Friday, February 22, 2008

Hillary Clinton: It could have been so different

It's starting to seem inevitable that in less than two weeks, Clinton will be decisively knocked out of the running by a vastly superior ground organization in Texas. She's not the first front-runner to blow a lead, but few have ever blown as big a lead, as spectacularly. Political scientists will be studying this one as a classic case study in hubris and mismanagement for years to come. And one thing they'll be documenting will be the monstrous incompetence -- and expense -- of her rich, talentless consultants, especially the poisonous Mark Penn.

As I posted recently, with friends like this, who needs enemies? I'm not sure which upset me more during the campaign -- his greed or his incompetence. If there any evidence that he has a good take on the issues, the voters, media, public relations, coalition building, or any of the other things that go into a winning campaign, I certainly never saw it. But he is expensive. I guess this is the route a candidate takes whose support is broad but not deep, who doesn't have the feet on the ground, and who is determined to go it alone. She keeps substituting money for sense, until both are in short supply.

I knew Penn and his ilk were expensive, but I had no idea of the staggering total until I saw the numbers in The Carpetbagger Report this morning. There is no other way to describe this than as an obscenity that makes a mockery of everything I thought she stood for.
About $15 million — or more than half of the New York senator’s January spending — went to a cadre of high-priced consultants. Though much of the cash went through the campaign media buyer for ad time, the considerable payments to outside consultants mark an increase in a pattern that has irked campaign insiders. From the beginning of the race through the end of last month, Clinton paid the consultants $33 million — nearly one-third of the $105 million spent by the campaign.
Think of it -- $33 million! Even a fraction of that would have enabled her to camapign more actively during February, that is, if she had actually had a strategy. Sure, she could still stage a miracle comeback -- but the vanishingly small odds of that happening are now about the same as the theoretical possibility that all the air molecules in a room would spontaneously migrate to one side of the room. And the way things have been going, she'd be stuck in the side with no air.

It didn't have to happen this way. She could have come to terms more honestly with the war, and campaigned more on what was right, rather than expedient and consultant-tested. She could have read the mood of the country better and run a more populist campaign. She could have reached out to kids before Obama ever had a chance to wrap them up. They're now excited about a historic first. Instead of telling them to grow up, she could have made them excited about another possible historic first. She could have made more savvy use of the internet -- especially if she had reached out to Kerry and gained access to his incredible database. She could have reached out to the "real president," Al Gore, the favorite of a large part of the party in the early going, and campaigned on reclaiming a White House that was stolen from him -- and us. But she decided to go it alone. And most of all, she gambled that the war would be dead as an issue in 2008, and she lost. We all lost.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hubris is right. When you view the White House as your birthright it comes across to the voters. It wasn't just that her campaign was mismanaged, it was also that the candidate just wasn't that good. I would suggest that, perhaps, we all won.