After any failed presidential campaign, operatives reposition themselves to avoid being or appearing wrong — to keep prominence, respect, and power, they naturally want to be on the right side of every campaign decision, or at least make others believe they stood against the tide and fought for hindsight’s best strategy. Donna Brazile is no different. Her ethical shortcomings during the campaign rightly cost her a job with CNN; her poor leadership at the DNC and the bizarre strategy she pushed should cost her respect within the party. But it probably won’t matter because of her revisionist and ironically titled forthcoming book, Hacks. This effort to recast herself after a botched campaign shows that Donna Brazile herself is in fact the hack.
False Rigging Claims
One of the book’s most explosive claims is that the DNC rigged the primary through a joint fundraising agreement with the Hillary Clinton campaign that let the latter have de facto control over hiring and strategic decisions. This claim seem unsupported by contemporary reports of the joint fundraising agreement and the text of the agreement itself (made available by WikiLeaks). As an officer of the party, Brazile should have made herself aware of any subtext or unspoken agreements about the fundraising venture to make sure nothing underhanded happened.
In fact, Donna Brazile’s claims about the 2015 joint fundraising agreement seem very similar to the text of the 2016 agreement signed after Clinton won the nomination and her campaign assumed control of the national party apparatus. Without supplying further documentary proof, it remains entirely possible that Brazile’s account simply mistakes (or deceitfully confounds) the two agreements. *UPDATE* NBC reports that the memo on which Brazile based her claims of “rigging” pertained to the general election, not the primary, a routine move as candidates assume control of party structures after their nomination. Brazile lied about the memo’s contents.
Her claims of the DNC tilting or “rigging” the primary simply by an alleged scheme in which the Clinton campaign could veto strategic action by the DNC has no basis in reality. The national party does little and is fairly weak — observers often overstate its importance (campaign committees such as the DSCC and DCCC control most of the money and political activities carried out by the party). Without the Clinton campaign’s support, a bankrupt DNC couldn’t have done anything and, even if it had the money, what could it have done to rig a primary to favor either candidate?
The best means by which a primary can be rigged are the rules. But the DNC approved the 2016 primary’s rules in 2014 and most of those rules carried over from 2010. Similarly, the idea that a small group of individuals could somehow control 50+ primaries and caucuses as well as the voting inclinations of tens of millions is absolutely ridiculous (even if some of those officers emailed each other about supporting Clinton over Bernie Sanders). Brazile’s claims of a rigged primary simply tap into lasting anger in an attempt to ingratiate herself with that wing of the party.
Such an overture is needed because Brazile caught flack for leaking Democratic primary debate questions to the Clinton campaign, another instance which Sanders supporters claimed as evidence of “rigging.” This, too, is a senseless claim as none of the few questions Brazile gave to the Clinton campaign appeared verbatim, Clinton never sought the questions in advance (Brazile simply handed them over), and campaigns that prep extensively for debates can predict the questions with a high amount of accuracy. They don’t need leaks to prepare for what’s coming (and leaked questions do not cause tens of millions to vote for a candidate).
Regardless, this ethical impropriety rightly resulted in CNN firing Brazile and Brazile losing respect among much of the politically inclined. It’s little surprise that to improve her image among the insurgent Sanders wing, Brazile needed to embrace their “rigged” rhetoric and appear on their side.
Donna Brazile’s Revisionist History
Brazile made other revisionist claims that either show a bad memory or the underhanded actions of a hack trying to be on the right side of history. In her phone call to Sanders about alleged (read: non-existent) “rigging,” Brazile claimed to say that “I did not trust the polls…I told [Sanders] I had visited states around the country and I found a lack of enthusiasm for her everywhere. I was concerned about the Obama coalition and about millennials.”
When polls tightened in September, Brazile, then interim leader of the DNC, went on CNN and expressed her confidence in a Clinton victory. It’s true this might not reflect her actual beliefs — no party leader will go on national television to express belief that her candidate will lose — but Brazile’s electoral strategy showed she truly believed her words. As Politico reported, Brazile held millions the Clinton campaign transferred to the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC and had the committees buy airtime for minority voter turnout in places such as Chicago and New Orleans.
Donna Brazile never doubted that Clinton would win the Electoral College. She feared Clinton would lose the popular vote — polls never showed that being a likely outcome — so she had the DNC spend millions in non-competitive states to drive minority turnout. Had Brazile actually worried about voter enthusiasm, she never would have squandered millions on states with certain outcomes. She would have directed resources to Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
Actions backed up her contemporary words about faith in Clinton’s ultimate victory but undermine her revisionist argument that she foresaw an enthusiasm gap that would cost Clinton the election. Clearly, Brazile’s rewriting the past to appear correct even though her decisions at the time represented a major strategic blunder.
The false and confusing claims as well as the revisionism show Donna Brazile has little interest in helping the DNC unify and move forward. Rather, she wants to reposition herself as a Sanders ally, one who stood up to the entrenched Clinton interests and tried to salvage the Clinton campaign. Doing so keeps her prominent and indicates that she thinks Sanders will be a major force in 2020. Naturally, a political operative at heart, Brazile wants to gain the favor of those who she believes will control the party for years to come even if she has to lie to do so.
With falsehoods stated and history changed, Donna Brazile reveals herself as nothing more than a hack.
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