By Howard Kurtz, ,
Published December 20, 2016
Hillary Clinton and her inner circle seem to be handing out lots of blame for her defeat.
But almost no one is blaming the candidate for failing to do what the Democrats once thought would be easy, beating Donald Trump.
The press usually revels in party-in-disarray stories, and this one has all the elements: the fall of the House of Clinton, the Democrats controlling nothing on the Hill and losing governorships. There has been a little bit of that, but the Trump transition has sucked up most of the media oxygen. And the former Democratic nominee has been keeping such a low profile that the Washington Post did a piece on neighbors hunting for Hillary in the Chappaqua woods.
But the finger-pointing is truly striking, because it doesn’t deal with the core issues that caused Clinton to lose: She had no message, especially not an economic message. She all but ignored Wisconsin and Michigan. She failed to build a personal narrative. She crippled herself with the private email server. She was a status quo candidate in a change election. She was so hypercautious about her media appearances that even Rachel Maddow couldn’t land an interview. Her platform was basically, Donald Trump is crazy and I’m not.
Even President Obama has acknowledged that the Democrats failed to connect with paycheck-to-paycheck voters at the grass roots. But there has been little such reflection from the Clinton camp.
Instead, Hillary Clinton says Russian hackers came after her campaign and the DNC because Vladimir Putin “has a personal beef against me.”
That may be true, especially since Trump campaigned for friendlier relations with Moscow. Clinton told a group of donors in Manhattan that “the press is finally catching up to the facts,” and that “this is an attack against our country.” And that is true, assuming the murky leaks about the CIA and FBI findings are accurate.
But that’s not why Clinton lost. The leaks were embarrassing and a huge distraction, but they hardly tipped the election.
Now Bill Clinton has gotten into the act. He told a local paper that Trump “doesn’t know much,” but “one thing he does know is how to get angry, white men to vote for him.”
It’s an odd diagnosis from Bubba, since he’s said part of his political success came from getting rednecks to vote for him, the kind of rural voters that his wife failed to connect with.
The former president blamed James Comey, saying the FBI chief had “cost her the election” by starting a new email inquiry—this one having to do with Anthony Weiner’s computer—less than two weeks before Election Day.
And yesterday Clinton said his wife had been subjected to “that bogus email deal”—as if she had not apologized for circumventing government email and Comey hadn’t found her to have mishandled classified information.
As for Weiner’s estranged wife, Huma Abedin, she gets slapped around in a Vanity Fair piece. One “Clinton insider” is quoted as saying Abedin “was enjoying the red carpet and enjoying the photo spreads much too much in my opinion. She enjoyed being a celebrity too much.” This person said Abedin and other top advisers may have suffocated Hillary, reinforcing her bad habits and risk-averse approach to politics—even deterring her from making more than one appearance on “The View.”
So it’s Putin, Comey, Huma, you name it, not the former first lady and secretary of State.
If the Democrats don’t do a better job of diagnosing their failures, they are doomed to repeat them. And for all the fascination with Trump, that is a worthy subject for journalistic inquiry.