‘Shattered’ Charts Hillary Clinton’s Course Into the Iceberg
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2017-04-18 01:42:11 UTC
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‘Shattered’ Charts Hillary Clinton’s Course Into the Iceberg
Books of The Times

Donald J. Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in November came as a shock
to the world. Polls, news reports and everything the Clinton campaign was
hearing in the final days pointed to her becoming the first female president
in American history.

In their compelling new book, “Shattered,” the journalists Jonathan Allen
and Amie Parnes write that Clinton’s loss suddenly made sense of all the
reporting they had been doing for a year and a half — reporting that had
turned up all sorts of “foreboding signs” that often seemed at odds, in real
time, with indications that Clinton was the favorite to win. Although the
Clinton campaign was widely covered, and many autopsies have been conducted
in the last several months, the blow-by-blow details in “Shattered” — and
the observations made here by campaign and Democratic Party insiders — are
nothing less than devastating, sure to dismay not just her supporters but
also everyone who cares about the outcome and momentous consequences of the

In fact, the portrait of the Clinton campaign that emerges from these pages
is that of a Titanic-like disaster: an epic fail made up of a series of
perverse and often avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate and her
strife-ridden staff that turned “a winnable race” into “another
iceberg-seeking campaign ship.”

It’s the story of a wildly dysfunctional and “spirit-crushing” campaign that
embraced a flawed strategy (based on flawed data) and that failed,
repeatedly, to correct course. A passive-aggressive campaign that neglected
to act on warning flares sent up by Democratic operatives on the ground in
crucial swing states, and that ignored the advice of the candidate’s
husband, former President Bill Clinton, and other Democratic Party elders,
who argued that the campaign needed to work harder to persuade undecided and
ambivalent voters (like working-class whites and millennials), instead of
focusing so insistently on turning out core supporters.

“Our failure to reach out to white voters, like literally from the New
Hampshire primary on, it never changed,” one campaign official is quoted as
Hillary Clinton, right, with her aide Huma Abedin talking on her campaign
plane in October 2016. “Shattered” describes a presidential campaign that
turned a winnable election into a devastating loss. Credit Doug Mills/The
New York Times

There was a perfect storm of other factors, of course, that contributed to
Clinton’s loss, including Russian meddling in the election to help elect
Trump; the controversial decision by the F.B.I. director, James Comey, to
send a letter to Congress about Clinton’s emails less than two weeks before
Election Day; and the global wave of populist discontent with the status quo
(signaled earlier in the year by the British “Brexit” vote) that helped fuel
the rise of both Trump and Bernie Sanders. In a recent interview, Clinton
added that she believed “misogyny played a role” in her loss.

The authors of “Shattered,” however, write that even some of her close
friends and advisers think that Clinton “bears the blame for her defeat,”
arguing that her actions before the campaign (setting up a private email
server, becoming entangled in the Clinton Foundation, giving speeches to
Wall Street banks) “hamstrung her own chances so badly that she couldn’t
recover,” ensuring that she could not “cast herself as anything but a
lifelong insider when so much of the country had lost faith in its

Allen and Parnes are the authors of a 2014 book, “H R C,” a largely
sympathetic portrait of Clinton’s years as secretary of state, and this book
reflects their access to longtime residents of Clinton’s circle. They
interviewed more than a hundred sources on background — with the promise
that none of the material they gathered would appear before the election —
and while it’s clear that some of these people are spinning blame
retroactively, many are surprisingly candid about the frustrations they
experienced during the campaign.

“Shattered” underscores Clinton’s difficulty in articulating a rationale for
her campaign (other than that she was not Donald Trump). And it suggests
that a tendency to value loyalty over competence resulted in a lumbering,
bureaucratic operation in which staff members were reluctant to speak truth
to power, and competing tribes sowed “confusion, angst and infighting.”

