By Steven Strauss
President Obama famously said a key element of his strategy is: “Don’t do stupid s—.” Hillary Clinton was unable to learn this simple lesson, despite losing to Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary (and serving in Obama’s Cabinet for four years thereafter). The Clintons, of all people, should have been aware of the challenges of a presidential campaign — yet, they still did an amazing number of stupid and very possible, illegal things.
Hillary Clinton and her allies have blamed her election loss on the investigation of her private email server — especially FBI Director James Comey’s lettertelling Congress he was revisiting that investigation just days before the election. The unprecedented decision to put all of Clinton’s emails on a private server, however, was made by her and her team. It should have been obvious to anyone that a secretary of State hosting her own email server, without even bothering to get approval from the State Department, in her own house, was going to seem odd and trigger questions.
Having created this ill-considered server, however, a little common sense would have suggested that Clinton ensure all her emails were properly archived before leaving government service. This would have, at least, blunted some of the negative publicity. Instead, she and her team couldn’t be bothered to do so, and we had two years of agonized prevarication and evasion about them.
Clinton wanted her own private email server to keep her personal matters from becoming public. Well, here’s some free advice to future presidential candidates: If you want to maintain your privacy, don’t run for public office. If Clinton wanted to maintain her privacy, she shouldn’t have run for president.
Fundraising for the Clinton Foundation resulted in more foolishness. Any high school graduate would have known that donations to the Clinton Foundation from the world’s leading kleptocrats and autocrats (while she was serving as secretary of State) were going to raise questions.
More amazingly, did she really understand that she was planning to run for the American presidency? Based on what the Clinton Foundation did with its funds, it sure looks like the job she wanted was secretary general of the United Nations. The Clinton Foundation does excellent life-saving work in places such as Haiti, Colombia, Peru, Malawi, El Salvador, Rwanda and Tanzania, but it appears to do very little in the USA. Since Clinton’s goal was the American presidency, more high-profile projects in places such as West Virginia or Flint, Mich., would have helped disadvantaged Americans and created real connections in communities where Clinton needed them.
From 2001 through 2015, the Clintons earned more than $150 million in speaking fees (and Hillary Clinton alone is estimated to have earned about $20 million of such fees from 2013 to 2015) often paid by the rich, infamous and/or kleptocratic — another very shortsighted move. Imagine if instead, Clinton had spent 2013 to 2015 giving free speeches at community colleges and high schools, in the Midwest and battleground states. It would have built a lot of support and goodwill.
Former president Bill Clinton, having been Arkansas attorney general and the subject of numerous investigations, is thoroughly familiar with our legal system. It should have been obvious to him that his drop-in on Attorney General Loretta Lynch (while the Justice Department was investigating his wife) would set off a firestorm of criticism. Further, if he hadn’t dropped in on Lynch, she wouldn’t have had to recuse herself, thereby enabling Comey to step in and share with us his self-serving, unprecedentedly melodramatic opinions.
Every moment on the political campaign trail is precious. Clinton’s loss in Wisconsin, for example, might have resulted from her never having visited that state during the entire campaign. Yet, Clinton insisted on flying home most nights during the campaign season — a significant expense of money and, more important, of time and lost opportunities. Imagine if she had used those evenings for more rallies and more contact with local voters in the battleground states — to listen to their needs and concerns.
In my opinion, Donald Trump (relative to Clinton) has bigger conflicts of interest, is even more clueless about most Americans’ lives, appears to be a compulsive liar, and will likely be a disastrous president. Trump also managed to get a free ride from some of the news media, appealed to the worst in Americans, and benefited from Russian interference in our election.
Even so, a swing of about 100,000 voters, in three key states, would have given Clinton the presidency. Many voters (who had been Obama supporters) couldn’t develop enough enthusiasm for Clinton, however, to vote for her. I’m no fan of single-cause explanations, but I do believe the above mistakes contributed to her loss.
Because of this election, millions of Americans could lose their health insurance, and the Supreme Court might turn conservative and stay that way for a generation (probably endangering reproductive and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights).
Let me make a suggestion to Bill and Hillary Clinton: You’ve done quite enough damage. Take your ill gotten fortune and stay out of politics.