The Clinton Campaign Speaks to the New York Times
"Rule by the rich" gone wild. He not only could, he would. Are we there again?
by Gaius Publius
New York Times writer Patrick Healy has produced another piece that shows Clinton campaign insiders speaking off the record and anonymously to reflect on their candidate's potential troubles. His first was this piece, written in July ("Hillary Clinton’s Team Is Wary as Bernie Sanders Finds Footing in Iowa"), and my analysis of it is here ("The Clinton Campaign Notices the Sanders Campaign, or How to Read the Media").
My overall take on these pieces is — what seems like off-the-record navel-gazing on the part of campaign insiders is actually strategic leakage to the press. In other words, messaging, with the hook being an answer to the question, "Are they worried yet?" The answer is the campaign's carefully considered reply.
That said, there's much that can be learned from pieces like this, some of it surprising. Healy is a person to leak to for a reason, and not a bad analyst in his own right. So I want to take a look at some of what he says and make a few comments of my own. Keep in mind, this is not coverage of his main idea, but spot comments on some interesting and inadvertent revelations.
Healy's piece starts this way:
Clinton Campaign Underestimated Sanders Strengths, Allies SayNote the sourcing: "Advisers, ... including former President Bill Clinton, believe..." Did Healy speak to Bill Clinton, or to someone speaking for him? Did he speak to the candidate herself? It's possible either Clinton was interviewed, but we don't know and we'll likely never know. This is as close as we get to a naming of sources, and kudos to Healy for being this direct:
Advisers to Hillary Clinton, including former President Bill Clinton, believe that her campaign made serious miscalculations by forgoing early attacks on Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and failing to undercut his archliberal message before it grew into a political movement that has now put him within striking distance of beating her in Iowa and New Hampshire.
According to Democrats close to the Clintons and involved with her campaign, Mrs. Clinton and the former president are also unnerved by the possibility that Mr. Sanders will foment a large wave of first-time voters and liberals that will derail her in Iowa, not unlike Barack Obama’s success in 2008, which consigned Mrs. Clinton to a third-place finish. They have asked her advisers about the strength of the campaign’s data modeling and turnout assumptions in Iowa, given that her 2008 campaign’s predictions were so inaccurate.
Most Clinton advisers and allies would speak only on the condition of anonymity to candidly assess her vulnerabilities and the Clintons’ outlook on the race. This article is based on interviews with 11 people — campaign advisers, outside allies, friends and donors — who have spoken to the Clintons about the race.Again, though, the framing of this piece implies that the advisers and allies are speaking for themselves. You should assume they're not, and in fact when this article is mentioned in other articles, it's assumed to represent the campaign's orchestrated response to the surging Sanders challenge. Keep that in mind as you read on; it will matter when evaluating its accidental revelations, as opposed to its purposeful ones.
Now for some finds and glosses.
On Clinton's Ambition
The article accidentally, I think, comments on the nature of Hillary Clinton's ambition in this passage (my emphasis throughout):
According to Democrats close to the Clintons and involved with her campaign, Mrs. Clinton and the former president are also unnerved by the possibility that Mr. Sanders will foment a large wave of first-time voters and liberals [!] that will derail her in Iowa, not unlike Barack Obama’s success in 2008, which consigned Mrs. Clinton to a third-place finish.Note the phrase "large wave" and consider what that means. David Atkins, commenting in a recent Washington Monthly on this same possibility — a "wave" of new voters — wrote this:
2008 was a wave year for Democrats downballot, and it is easily arguable that the disaster of 2010 was due to the depression of the Democratic base when the progressive promises of the Obama campaign to tackle Wall Street and implement real universal healthcare were dashed by conservative Democrats like Max Baucus and Joe Lieberman.And:
It is unclear that a strategy based on strong turnout from women voters will be successful, while Sanders’ support is strongest among the very voters Democrats need big turnout from to win downballot races ... And as it turns out, wide majorities of younger women are backing Bernie Sanders. If leading Democrats are concerned about depressed turnout among left-leaning women, they might be backing the wrong horse when it comes to women under 45...A "wave election" is one where a very large number of new voters attempt to make big changes. Very large numbers of new voters. Now go back up to the Healy comment gleaned from the Clinton campaign. Ms. Clinton is "unnerved by the possibility that Mr. Sanders will foment a large wave of first-time voters..."
Given what we know now, Sanders would likely help downballot Democrats by driving progressive base turnout, reinforcing popular policies, capturing a few Perot voters, and bringing a swath of energized young voters to the polls.