Despite years of post-mortems, the authors observe, Clinton’s management
style hadn’t really changed since her 2008 loss of the Democratic nomination
to Barack Obama: Her team’s convoluted power structure “encouraged the
denizens of Hillaryland to care more about their standing with her, or their
future job opportunities, than getting her elected.”

The campaign frequently spun its wheels in response to crises and urgent
appeals from Democrats on both the state and national levels, the authors
report. Big speeches were written by committee. “Evolving the core message”
remained a continuing struggle. And the Brooklyn campaign headquarters —
which would end up outspending Trump’s campaign by nearly 2 to 1 —
frustrated coordinators in battleground states like Colorado by
penny-pinching and cutting back on television, direct mail and digital

As described in “Shattered,” Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook — who
centered the Clinton operation on data analytics (information about voters,
given to him by number crunchers) as opposed to more old-fashioned methods
of polling, knocking on doors and trying to persuade undecideds — made one
strategic mistake after another, but was kept on by Clinton, despite her own

“Mook had made the near-fatal mistakes of underestimating Sanders and
investing almost nothing early in the back end of the primary calendar,”
Parnes and Allen write, and the campaign seemed to learn little from Clinton’s
early struggles. For instance, her loss in the Michigan primary in March
highlighted the problems that would pursue her in the general election —
populism was on the rise in the Rust Belt, and she was not connecting with
working-class white voters — and yet it resulted in few palpable
adjustments. Michigan, the authors add, also pointed up Mook’s failure to
put enough organizers on the ground, and revealed that his data was a little
too rosy, “meaning the campaign didn’t know Bernie was ahead.”

These problems were not corrected in the race against Trump. Allen and
Parnes report that Donna Brazile, the Democratic National Committee
chairwoman, was worried in early October about the lack of ground forces in
major swing states, and that Mook had “declined to use pollsters to track
voter preferences in the final three weeks of the campaign,” despite pleas
from advisers in crucial states.

After a planned appearance in Green Bay with President Obama was postponed,
the authors write, Clinton never set foot in Wisconsin, a key state. In
fact, they suggest, the campaign tended to take battleground states like
Wisconsin and Michigan (the very states that would help hand the presidency
to Trump) for granted until it was too late, and instead looked at expanding
the electoral map beyond Democratic-held turf and traditional swing states
to places like Arizona.

In chronicling these missteps, “Shattered” creates a picture of a shockingly
inept campaign hobbled by hubris and unforced errors, and haunted by a sense
of self-pity and doom, summed up in one Clinton aide’s mantra throughout the
campaign: “We’re not allowed to have nice things.”

Follow Michiko Kakutani on Twitter: @michikokakutani

2017-04-24 14:21:09 UTC
Raw Message
Post by a425couple
‘Shattered’ Charts Hillary Clinton’s Course Into the Iceberg
Books of The Times
Donald J. Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in November came as a shock
to the world. Polls, news reports and everything the Clinton campaign was
hearing in the final days pointed to her becoming the first female
president in American history.
In their compelling new book, “Shattered,” the journalists Jonathan Allen
and Amie Parnes write that Clinton’s loss suddenly made sense of all the
reporting they had been doing for a year and a half — reporting that had
turned up all sorts of “foreboding signs” that often seemed at odds, in
real time, with indications that Clinton was the favorite to win.
A new tell-all about the Clinton campaign is a searing indictment
of the candidate herself
Updated by Jeff Stein Apr 24, 2017, 8:10am EDT

Hillary Clinton’s face projected at Javits Center in New York City, where
she was supposed to shatter the glass ceiling. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty

It does not take more than a few pages for journalists Jon Allen and Amie
Parnes to arrive at what amounts to their thesis in Shattered: Inside
Hillary Clinton’s Doomed 2016 Campaign, a new tell-all book built off years
of reporting on the trail.

