office and yet acutely ill-suited to winning it. Something about her nature, at its best and its worst, continually inhibits her. Her struggle to escape her caricature only contributes to it.

— www.npr.org/…

Business Insider has a round-up of staffers who are challenging the depiction of infighting in the campaign. Politico is reporting the same. The NY Times review and the book discuss Clinton’s own puzzlement at why white working-class voters, who were loyal to her in 2008 weren’t on board this time around. The WaPo review focuses on the description of election night, when Obama called Hillary urging her to concede and not drag it out.

Basically, everyone’s talking about it.

I’ll chime in with my own view and then leave it to comments. I still haven’t finished the book, which seems a bit gossipy to me. But I followed along during the campaign to know the arc.

My own take is that some of the mistakes being chronicled are overblown. Presidential campaigns are insanely fast-moving affairs where inevitably, mistakes are made and bad news comes out. Enormous teams are put together at short notice, and sometimes they fuck up. People have personality conflicts and everyone’s working in a pressure cooker, the stakes are high, tempers flare, and dog-eat-dog inclinations are indulged by some. The Trump campaign was a master class of ineptitude, infighting, scandal, distaste and overall disaster.

Basically, I don’t think campaign mis-steps made the difference. In the end, I think the crucial difference was that this was an anti-establishment cycle (in terms of the Beltway establishment) and it was going to be an uphill fight for someone like Hillary Clinton. Some missteps made much earlier snowballed. High level aides okayed the paid speeches and private e-mail server, for reasons that seemed very reasonable when the decisions were made, but then turned into a nightmare when the anti-establishment climate reified. There was likely some foreign meddling, and a candidate on the other side who did his best to outflank Clinton by running as a (fake) populist. Clinton’s natural inclination towards moderation and the center, which should have been a strength, became a weakness, and the industrial mid-west was torn away. It was probably a mistake to not show up in Michigan and Wisconsin, but Pennsylvania was lost though resources were poured into it.

Personally, I regret Hillary Clinton’s loss. I thought she was the most prepared and competent candidate in 2008. I thought much the same in 2016, with several reservations. The Trump administration’s vindictive meanness and ineptitude should shut up all the people who said there was no difference between the candidates.

After all that though, the question we’re left with is why it was so close.

The blame for that cannot be placed on Hillary Clinton’s shoulders alone. Or indeed on her campaign, which was effective on many traditional measures. In a very real sense, this election was a bipartisan indictment of Washington by voters. Yes, not the majority, but we are all adults and knew what the electoral college was going into this.

In my view, to win in the future we have to focus more on local/state level politics rather than the Presidency exclusively. Income inequality is the biggest issue in this country, we have to address it head on, without reservation and our messaging should reflect that. It is actually where the fight is, though they try to hide it, the Republican objective is to maintain the current gross levels of income inequality. We have to show people we are not going to stand for that.

KBR/Halliburton employees can sue in court for sexual assaults

This story has been raising eyebrows for a while, but it took a new turn this week. It seems KBR/Halliburton (of Dick Cheney fame) may have tried to cover up repeated incidents of sexual assault amongst employees serving in Iraq (perhaps because it affected recruiting adversely). Many employees had unknowingly signed binding arbitration agreements that the company claims covers assault and criminal cases as well. One of the women who says she was assaulted sued KBR and the Fifth circuit heard her case. Her story ispretty harrowing, especially the bit where KBR investigators locked her up for 24 hours after she reported the assault. Apparently this wasn’t an isolated case and the non-disclosure and binding arbitration agreements had been used to keep the other cases out of the news. No doubt many of the women working for KBR would have reconsidered tours in Iraq if they’d known of the various assault cases.

So, Al Franken introduced an amendment to the defense appropriations bill to prevent any defense contracts being awarded to companies requiring binding arbitration for sexual assault cases. Here’s the surprising bit 30 senators voted against the bill! All of them Republican, all of them men. Jeff Sessions rambled on about why the government shouldn’t meddle in contracts, but he also said “It is a political amendment, really at bottom, representing sort of a political attack directed at Halliburton, which is politically a matter of sensitivity.” He’s right, it probably is shrewd politics for the Democrats, though god knows KBR/Halliburton has been pretty good at getting its way in Washington ever since Brown & Root started handing envelopes stuffed in cash to LBJ and the rest of the Southern delegation.  Still, even if you admit Halliburton needs to be protected from the likes of Al Franken, the female employees of KBR probably deserve some assistance from judiciary while they’re out serving on battlefields. BTW, David Vitter (R, AL)who frequented brothels in D.C. and New Orleans voted against it.

Competing views on racism

David Brooks and Bob Herbert both have articles in the NYT about the role race is playing in the health-care debate.  Each of them reaches a completely different conclusion.

On this occasion I find myself leaning towards Herbert.  I don’t think every person who opposes Obama’s health care proposal, or Obama himself is racist, but I do think the fringe has been allowed to move closer to the center of power and the Republican party platform.  Ever since Nixon’s Southern strategy, the republican party has consciously exploited and encouraged racial anxiety amongst white Americans (of course, Southern democrats did the same thing quite well prior to LBJ).

Home is where the brain is.

Benjamin Schrier writes in San Francisco magazine about the impact Asian-Indian immigrants have had on Silicon Valley, how the downturn and US immigration rules are affecting younger immigrant technology workers, and what this may mean for Silicon Valley’s long-term prospects. One of the men profiled in the article is the brother of a high-school friend, and I can relate to much of the article. I stayed with my first US employer for far longer than I would have if a work-visa were not a concern.

New Yorker: Health care and the public’s resistance to change.

James Surowiecki of the New Yorker provides an explanation out of the behavioral economist’s handbook for conflicting polling data on health-care. It’s reminiscent of the polls suggesting most Americans are unhappy with Congress in the abstract, but do claim to like and wish to retain their own congressman/congresswoman. The explanation is along the lines of, the devil you know, or a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

Health Care Reform which puts the consumer and results first.

David Goldhill has a poignant and compelling article in the Atlantic Monthly titled How American Health Care Killed My Father about health-care reform. It deserves reading in it’s entirety.

The potential outcome Goldhill proposes is very similar to that advanced in John Mackey’s Op-Ed in the WSJ, except it’s more convincing, not nearly as strident, and doesn’t have an antagonistic title. Job better done.

Ted Kennedy, healthcare reform and cancer

Archival photo of Robert, Ted and John Kennedy
Archival photo of Robert, Ted and John Kennedy

Ted Kennedy died earlier today. The NY Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have all published moving tributes to him.

There’s also an article that might get lost in the shuffle, but should not since it is a significant comment on the current debate on health-care reform. The US lags behind most developed countries on measures of public health and the cost-effectiveness of health-care delivered. One area, though, in which the US system leads others is in treating cancer. This is in large part due to cancer research funding from the federal government, i.e. government intervention in health-care. The American Cancer Society published a tribute to Kennedy lauding his work as a supporter of research on cancer.

This reminds me of the role Al Gore played in the Senate when the Internet and networked technologies were in their infancy, a role acknowledged by true Internet pioneers. Sometimes, a senator’s pet project can be a visionary success. Often, it’s a bridge to nowhere.

Salon.com – Winston Churchill was a Bolshevik

Salon writes about Churchill’s role in creating the NHS in a scathing commentary on the slurs being bandied about today. Many conservatives would much rather forget Churchill’s role int he creation of the British welfare state, and many more would like to forget that he went back and forth between the Liberal and Tory parties during his long political career. Churchill knew that a good idea can easily be taken too far by its most strident adherents.