Question: What do you do if your Presidential campaign is falling apart?
a. Fire every consultant person who has made more than a million dollars.
b. Buy a ticket to Aruba and get some rest.
c. Cover your spouse’s mouth with masking tape
d. Just tell the public who you really are...
The ‘politicking’ gets more and more complicated. Yesterday Bill Clinton was somewhere, the place doesn’t matter – it was some state -- they all begin to look alike after a while. He was giving a speech about what Hillary would say if she was there. And at some point in the speech he said, “so if you elect me”. The intro was a bit far away from the “elect me” and so it seemed that he was actually campaigning for himself. Maybe he was. Who knows at this point. And is it important? Well, it is to the people who are voting for Hillary in order to get Bill back in the White House. That would be my mother and her 10 friends – maybe there are more. I didn’t mean to minimize my mother’s impact on the election. But for those people who are tired of the Clinton team, and had hoped just Hillary was going to be their President, it doesn’t work very well.
When Gloria Steinem wrote her NY Times editorial and said that a woman with Barack’s credentials would not have been taken seriously, I objected to the piece. I still think I was right, but with a caveat. Sure, there have always been issues of electability – people have been talking about that since Hillary announced. Things like, she’s a lightning rod for the Republicans. Or she’s too polarizing. And the campaign management problems are evident. It is certainly legitimate to say, if she can’t run her campaign, can she run the government? But a campaign is not governing—despite rumors to the contrary. Bill Clinton’s presence should have been a plus but has turned into a negative. And it is true that she can’t she seem to get a break from the media? But I don’t think that the reason is because she is a woman.
I think if Gerry Ferraro, or Claire McCaskill or any female Governor were running, there would not be the same amount of criticism. It seems to me that the attacks on Hillary are not about the fact that she is a woman. They are personal attacks by a media which has been mistreated or dismissed by the arrogance of the people running a campaign that does not respect the role of the media. It really wasn’t any different during the Clinton Administration. George Stephanopoulis, now a credible media person, tried to move the White House press secretary’s office out of the west wing. The media—for reasons good or bad—were thought of in large part as the enemy. Maybe that’s an oversimplification. I’m nothing if not simple.
But the questions of “Which Hillary” is going to be at the debate, is certainly being asked over and over today. And who did that? The fact is that she has been many different people over the last week, so voters are confused about who they may be electing. It should never have gotten to that point. But that’s what happens when the campaign does not have any discernable direction.
In 1992, when Bill Clinton ran against George Bush senior – the good George Bush-- the campaign I ran against the President (yes it was funded and impactful – don’t you hate that word, it sounds like a tooth issue) was designed to illustrate, in a humorous way, why the American public shouldn’t vote for the President. The best way to diminish the importance of a person is through humor, so we crafted a “Witch George Bush” effort which was launched on Halloween. There are those who say if people had ridiculed Hitler rather than ignore him in the beginning, he wouldn’t have come to power. Who knows? Anyway, we had people costumed as witches at all the President's events for the week following the holiday. We were funny. But the question was serious. If the public is not sure about the character of the candidate, or has to ask the question, “when we open the door who will we find behind it?” They will most assuredly be reluctant to support that person – whoever they are. As you can imagine there are many hilarious tales to be told about these adventures – but that’s another blob. The point is, no political person wants to be the butt of a joke – especially on You-tube. And you can be sure they are running clips of all the different Hillarys this week.
And speaking of TV, as my old friend Ed Sullivan said, “now ladies and gentlemen back to the shew.. the rilly big shew”. Maybe it wasn’t Ed or maybe he wasn’t my friend, or maybe he didn't say that. I can’t remember. But the talking heads, from Mort Zuckerman to Joe Scarborough have come up with great ideas about what Hillary should have said about the Obama accusations and how she might have responded to this or that issue. Or my own personal talking head favorite is the answer to the question, “At this point, how does Hillary win?” Then there’s a pause and the inevitable response of the day; which Hillary? This is followed by some empty ideas about how she wins, which among others suggestions always includes —she needs to know who she is. She needs to find a message. She needs to fire her consultants. She needs to wear better colors, higher collars, a different color lipstick. The dissecting of Hillary is so painful to all of us who worked for and respect her that I can hardly watch the process unfold.
Women are excellent managers. And excellent leaders. I know this because some of my best friends happen to be women. And I think to base the success or failure of this campaign around the fact that Hillary is a woman, is to diminish who we are, the fights we fought to get here, and our ability to be great at whatever we chose to do. I, among many other competent women could have crafted a successful campaign for Senator Clinton. These mistakes were not about her being a woman. They were, just like with any other person running for any office, about not having good advice, spending a great deal of money unwisely, and surrounding herself with people who had limited vision. At a time when people are looking for something to believe in, it’s ‘silly’ to think you can win an election by dismissing their ability to have hope for the future.
We’re just sayin...Iris