Nothing, it seems, energizes Bill and Hillary Clinton’s dedicated band of camp followers faster or with greater intensity than suggestions that responsibility for her devastating loss last November lay with the campaign itself.
Democratic party apparatchiks and sympathizers in the media who cling to the Clintons like barnacles to the hull of a garbage scow, spring into action at the first hint of accusations that the campaign team was grotesquely dysfunctional, beset by power struggles, and populated by egomaniacal backstabbers.
Their latest target is longtime Democratic Party activist and former national chair Donna Brazile, whose recently published book “Hacks” is brutally unsparing in its portrayal of the campaign leadership as inept, insular and caustically dismissive of other more experienced individuals.
The Clinton loyalists quickly began trashing Brazile, accusing her of shameless self-promotion and a crass attempt to hype book sales.
It’s the same basic script the Clinton camp has followed since her defeat at the hands of President Trump: The blame lies with Russian agents, former FBI Director James Comey, WikiLeaks, and other assorted evil-doers intent on blocking her from becoming the first female president.
The script also requires damaging the credibility of her critics, suggesting they have sinister motives – financial gain or personal retribution – or dismissing them as disgruntled, angry and vindictive people.
The script, moreover, demands bending the ongoing narrative away from embarrassing revelations while characterizing Clinton as seizing the high moral ground and driven by altruism.
In Brazile’s version of the deal struck by the DNC and the Clinton campaign to cede control over virtually every aspect of the committee’s functions to the campaign in return for a bailout, the arrangement was unethical but not illegal.
The Clinton version was that it was a sincere and generous effort by the campaign to assure the committee’s financial stability and maintain it as a viable organization.Control of personnel, strategy and spending was merely a welcome side benefit.
The agreement, in Brazile’s view, came perilously close to rigging the primary election process to favor Clinton over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Brazile concedes there is no hard evidence to support allegations of a rigged process, but there is little question that under her predecessor, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz, the committee tilted decidedly in Clinton’s direction.
The uproar over Brazile’s book is but the latest storm over the decision-making, strategy and overall conduct of the Clinton campaign.
Earlier books, analyses, and countless autopsies carried out on cable television talk shows have kept the issue alive for more than a year and all are remarkably similar in tone – the election was in the bag, it was hers to lose and the ineptitude and stubbornness of the campaign leaders produced arguably the greatest electoral upset since President Truman defeated Thomas Dewey in 1948.
More to the point, though, it is the Clintons themselves who have refused to put the election behind them and who insist on rationalizing her loss and retaining a dominant role in party affairs.
National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, in television interviews, dodged all questions based on the Brazile book, by repeating “it’s time to move on.” He sounded much like someone who felt that if he repeated it often enough, it would somehow come true.
His wish, though, ignores the reality that the Clintons do not want to move on.Her continued public commentaries, for instance, are designed to re-assert her relevancy and convince Americans that they made a grievous error in rejecting her.
For Perez to realize his desire will require a confrontation with the Clintons to suggest they relax in their Westchester County home and spend quality time with their grandchildren.
It is time for Bill and Hill to accept the role of elder statespersons, available to share their wisdom with others but not supplant them.
Neither has displayed any clear sign of gracefully retiring and, without a hard shove, will attempt to remain center stage.
They’ve become a cold sore on the upper lip of the Democratic Party and, without medication, will be the focus of what people see when they look at the organization. In the meantime, the Clinton loyalists remain vigilant and stand ready to engage in hand-to-hand combat with those who would blame their idols for the current state of party affairs.
One can envision them rising each morning, slipping into their “I’m With Her” tee-shirts and fantasizing about striding the corridors of the White House.
Dreams die hard.