This holiday, I’d like to give John Podesta a present he could really use: a mirror. Because it’s obvious that the person who has long been considered the Democratic Party’s version of Mr. Fix It doesn’t have one.
Podesta is simply incapable of admitting his own mistakes, even when they are splattered all over the internet in the form of personal emails released by WikiLeaks. The missives show disdain for Democratic constituencies such as those “needy Latinos” and ghoulish speculation about whether Vice President Joe Biden would be pushed into running for the party’s nomination by the memory of his dead son, Beau. As the chairman of the Clinton campaign, Podesta also can’t acknowledge that he was blindsided by a crucial group of voters: working-class whites.
Now Podesta, the Democratic Party insider, has penned an op-ed in The Washington Post where he blames Hillary Clinton’s defeat on the FBI.
The way Podesta sees it, federal investigators spent too much time obsessing over Clinton’s emails and not enough on what he describes as “the Russian plot to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and elect Donald Trump” by hacking into the email trove of the Democratic National Committee. Podesta also blasts the bureau, and Director James Comey, for failing to warn DNC officials that their emails were being hacked when the security breach was first discovered in September 2015.
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This isn’t exactly a novel tactic. In a call with donors just days after the election, Clinton herself blamed Comey for “raising doubts that were groundless and baseless” and which “stopped our momentum.” Nor is it easy to keep track of all the bullets flying now that Democrats are engaged in a circular firing squad, blaming one another for Clinton’s loss but always failing to admit their own wrongdoing.
A couple weeks ago, Bill Clinton had a lot to say during an impromptu question-and-answer session outside a New York bookstore. Clinton blamed his wife’s defeat on everything from Comey and the FBI to “angry white men” who got whipped into a frenzy by Donald Trump. The former president could just as easily put some of the blame on Podesta, his former chief of staff, who ignored Clinton’s pleas for the campaign to focus more attention on working-class whites in the final weeks.
In politics, ignorance mixed with arrogance is a lethal combination. Podesta illustrates the point beautifully.
As the blame game rages on, no one is safe – not even the person who is often called Hillary Clinton’s most trusted aide and who Clinton herself has described as a “second daughter.” According to a recent feature in Vanity Fair, Hillaryland is imploding amid a flurry of finger-pointing that extends all the way to Huma Abedin.
“The real anger is toward Hillary’s inner circle,” a Clinton insider told the magazine. “They reinforced all the bad habits.”
Those bad habits include retreating to their bubble, and only talking to one another. Better known as the estranged wife of disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner, Abedin was a top aide to Clinton and had a say on many strategic decisions.
In addition to Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s inner circle also includes Campaign Manager Robbie Mook, Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, and campaign adviser Cheryl Mills.
At a recent forum at Harvard, Palmieri continued the Clintonistas’ tradition of refusing to take any ownership of defeat by crediting Trump’s victory to “white supremacists.”
But Podesta is a special case. When he blames others, it’s especially surreal – and pathetic. Thanks to a combination of leaks and reporting, we now know just how poorly run the Clinton campaign was, how top campaign staffers dismissed the importance of working-class white voters, how Democratic leaders had contempt for their own supporters, and how the coziness between the news media and campaign officials turned to collusion and created a backlash.
And virtually all those storms have something in common: Podesta. In short, the campaign chairman was at the center of just about everything that went wrong with Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House.
No wonder Podesta wants to distract us. By blaming the FBI for ruining what he seems to think was an otherwise perfectly fine presidential campaign, he is trying to deflect attention away from himself. Because if you take a look at the job he did, you'll see that – this time around – Mr. Fix It was more like Mr. Broke It.
Reach Ruben Navarrette at firstname.lastname@example.org.