Clinton Campaign's Internal E-mails More Or Less Confirm Staff's Insanity

For the last few days, the folks at theAtlantic magazine have been hyping a piece from senior editor Joshua Green about the (not so) mysterious inner workings of Hillary Clinton's terrible campaign staff, claiming Green had procured 200(!) internal e-mails and memos. Such teases! This is sort of like waving crack in front of John Edwards' crack baby, but then saying "you have to wait for the September issue of crack to come out in three days." But it's out now, and we read it, and there's not much you haven't already known for months or couldn't have predicted. It has its moments, however. Wait until you read about Mark Penn's "FUN" invisible people button for the website!

Of course most of the hilarious bits involve chief strategist Mark "Bowser" Penn, the worst human being on earth, ever. Early in the campaign he "welcomed" other, less battle-proven staffers by, you know, intimidating them with creepy silver death bowls:

In light of this history, he got off to an inauspicious start when Clinton entered the race in January 2007, by demanding the title “chief strategist” (previously he had been one of several “senior advisers”) and presenting each of his senior colleagues with a silver bowl inscribed with the words of Horace Mann: “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

Penn strongly urged the campaign to go after, you guessed it, Obama's "lack of American roots." Hawaii, Indonesia, you know... The BLACKNESS maybe... NO THAT WAS A JOKE! Ha ha, eh...

Let’s explicitly own ‘American’ in our programs, the speeches and the values. He doesn’t. Make this a new American Century, the American Strategic Energy Fund. Let’s use our logo to make some flags we can give out. Let’s add flag symbols to the backgrounds.

And of course, Mark Penn's awesome Internet strategy: IT WILL BE FUN. HILLARY'S WEBSITE WILL BE FUN AND HUMANS WILL ENJOY IT OR DIE.

He also seemed cognizant of the growing power of the Web, and, straining for hipness, took at a stab at brainstorming a “viral” strategy:

I CAN BE PRESIDENT. This idea has potential for a viral campaign among moms—it is about your sons and your daughters believing that they too can be president. Your success paves the way for them … We are making a video with celebrities to launch this program in a FUN way, with great clips from kids and from celebrities saying what they would do if president.

Once again, he returned to the “Invisible Americans”:

Invisibles—need to use this as a creative vehicle to involve people—This can be a cool button where people appear/disappear. Mandy is working on an early spot that would give this some drama to the idea that it’s the people’s turn to be seen again.

Oh man, did they ever do this button thing? Can anyone find an operational URL if so? WE WANT TO HAVE FUN WITH IT.

This next bit is kind of sad. First they couldn't bribe the journalists at dinner, and then they were "mocked for weeks" for attacking a 5-year-old Obama. (Actually nevermind, they DID bribe the journalists at dinner because they won the Register's endorsement. And no one cared and then she was "mocked for weeks.")

On December 1, Clinton and her husband attended a private dinner with the influential Des Moines Register editorial board. Seated at opposite ends of a long table, they were stunned to hear journalists praise the skill and efficiency of the Obama and Edwards campaigns and question why Clinton’s own operation was so passive.

On the next morning’s staff conference call, Clinton exploded, demanding to know why the campaign wasn’t on the attack. Solis Doyle was put on a plane to Iowa the next day to oversee the closing weeks. Within hours of the call, the panicked staff produced a blistering attack on Obama for what it characterized as evidence of his overweening lust for power: he had written a kindergarten essay titled “I Want to Become President.” The campaign was mocked for weeks.

You know who never got quite enough credit as an asshole? Phil Singer. All the journalists hated that asshole -- you'll see why shortly -- and yet his public asshole reputation never quite reached the level of, say, everyone else working for Clinton:

On February 10, Clinton finally fired Solis Doyle and moved Williams in—but did not heed calls to fire Penn, enraging Solis Doyle’s many loyalists. At this crucial point, long-simmering feuds burst into the open. On February 11, Williams’s first day on the job, Phil Singer, Wolfson’s deputy and a man notorious for his tirades at reporters, blew up in Wolfson’s office and screamed obscenities at his boss before throwing open the door to direct his ire at the campaign’s policy director, Neera Tanden, an ally of Solis Doyle. “Fuck you and the whole fucking cabal!” he shouted, according to several Clinton staffers. In the end, he climbed onto a chair and screamed at the entire staff before storming out.

And then Robert Barnett -- an old pal of Bill's -- was like "I hate you all, forever" in an e-mail to senior staffers after that awesome Peter Baker/Anne Kornblut story (the one that was like Joshua Green's, but... months earlier):

STOP IT!!!! I have help [sic] my tongue for weeks. After this morning’s WP story, no longer. This makes me sick. This circularfiring squad that is occurring is unattractive, unprofessional, unconscionable, and unacceptable … It must stop.

Barnett also cross-posted this as a comment on an AOL message board. OK maybe not.

These people aren't all nuts, though, it seems after reading this. Hillary was just such a frontrunner, with so many advantages, that each of her top advisers was going out of his or her mind 24 hours a day not wanting to be the one that blew it. As a result they just fought all the time, these very smart individuals, and ended up blowing it as a team. And that's quite an achievement.

The Front-Runner's Fall [The Atlantic]


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