When you write a piece that begins “I know how to be a gracious loser,” you’re clearly on the defensive.
And that’s where Hillary Clinton’s communications director finds herself right now.
Jennifer Palmieri, you may recall, got into it with Kellyanne Conway when she told Donald Trump’s campaign manager at a Harvard forum: “If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.” Conway denied doing anything of the sort, and the Hillary aide came off as, well, a less than gracious loser.
Palmieri is a pro, respected in the business, but it sounded like she hasn’t come to grips with Clinton’s loss. So she took to the Washington Post op-ed page yesterday to defend herself.
Despite the usual politeness of the Harvard event, “I decided this was a year where normal rules don’t apply. Speaking the truth was more important.”
Palmieiri says that while she accepts Trump’s victory (though not in the popular vote), “we are not laying down our principles or abandoning our supporters. But it’s also important for the winners of this campaign to think long and hard about the voters who rejected them.”
To which I would offer two words: Al Gore.
There was zero pressure on him to meet with the former vice president, even from him. And yet Gore, the country’s most visible evangelist on battling climate change, emerged from a meeting with kind words about Trump. Mr. Inconvenient Truth said they had a "lengthy and very productive" talk, calling it "a sincere search for areas of common ground."
Oh, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Trump met with the actor and activist as well to discuss climate change.
And while we’re at it, the president-elect has met with several top Democratic mayors: Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, New York’s Bill De Blasio, and Washington’s Muriel Bowser.
And Trump has stayed in touch with President Obama, who he bitterly denounced on the campaign trail, telling NBC’s Matt Lauer that he has sought the president’s advice on Cabinet picks and in one instance taken that advice.
“I’ve gotten to know President Obama. I really like him…We have a really good chemistry together. We talk. He loves the country. He wants to do right by the country.” And, of course, they disagree on many issues.
Now I’m sure Trump critics will dismiss this as window-dressing. But symbolism is important when a new president is taking over a divided country.
And yes, he just nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, an outspoken climate change skeptic, to run the EPA, as well as Tom Price at HHS and Ben Carson at HUD, both of whom have challenged part of the mission of those departments. But the ultimate decisions will be made by Trump.
Palmieri, meanwhile, is wedded to the notion that race was at the heart of Trump’s victory, even if he did win 306 electoral votes:
“I don’t know whether the Trump campaign needed to give a platform to white supremacists to win. But the campaign clearly did, and it had the effect of empowering the white-nationalist movement.”
I know all the criticisms of Trump: that he retweeted stuff from white supremacists; that his criticism of Mexicans and Muslims was racially divisive; that he hired Steve Bannon despite the inflammatory stuff on Breitbart. That’s fair game for debate.
But when asked about, say, David Duke or the KKK, he would always renounce their support—yet never vociferously enough for his detractors. And no politician can be responsible for every extremist who decides to offer support. Some wack jobs also backed Hillary Clinton.
Anyone who thinks Trump won the presidency because he was backed by racists and yahoos isn’t being realistic about the 60 million votes he got.
Palmieri closes by suggesting that “he and his team try ‘hashtag “we are all Americans.”’ We all have a role to play here. But it’s the winner who carries the burden of taking the lead in uniting the country.”
It’s early for a sweeping judgment on whether Trump is uniting the country, given that he hasn’t taken office yet. But if a Democratic president-elect was meeting with prominent conservatives and praising the GOP incumbent, he would probably garner some praise. Unity, it seems to me, is a two-way street.