Interesting article in the New York Times about a post-mortem conference call held by the Clinton campaign leadership. In it, Hillary apparently said that the FBI Director’s actions during the campaign’s closing weeks cost her the election. It’s not a conspiracy theory, though, because she’s not claiming that this was Comey’s intention.
“There are lots of reasons why an election like this is not successful,” Mrs. Clinton said, according to a donor who relayed the remarks. But, she added, “our analysis is that Comey’s letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum.”
Mrs. Clinton said a second letter from Mr. Comey, clearing her once again, which came two days before Election Day, had been even more damaging. In that letter, Mr. Comey said an examination of a new trove of emails, which had been found on the computer of Anthony D. Weiner, the estranged husband of one of her top aides, had not caused him to change his earlier conclusion that Mrs. Clinton should face no charges over her handling of classified information.
Funnily enough, in those last weeks — when Comey suddenly announced that the FBI was looking into Clinton-related emails on the laptop of the estranged husband of her closest aide and then, a few days later announced that the Bureau saw no reason to change its earlier view that Clinton should not be prosecuted — some of us began to wonder what he was up to. And of course conspiratorial explanations were raised as well as the usual cock-up theories. Comey is no J. Edgar Hoover, but still…
In a way, though, the most interesting thing about the Clinton debacle is the vivid demonstration it provides of how a modern, lavishly-funded, meticulously-planned, faultlessly executed, and digitally-delivered election strategy could be defeated by a campaign run by a contemporary version of a circus barker. The NYT report of the conference call makes this point well.
Before Mrs. Clinton spoke on Saturday, her finance director, Dennis Cheng, thanked the donors on the call, each of whom had raised at least $100,000. The campaign brought in nearly $1 billion to spend heavily on data efforts, to disperse hundreds of staff members to battleground states, and to air television advertisements — only to fall short to Mr. Trump’s upstart operation.
Donors conceded that, ultimately, no amount of money could match Mr. Trump’s crisp pitch, aimed at the economically downtrodden, to “make America great again.”
“You can have the greatest field program, and we did — he had nothing,” said Jay S. Jacobs, a prominent New York Democrat and donor to Mrs. Clinton. “You can have better ads, paid for by greater funds, and we did. Unfortunately, Trump had the winning argument.”
Of course nobody on the call was tactless enough to suggest that the failure might have had something to do with the fact that in a political climate fuelled by rage against political elites it might not have been a great idea to run someone who is, par excellence, a paradigmatic example of said elites.
I suppose — clutching at straws — one good outcome of the 2016 campaign is that it brings to an end the weird ascendancy of dynastic candidates in what is supposedly a democracy. Before Trump appeared on the scene, I thought it would boil down to a contest between the Bush and Clinton dynasties. At least we have been spared that.