“[Clinton’s] campaign was an unholy mess, fraught with tangled lines of
authority, petty jealousies, distorted priorities, and no sense of greater
purpose. No one was in charge, and no one had figured out how to make the
campaign about something bigger than Hillary,” Allen and Parnes write in the
book’s introduction. “[But] no explanation of defeat can begin with anything
other than the core problem of Hillary’s campaign — Hillary herself.”

Writing in a lively and fast-paced narrative, Allen and Parnes use their
unparalleled access (more than 100 on-background interviews with top Clinton
surrogates) to richly document what it felt like to be aboard the Clinton
Hindenburg, as well as to argue that Trump’s victory was not inevitable, or
the result of interventions from the FBI or Russia, but the result of
campaign incoherence that went all the way to the top.

This thesis rests on two arguments that are fundamentally in tension. One is
that the allegedly best and the brightest of Clinton’s campaign fell short
because they failed at marketing an otherwise winning candidate — that
unforced strategic blunders, factional infighting, and bone-headed
investments torpedoed a Democratic nominee who, in the hands of some better
staff, would have swept to the White House. Not incidentally, this has been
the part of the book that’s gotten by far the most attention in the coverage
surrounding its release last week — with Clinton aides defending themselves
in Politico, and Allen standing by his story on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show.

It’s also the least meaningful part of the book. The second main argument
Shattered makes is that Clinton herself was a flawed candidate whom no
campaign team could have saved. This argument hinges on the idea not that
Clinton was failed by her staffers, but that she failed them by never
articulating a political vision that they could use to capture the public’s
imagination. It is in uncovering proof of this second thesis where the book
is both most persuasive and most arresting — and where its lessons for the
Democratic Party are the most salient.
The stories of team Clinton’s incompetence can be traced back to the
Hillary Clinton Campaigns In Key Swing States Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty

The Clinton campaign made several strategic decisions that have drawn heaps
of scorn from the press. In the pages of Shattered, it becomes clear that
their fundamental origin rested in Clinton herself.

Take their approach to winning Michigan. On the ground, Democratic
politicians in Michigan like Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) were furiously
relaying the message that union voters were turning on Clinton, that she
needed to put field organizers on the ground as fast as possible, and that
she hadn’t come out strongly enough against the TPP. But back in Brooklyn,
her team was cautiously confident that Michigan would be hers.

And then it all fell apart — Bernie Sanders pulled off the upset in March
2016, a victory that resuscitated and extended his flailing campaign for

These details would replay themselves in almost exactly the same way fewer
than nine months later. As Donald Trump honed his message on the Rust Belt,
Clinton herself barely visited the region and her staff withheld resources
from its field operations in the Midwest — a choice that was denounced as
“political malpractice” in many of the post-mortems that followed the

We learn from Shattered that this is not because Clinton’s team ignored the
blown Michigan primary. Just the opposite. Instead, Robby Mook, Clinton’s
campaign manager, concluded from Sanders’s win there that the problem was
not that Clinton had spent too little time in Michigan, but that she’d spent
too much — that calling attention to the state would make clearer to voters
that they should vote for her opponent.

Allen and Parnes write:

One of the lessons Mook and his allies took from Michigan was that
Hillary was better off not getting into an all-out war with her opponent in
states where non-college-educated whites could be the decisive demographic.
In Michigan, they believed, Hillary’s hard campaigning had called attention
to an election that many would-be voters weren’t paying attention to, and
given Bernie a chance to show that his economic message was more in line
with their views.

So Mook’s clique looked at the elevation of the Michigan primary —
poking the sleeping bear of the white working class — as a mistake that
shouldn’t be repeated. “That was a takeaway that we tried to use in the
general,” said one high-ranking campaign official.

With hindsight, the decision looks like an inexplicable and unforced error.
Aides told Allen and Parnes that they sent Clinton to Michigan only once
(and not at all to Wisconsin) because they believed “to make the election a
bigger deal was not good for our prospects.” When I shared this anecdote
from the book on Twitter, a chorus of critics attacked Mook, with the
National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar calling it a “mind-blowing blunder.”

