Hillary Clinton Looks At Her Campaign's Many Missteps, Decides To Blame James Comey For Her Loss
from the #NeverMyFault dept
Hillary Clinton has stepped forward to officially (such as it were…) blame FBI Director James Comey for robbing her of an election win.
“There are lots of reasons why an election like this is not successful,” Clinton told top donors on a farewell conference call Saturday.
“But our analysis is that [FBI Director James B.] Comey’s letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum,” she said.
Clinton is referring to Comey taking it upon himself to step into the breach and declare to Congress there might be something suspicious about emails he hadn’t seen (and his agency hadn’t yet acquired a warrant to look at) discovered on former Congress member Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Comey’s announcement arrived with only a couple of weeks left until the election, prompting nearly everyone to criticize his decision to insert himself into a normally hands-off pre-election period.
Clinton blaming Comey, though, looks more like a candidate looking for anyone else to blame but herself, her staff, and the DNC, which aided her run greatly by agreeing to sandbag her competition.
Comey’s belated announcement (and even more belated “never mind“) arrived far too late to push undecided voters into Trump’s corner. Those who had already decided who they were voting for wouldn’t have been swayed either, as it either confirmed their beliefs that Clinton was a crook who would never be punished, or that Clinton was being baselessly persecuted by a politicized FBI.
What data has been gathered from talking to voters about their sentiments pre- and post-election shows barely any correlation, much less causation. Clinton says her campaign’s “analysis” points to Comey. But what exactly have they “analyzed?” Marcy Wheeler takes a good look at the information currently available and finds nothing that indicates Comey’s announcement played a part in the election results.
What these two pieces — from Trump’s data analyst and Hillary’s pollster — suggest is a correlation between the Comey letter and Trump’s improved chances. But there’s no proof of causation — certainly not that Comey is the primary explanation.
In fact, temporally, the correlation is not perfect. Trump’s analysts say the trend started before the Comey letter. This was a weird election, but it is still highly unlikely that a letter released on October 28 can entirely explain a trend that started before October 28.
Even shifting the focus entirely to swing states does nothing to solidify either party’s claims that Comey’s announcement swayed the election. Late-deciding voters went for Trump in several key states, but voters also broke in the other direction — at odds with the narrative the Clinton campaign has decided to push. In Virginia, where beltway security clearance holders might have felt more animosity towards a candidate who skated on a federal investigation involved the mishandling of classified documents, late-deciders opted more often for Clinton than Trump.
None of this really adds up to anything, which would be fine if Clinton’s camp wasn’t so ready to insist that it does. While it did seem Clinton would have grabbed an insurmountable lead in the wake of Trump’s post-“grab ’em by the pussy” debate flame-out, the real issues affecting undecided voters the most weren’t Trump’s sexism or Clinton’s private email server, but far more common worries: the economy, crime, and a distrust for anything considered to be part of the government establishment.
Clinton does list something in her “blame Comey” speech that should have been obvious all along — something that pretty much undercuts her narrative that the FBI director cost her the election.
“Just as we were back up on the upward trajectory, the second letter from Comey essentially doing what we knew it would — saying there was no there there — was a real motivator for Trump’s voters,” Clinton said.
No matter what Comey said — nor what was found during the Email Investigation 1.5 — would have changed the minds of entrenched voters. Those supporting Clinton saw more exoneration. Those supporting Trump saw more evidence of a rigged system. It just didn’t matter.
As for the rest of the undecided nation, the original email investigation and its last-minute sequel were too far off in the weeds to be considered worth examining more closely. Writing for Techdirt and conversing with like-minded individuals tends to give the impression that everyone follows these developments closely, but a majority of Americans simply don’t care about the wonkish details. If something can be explained simply (Hillary is/is not a crook), then the nuances aren’t important. Clinton thought those nuances should have mattered. Trump knew they wouldn’t.
Blaming Comey is handy but does nothing to help future candidates better prepare for this fractured American landscape we still call “united.” It is, in fact, its own form of denial.
The Democrat focused on the outside events she said affected her campaign in the last three weeks of the election. She said nothing about other, larger forces at work — Trump’s message of change in a restive time, his pledge to represent the aggrieved working class, the difficulty of any political party winning a third consecutive presidential term, her own limited attention to economic anxiety, or the sexism and discomfort that surrounded her attempt to become the first female president.
Neither [Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri] nor Clinton herself addressed how Clinton’s decision seven years ago to use a private system for her government communication had opened the door to the FBI inquiry in the midst of her second run for the White House.
While government agencies sounded the alarm about hackers attacking voter data and infrastructure, Trump pushed a rigged election narrative. And for no apparent reason, the FBI felt it just couldn’t wait to inform Congress about something it knew next to nothing about, less than two weeks before election day. There were plenty of reasons for voters to feel less than confident about candidates and the process of electing them, but campaigns were won and lost without the FBI’s assistance — no matter how gratifying it might be to pass the buck in the wake of a surprising loss.