Dems, Tell Hillary to Go Back to the Woods

Dems, Tell Hillary to Go Back to the Woods
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Before Hillary Clinton puts more miles on her comeback tour, Democrats should let her know she’s done enough damage and it’s time to pack it in. That won’t stop her, since even after losing to Donald Trump she fancies herself some misunderstood martyr, but it might slow her down a bit. 

While they crawl out of the wilderness that both Clinton and President Obama left them in, any moments Democrats spend amusing their failed 2016 nominee as she tries to find a way back to some sort of relevance is more than wasted energy -- it’s self-sabotage.  

Last week Clinton sat in sanguine reflection at a carefully timed interview at a Women in the World Summit event and blamed everyone but herself for her staggering loss five months ago. After telling New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof that personally she’s just fine, but that “as an American, I’m pretty worried,” she listed the causes for her loss: WikiLeaks, for publishing real emails about her campaign; Russia, for interfering in the campaign; FBI Director James Comey; and misogyny. When asked about future office, she did not rule it out, repeating that she wants to do “interesting things” and has “no plans” to ever run again. It was, well, Clintonian in its predictability.

Days after her remarks, a devastating tell-all was published that renders the same conclusion -- no matter how badly things go, it’s never on Hillary. In “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” a new, second book on Clinton by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, the toxic Clinton cloud returned, worse than ever before. The book portrays the distrust and dysfunction inside the bunker of a campaign where Clinton never took any blame, and aides were terrified to attempt to break through her denial with suggestions for any course corrections. Huma Abedin, the candidate’s closest aide, “couldn’t be counted on to relay constructive criticism to Hillary without pointing a finger at the critic,” the authors write.

According to the book, the woman who feigned to know little about the mechanics of her private, unsecured email server -- where she stowed government records vulnerable to attack from our enemies -- actually knows a lot about email servers. It turns out Clinton spied on her 2008 campaign staff after losing to Obama by having an aide access the server and download all staff emails so she could determine who she could blame for her loss. “She believed her campaign failed her -- not the other way around -- and she wanted to ‘see who was talking to who, who was leaking to who,’ said a source familiar with the operation,” the book reveals.

There are likely more postmortems on the way that will confirm there was never any rationale for Clinton’s candidacy beyond her feeling that it was her turn and voters would want to elect a woman. Her campaign mulled 85 slogans before she landed on being a “champion for everyday Americans,” then switched to “breaking down barriers,” and finally switched to “stronger together.” In an email published by WikiLeaks, pollster Joel Benenson asked campaign chairman John Podesta: “Do we have any sense from her what she believes or wants her core message to be?” Sadly, “Shattered” reveals even Clinton knew she was a candidate out of touch, as she told longtime aide Minyon Moore, “I don’t understand what's happening in the country. I can't get my arms around it.”

After her sit-down with Kristof, Vanity Fair’s “Inside Clinton’s Plan to Come Out of the Woods” made clear that her comeback, as befits her whole life, is being carefully calculated and calibrated. “She’s trying to navigate what’s appropriate,” a source close to the Clintons told Vanity Fair of her mission to “resurrect” her image and her name. “If you move too quickly, you look political. You lose your stature as an elder statesman. You look like a chronic politician. If you move a bit more strategically -- target your appearances, target your messages at your appearances, craft your messages appropriately for your appearances -- you can keep on an elder stateswoman status. ... That’s her challenge, to re-emerge as a stateswoman, an important commentator and activist without looking self-serving or without looking political. Not easy to do.”

That’s a lot of targeting and crafting, and no, it won't be easy for Clinton to do much without looking self-serving, or bitter. With Sen. Bernie Sanders’ newfound stature in the Democratic Party, despite confirming this week that he actually is not a Democrat, Clinton must be careful not to appear as if she is still competing with the 75-year-old socialist. He is currently, according to polling, the most popular politician in the country. 

Bill Clinton, according to a report published Monday in The Hill by Parnes, recently told newly elected Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez that he didn’t want the Democrats “to be simply the party of Bernie,” which means it hasn’t yet dawned upon the former president that the party has left the Clintons in the rear-view mirror for good. Sanders is now the draw for many Democratic candidates running for Congress, governorships and state legislatures.

There are a few green shoots appearing, and Democrats should look forward, not back, and make sure Clinton is nowhere near the trail next year. House Republicans fear Democrats could win 24 seats to take back the majority next year. And while the GOP is poised to hold the Senate, Democratic senators running for re-election in 14 states raised more than $30 million in the first quarter of 2017, three times the amount those same candidates had collected at this time in 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Democrats don’t owe Clinton anything and no longer need to fear the Clintons. They should keep her rehabilitation journey as far away from their own as possible. Lucky for her, President Trump no longer wants to lock her up, but it's high time the Democrats lock her out. 

A.B. Stoddard is associate editor of RealClearPolitics and a columnist.

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