But was it really? Allen and Parnes write that Clinton frequently
acknowledged to her aides that she didn’t have the pulse of the electorate
or understand the political currents. When she did campaign in Michigan,
Clinton resisted condemning global free trade deals, and then drew criticism
in the local press for her tepid answers. As easy as it is to mock Mook, he
appeared to be in a real dilemma: Why go all-out trying to talk to voters
and persuade them, if you yourself don’t believe that your message can win
them over?

“[Clinton] had complained to her communications team that her economic
messaging sucked, and they’d told her to keep repeating it,” Allen and
Parnes write. “But the problem wasn’t the way she was selling her economic
plan; it was that the voters didn’t like her stance on the issue [free
trade] that mattered most to them.”
Shattered offers less-than-convincing arguments about campaign drama
Hillary Clinton Campaigns In North Carolina Ahead Of Election Photo by
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Shattered takes readers deep into the infighting and plot-twists experienced
by Clinton’s team as the years-long race evolved, all of which builds to the
thesis that factional infighting and poor campaign management created
insuperable obstacles that let Trump win.

It all makes for entertaining prose and juicy details for Washington to chew
over — though it’s much less clear that any of that is useful for
understanding the outcome of the November election.

For instance, the authors devote page after page to the internal debate over
how Clinton could have or should have handled her email scandal differently
once it began consuming the media’s attention.

“[Clinton] had been incapable of gauging its gravity and reluctant to avail
herself of the only option for fixing it,” they write of her resistance and
eventual apology for using a private email server while secretary of state.
“Too little, too late, she’d now tried to address it.”

While the internal squabbles over Clinton’s apology makes for fun reading,
it’s harder to say how much it mattered in a practical sense. Trump, of
course, never apologized for his serial outrages (too many to list here).
There’s no real explanation as to why Clinton’s eventual apology didn’t
hurt, rather than help, her campaign by allowing voters to think she really
had messed up.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s hard to imagine that the much more important
factor surrounding the email scandal — James Comey’s last-minute letter
claiming the existence of new evidence in the case — hinged one way or
another on Clinton’s level of contrition months beforehand.

Similarly, much of their telling of the 2016 Democratic primary turns on
dramatic renderings of stories whose impact on vote counts is, at best, hard
to prove. For instance, the book suggests that the New York primary came
down to the candidates’ back-and-forth over an interview Sanders gave the
New York Daily News about bank regulation.

“An athlete hasn’t proved his mettle until he has survived New York sports
fans. It’s the same in politics … and Sanders choked,” they write. That
allowed Clinton, they say, to “seize the opening immediately,” by appearing
on Morning Joe and questioning Sanders’s understanding of financial
regulation. I have no polling evidence to prove this is wrong, but it seems
likely Clinton’s 16-point victory in New York had more to do with her
popularity with people of color or her longstanding ties to the state than
her Morning Joe comments.

Nowhere is the attention to campaign ephemera more aggravating than in the
book’s endless of discussions of the rival “power factions” within the
campaign. The authors write breathlessly about how, despite Clinton’s
desperation to avoid the public infighting that marred her 2008 presidential
bid, there was ceaseless warfare between the “old guard” of Clinton-ites,
the “data-driven” millennial set of numbers crunchers, and the bevy of other
Clinton-world hangers-on and political hands. “The practical implications of
the dysfunction at the top of the campaign were felt throughout the ranks,”
they write, without citing any real evidence for the sweeping claim. A few
different chapters go into tensions between Mook and John Podesta, the
campaign’s vice-chair and a member of the “old guard.”

These stories of internal campaign drama sometimes add up to less than the
sum of their parts. After extensive prep from her staff, Clinton excelled at
her Benghazi committee hearing. During all of the debates, as the book
acknowledges, Clinton crushed Trump. The Democratic National Convention came
off well enough to give Clinton a big polling lead coming out of it. And the
fact that the campaign almost entirely avoided the public feuding from 2008
this time around itself seems at least somewhat deserving of recognition as
an accomplishment.

