Democrats were worried about Hillary Clinton’s new book, and those fears were proven right. The former first lady and two-time presidential loser has been on a tear, dishing out punishment to people she felt screwed her over during the 2016 election. Sure, there’s sexism, Russia, the FBI, and the media—the latter of which she says covered her email fiasco like Pearl Harbor—but two people are the targets of some vicious criticism: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former FBI Director James Comey. Sanders softened Clinton up for the Republicans during the primaries, while Comey issued an eleventh hour letter to Congress, noting that the FBI will review more emails found on the laptop of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY). Weiner was the subject of a separate FBI probe into inappropriate communications with a minor. He was married to top Clinton Aide Huma Abedin; it was determined that both Weiner and Abedin shared that laptop at the time. Abedin has since filed for divorce. Weiner pleaded guilty to one count of transferring obscene material to a minor. He will have to register as a sex offender.
The letter Comey drafted to Congress was simply informing them that they would review these communications. Automatically, the email fiasco was back in the news. It was an issue that killed her on the question of character, and something that she could never shake, as her explanations for the private email server that skirted federal regulations concerning preserving communications among public officials was debunked time and time again. With Sanders, Clinton issued a rather blunt warning to her party that they should avert his ideas, as they’re not in the interests of the Democratic Party. In short, as USA Today’s Susan Page said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this week, this book was meant as a vehicle of revenge against Sanders.
“I think she wanted to settle some scores, including James Comey—and with Bernie Sanders, and with others,” said Page. She also described Clinton being “wounded” from the results of the 2016 race. She bought a second home to be used for White House staffers and the Secret Service in anticipation of winning the election. Yet, circling back to Sanders, she says that him dragging out the nomination fight hurt her, as if she was entitled to it. Sanders did his job as an insurgent candidate—and most of the things he attacked Clinton on were fair game (Yahoo! News):
“I had such a different experience in ’08,” Clinton said in an interview with the “Pod Save America” podcast that was posted on Tuesday. “Once it was over, it was over. And I quickly endorsed President Obama. I worked really hard to get him elected. I was still arguing with my supporters at the Denver convention, telling people, ‘Don’t be ridiculous. You’ve got to vote for Senator Obama, at the time.’ And I was thrilled when he got elected.”
“I didn’t get anything like that respect from Sanders and his supporters,” Clinton said. “And it hurt. You know, to have basically captured the nomination, ending up with more than 4 million votes than he had. And he dragged it out.”
“I won, really, by March and April, but he just kept going,” Clinton told NPR’s “Morning Edition.” “And he and his followers’ attacks on me kept getting more and more personal, despite him asking me not to attack him personally. And, you know, I really regret that. But now he’s got a chance to prove he’s something other than a spoiler. And that is, to help Democrats. And I don’t know if he will or not, but I’m hoping he will.”
Clinton claims that the “attacks” Sanders leveled at her during the primary campaign “caused lasting damage,” made it harder to “unify progressives” and paved the way for Donald Trump’s “Crooked Hillary” refrain.
“I don’t know if that bothered Bernie or not,” Clinton writes. “He certainly shared my horror at the thought of Donald Trump becoming President, and I appreciated that he campaigned for me in the general election. But he isn’t a Democrat.”
Now, that’s not to say that Sanders wasn’t a factor. The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Roll Call’s Jonathan Allen, who wrote Shattered, which detailed the Clinton campaign, made it, clear in their book that Sanders hit Clinton on her Wall Street support, and how his supporters never really trusted Clinton. Again, this was a fair attack, as she gave paid speeches to members of Wall Street and wouldn’t release the transcripts. It took Wikileaks to reveal what was said. Yet, it’s on her as a candidate to win these people over. Parnes and Allen also noted that the ironic part about Clinton going after Comey is that he wouldn’t have been a factor if she didn’t use a private email server to conduct all her official business as secretary of state. Moreover, she says that the email fiasco was her “most important” error during the 2016 campaign, so there’s some selective memory games being played here regarding the torching of the former FBI director. Comey did draft a Clinton exoneration statement months before the conclusion of the Bureau’s investigation into her email use.
Also, Sanders could have been helpful to Clinton, albeit indirectly. The democratic socialist beat Clinton in the Michigan and Wisconsin primaries; two states that she would ignore and lose again in the general to Donald Trump. The hint was that maybe she was underwater with white working class voters, but she decided to take a pass and lost the Rust Belt in the process (via CNN) [bold text indicates questions from CNN’s Chris Cillizza]:
I was struck by how much blame Clinton lays at the feet of Bernie Sanders for her loss. Did you guys get that sense in your own reporting on 2016?
Parnes/Allen: Yes, we made it pretty clear in our book that Bernie Sanders was definitely a factor. He kept hitting her at quite possibly the worst possible time during the campaign — at the end of the primaries when Donald Trump was calling her “Crooked Hillary.” At the same time, you had Sanders telling his supporters that she’s in the pocket of the big banks and wasn’t looking out for them. And they believed him and we say this because they never ever came home and supported her.
Even after Sanders made the endorsement for her, it was also pretty clear to many people that he didn’t 100% believe it. As we detail in “Shattered,” he was cutting an ad for her and he was skimming the text of it and when he got to the part where he would have to say, “I’m with her,” he paused and said, “I can’t say that. It’s so phony.” That spoke volumes.
To this day, we talk to Bernie supporters who still don’t trust Hillary Clinton and they stand by their decision to stay home or vote third party.
Clinton seems absolutely convinced James Comey and Russian interference cost her the election. Based on your reporting is that right? Or is it something of a crutch to absolve her of blame?
Parnes/Allen: We have always said that Comey and Russia were factors but they weren’t the only factors. She also lacked a message and message discipline — something she acknowledges that even President Obama was highlighting to her behind the scenes. Her use of a private server and email was a major factor and her inability to get out in front of it. (Comey never would have been a factor had she never used private email.)
Other factors: the campaign relied heavily on data analytics and they relied too much on the science to drive their decisions on where to send her. There were clear deficiencies in Michigan (a state she also lost in the primary) and in Wisconsin and they never did traditional polling there in the final weeks. She also failed to run a full persuasion campaign because it was too expensive. Oh and also, another self-inflicted wound, the Wall Street speeches. It made Sanders’ point for him.
Again, there were well known weaknesses with Clinton. Now, she says she’s accepting responsibility, but sexism, misogyny, Russia, the FBI, Sanders, Obama, and Biden(yeah, she goes after him too), all played a part in her downfall. It’s a whine fest. Everyone knows it—and it comes at a time when the party desperately wants to forget their upset loss in 2016. CNN’s Poppy Harlow even asked if Hillary was acting like a “sour loser” when she said that the Russians communicated with Trump associates to sink her. She’s convinced of that, but offered no evidence of collusion.
Hillary Clinton lost because of Hillary Clinton. She had no message, she, like the rest of the GOP field, misread the anger within the electorate and the cultural orientation that sprung up among voters. She came off as inauthentic. People didn’t like her. People didn’t trust her. It’s all on her. The failure is all on her, but until she accepts that, which she won’t, you’ll see the 2016 Democratic wound be re-opened consistently. Clintonites blaming Sanders for hamstringing Clinton, while Sanders supporters not backing down, slamming Clinton as a Wall Street, establishment candidate who didn’t go left enough to win. The only silver lining with this book is that it’s being released well in advance of the 2018 midterms, but the scars of 2016 will be re-salted and Democratic blood sports might erupt again. Hurricane Hillary has made landfall. Now, Democrats have to weather the storm.