How would a "wave of first-time voters," which would heavily drive Democratic base turnout, not be very good for the Democratic Party, as in, 2008-good. The Healy passage basically says that Hillary Clinton would trade away all of that to-the-party benefit to become the nominee, that she would be willing to seriously weaken the party so long as she could then lead it. This is almost the definition of destructive ambition. Is that a fair characterization? I think we'd have to ask Patrick Healy, as the quoted passage is his.
Don't forget that the quoted passage add the phrase "and liberals" to the "large wave of first-time voters" that Mrs. Clinton and her husband are "unnerved by."Are Mr. and Ms. Clinton really "unnerved" by "liberals"? Again, the phrasing is Healy's, but the sentiments are claimed to be those of the Clintons.
The Campaign Lists Its "Advantages"
In another accidentally revealing passage, Healy quotes the campaign as listing its advantages thus:
Given her many political advantages, like rich donors and widespread support from Democratic Party elites, she is also surprised that Mr. Sanders’s fund-raising has rivaled hers and that her experience — along with her potential to make history as the first woman elected president — has not galvanized more voters.If this is the campaign speaking, the statement is accurate but a bit tone-deaf. After all, "rich donors" and "widespread support from elites" is not the calling card you want to openly present in this election. These are indeed advantages, but should they be saying so — out loud, I mean? I would assume they would know that speaking to Patrick Healy for publication is speaking out loud.
The Clinton Campaign and the Debate Schedule
There's been a lot written about Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the debate schedule, including in these pages. Wasserman Schultz is a former Clinton campaign co-chair and as current head of the DNC is widely thought to be depressing both the number of Democratic primary debates and their turnout (via terrible scheduling, like the weekend before Christmas) in order to explicitly benefit Ms. Clinton.
Does the Clinton camp know and approve this? Healy:
Instead Mrs. Clinton, who entered the race as the prohibitive favorite, played it safe, opting for as few debates as possible, scheduled at times when viewership was likely to be low — like this Sunday at 9 p.m. on a long holiday weekend."Opting for as few debates as possible" implies agency and control. Is that what they think? We'd have to ask Healy if he's characterizing properly what he was told. Assuming he is, I'd say this is damning, not just for Wasserman Schultz, but for Clinton herself. This basically says that the Clinton campaign owned (or owns) the debate schedule.
Attacking the Sanders "Big Government Agenda"
My last point — attacking Sanders from the right, and by using Republican code words, speaks volumes to my ears about what a Clinton presidency would look like, at least in economic terms.
Several Clinton advisers are also regretting that they did not push for more debates, where Mrs. Clinton excels, to more skillfully marginalize Mr. Sanders over his Senate votes in support of the gun industry and the enormous costs and likely tax increases tied to his big-government agenda.We saw that argument play out in the most recent debate, but here again, the campaign seems to acknowledge, though Healy, what they're selling and to whom. I actually found "marginalize" the most frightening word in that passage. It implies that the current Clinton campaign thinks sweeping tax and spending changes — all of which would (a) reduce the nation's obscene income and wealth inequality, and (b) grow the health and wealth of the nation — should be swept into the "margins" of thought and discussion. If that's how Clinton would truly govern, I fear for the nation in this crossroads time of economic decision-making.
A Time of Economic Decision and Crisis
Put simply, not only the United States but the entire world appears to be entering a time of politically induced economic crisis. If the wealthy would stand down — in Greece, for example — and allow just a little breathing room for the beleaguered rest of us, most would suffer through the next decade or so on largely diminished dreams and no rebellion.
But the wealthy are turning the screws, and relentlessly so. The push for TPP (thank you, Mr. President) was relentless, as will be its damage. Democratic elites, whom Ms. Clinton is apparently proud to count as an "advantage," combined with Republican elites to pass it. Are the rich not rich enough? Apparently not. Are they determined to squeeze the last drop from the last turnip on the last table in the room? To pocket the last dime from the last bum in the last town in the world? Apparently so — with a ferocity that would make robber baron Jay Gould proud (see image above).
The rich will kill us for money and power; they're doing that today, here and all over the world. To this there is and will be a response, and it won't be pretty. The nation in this election stands (a) at a time of great peril, if it once more follows the yellow-paved road; or (b) at a time of great opportunity, if it turns its back on the money that wants to control it. The Sanders campaign, put simply, not only offers hope of that opportunity, but unlike the 2008 Obama campaign, it offers the opportunity itself.
Obama was never going to be anyone but this guy:
Barack Obama in 2006. "Bob" is Robert Rubin, sitting in the room.
Sanders has always been this guy:
Bernie Sanders in 2003. That's Alan Greenspan on the hot seat.
I don't think the nation will survive in its current form if the "Jay Gould rich" rule for another eight years. I think the nation knows this. I wonder if the Clinton campaign knows this, or do they have their eyes more on their own success than on the nation's. The answer, at least as Patrick Healy tells it, isn't encouraging.
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