“There were few moments between her kickoff rally and the closing of the
first polls on Election Day when she wasn’t the favorite. So it wasn’t until
the results came in that all of our reporting finally made sense — that the
foreboding signs along the way had been pointing in the right direction,”
Allen and Parnes write in the introduction.

It’s understandable that Allen and Parnes would come to see new events as
validating all of their reporting. But it’s also hard to imagine that they
wouldn’t have reached the exact opposite conclusion — that their research
made clear that Clinton would win — had a few thousand votes in the Rust
Belt swung the other way.
Should Democrats blame Hillary Clinton or Clintonism?
Food Bank For New York City Can-Do Awards Dinner 2017 - Inside Photo by
Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Food Bank for New York City

But even if not every bit of campaign gossip improves our understanding of
Clinton’s loss, the book provides crucial value when capturing the central
problem for her team — an endless struggle to figure out its exact vision
for the country.

Shattered makes clear that Clinton had no problem deciding what she was
against. The authors write that she was convinced Sanders had made a fatal
mistake by rejecting the label of “capitalist” in favor of “democratic
socialist.” She thought much the same of Trump’s rampant misogyny and
racism, they report.

Much more difficult for the campaign was figuring out what she should stand
for. Of course, there were the endless policy proposals: paid family leave;
a debt-free college plan; a higher minimum wage. But stitching those threads
into a coherent storyline was still proving elusive, and her staff knew it
from the beginning.

As Sanders gained ground in the primary, Ron Klain, former chief of staff to
Vice President Joe Biden, sent Clinton’s team a series of questions the
campaign had to resolve: “What is it that she wants to do as President? How
would America be different? What should people be excited about?”

Dan Schwerin, the director of speechwriting, wrote back in agreement.

“Our problem is missing the forest for the trees. We’ve never found a good
way (or at least a way she embraces) that sums up her vision for how America
would be different,” Schwerin said in an email.

Of course, dozens of experts and commentators have argued that the racism
fueling Trump’s campaign was far more crucial than any lack of “vision” on
Clinton’s part.

But Allen and Parnes write that the answer to this problem dogged Clinton
the entire campaign:

It was a vision Hillary herself couldn’t articulate for them. But the
one aspect of her campaign that she was most confident about was that none
of the tribes, separately or in collaboration, had any idea how to construct
a winning message for her.

In her view, it was up to the people she paid to find the right message
for her — a construction deeply at odds with the way Sanders and Trump built
their campaigns around their own gut feelings about where to lead the
country ...

Hillary was at her wit’s end when it came to her messaging — dismayed by
the campaign’s lack of inspiration. Here she was, a year into her campaign
and about to get trampled by a socialist, and “Breaking Barriers” was the
best her staff could come up with. She wasn’t panicked, but she was coming
to grips with the idea that, even with years to think about it, the campaign
team she’d built was no better than its 2008 predecessor at helping her find
an articulable vision for the country.

That failure, Shattered explains, was evident from very first speech that
Clinton delivered to kick off her presidential campaign.

More than 10 of the country’s best political minds and consultants were
directly involved in writing it. The team brought in Jon Favreau, well-known
as the writer behind President Obama’s oratory, to help give it some
rhetorical heft. He later pulled out of the process a week before the speech’s
deadline, citing the incoherence of its purpose, according to Allen and

In an early planning conference call, Clinton shocked her staffers by
delegating to them both the slogan and overarching message of the address.
No clear answer filled the void. When she marched out to Four Freedoms Park
on June 13, 2015, to outline what she believed would go down in history as a
vital historical document, even her top aides acknowledged the product was
the result of “too many cooks in the kitchen,” according to Shattered.

“America can’t succeed unless you succeed,” Clinton declared to the
smaller-than-expected crowd. “That is why I am running for president of the
United States.”