If you want the backstory on the departure of campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle from Hillaryland and confirmation of the arrogance that contributed to the current distress roiling the campaign, read Joshua Green’s piece at The Atlantic. Green has reported on Clinton’s inner circle for some time now, and one piece was spiked by GQ magazine after the Clinton campaign blew a gasket about its revelations. That piece illuminated the role of Solis Doyle, and the insight Green gained at that time informed his work in this Atlantic article. The problems that we’ve discussed here are borne out…

* Clinton’s minions failed the candidate miserably, keeping the candidate in a bubble and repeated the mantra that the nomination was in the bag.

* Management of fundraising was not only retro (not capitalizing the Internet early on), but dollars on hand were handled incompetently (and it wasn’t the first time – Clinton had warning signs in her NY Senate race).

* Hillary’s management style scarily resembles Dear Leader’s, prizing loyalty above all else, and Solis Doyle’s discretion and loyalty helped her keep her job while

chalking up the kind of body count you’d expect from an episode of The Sopranos. She was infamous among her colleagues for referring to herself as “the queen bee” and for her habit of watching daytime soap operas in her office. One frequent complaint among donors and outside advisers was that Solis Doyle often did not return calls or demonstrate the attention required in her position.

…Rather than punish Solis Doyle or raise questions about her fitness to lead, Clinton chose her to manage the presidential campaign for reasons that should now be obvious: above all, Clinton prizes loyalty and discipline, and Solis Doyle demonstrated both traits, if little else. This suggests to me that for all the emphasis Clinton has placed on executive leadership in this campaign, her own approach is a lot closer to the current president’s than her supporters might like to admit.

While it appears there were a lot of voices lobbying for Solis Doyle’s ouster for quite some time, it took the shattering of the complacency that Hillary was going to be anointed — the cold bucket of water called Iowa — to escalate calls for change. Ironically, her “comeback” in New Hampshire worried insiders who thought the axing would not occur because of the success there. By Super Tuesday, the need for change was unavoidable.

That the money was so obviously mismanaged and Clinton was essentially left helpless to compete in last weekend’s primaries and caucuses is the reason Solis Doyle ultimately had to go. The problem, as before, was mismanagement-only this time against a worthy enough opponent that the cost was obvious to everyone.

Green notes that even with all of this turmoil, Clinton is still in the game and could ultimately walk away with the nomination in spite of an operation that has repeatedly shot itself in the foot.

One curve ball with Solis Doyle’s departure has been the reaction of the Latino community, a demographic that Clinton can ill-afford to alienate. (Solis Doyle is the daughter of Mexican immigrants). Clinton was sent an open letter by two Latino lawmakers. It’s below the fold.(NYT):

Dear Senator Clinton:

   It is hard to understand how the Hispanic community that has been there to keep your campaign alive could remain in your corner when the first Hispanic woman to serve as your presidential campaign manager has resigned from her post.

   Patti Solis Doyle served in the highest ranking capacity that any Hispanic-American woman ever served on a presidential campaign. She has worked hard to appeal to Hispanic-American voters, and has been tremendously successful for you. She has served your 2008 presidential campaign loyally. She has broken down barriers that have not welcomed Hispanic women to be placed in political key decision making positions, and has made Hispanics in New York and across America proud of her political leadership role in your campaign.

   Although we are inclined to believe that Patti Solis Doyle did resign, we would like you to realize that it will be very troubling to many if somehow we later find that she left her post under pressure because of the recent primary losses your campaign suffered. If so, we will have many questions about why a Hispanic woman who has helped to build Latino support for you throughout the nation would have been the one to take the blame and resign from her post instead of others involved with your campaign, including former President Clinton, who have caused serious problems and embarrassing situations for your campaign.

   For now, we remain distressed that Patti Solis Doyle, a great Hispanic American woman is no longer serving in her leadership post in your 2008 presidential campaign.

   Sincerely,

   Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz

   Assemblyman Jose Peralta

   32nd Senate District

   39th Assembly District

   The Bronx and Queens

Well, given the leaks from the Clinton camp that enabled Joshua Green to chronicle the details of Solis Doyle’s tenure, it’s going to be problematic, to say the least, to engage these two lawmakers on the issue. Yipes. The Clintons have a history of tossing folks overboard if the blowback may affect them (remember Lani Guinier?), so I’m not surprised the staff change was on the suspicion radar of Latino leaders, since it was clear a scapegoat needed to be trotted out from that campaign soon.

Read Putsch in Hillaryland by Michelle Cottle, for more on other key players on Clinton’s team who contributed to the problems we’re seeing now.

For all Team Hillary’s gifts, it is not known as a happy group. “I’ve never seen a campaign where everyone feels so bad about themselves,” says one campaign staffer, echoing others. This may be somewhat unavoidable: Too much is on the line. Everyone is exhausted. The public scrutiny (damn those scrounging reporters!) is relentless. But compounding these generic stressors, say insiders, has been the fear-inducing, high-handed leadership of the coterie of überadvisers known as “the Five.”

High atop Hillary’s disciplined, leakproof operation, Solis Doyle, along with Penn, Grunwald, policy chief Neera Tanden, and communications director Howard Wolfson, have kept an iron grip on everything from ideas to access. Characterized by their colleagues–and even themselves–as a collection of brilliant but not especially likable political talents, the Five are seen by many insiders as contributing to the candidate’s image problem. Even those who profess fondness for individual members admit that none makes a compelling Face of the Campaign. So, when Team Hillary hit its Iowa speed bump, the thoughts of many immediately turned toward shattering the hold of the Five.

It appears that the operation is not exactly leakproof, huh? Joshua Green cited that Cottle’s piece was “read avidly inside the campaign because it’s so accurate.”

One of the curiosities of this campaign that those of us on the outside are unaware of is what kind of relationship exists  between the Hillaryland staff and Bill’s former advisers known as the “White Boys” (covered in Green’s piece.  

It’s pretty obvious that there is an undercurrent of misogyny going on there, targeting Patti Solis Doyle the scapegoat (with some of the blame probably deserved — as we all know, the truth usually lies somewhere in between when we’re talking about leaks), along with the variety of oversized-ego clashes that you’d expect in a campaign of this magnitude. You have to wonder what impact the gender clashes of Team Bill with Team Hillary may have had, with all the competition for access and power to the candidate, in the troubles in that the campaign has experienced so far.

***

So far, the Obama campaign, for all its flaws, hasn’t yet shown leaking of this magnitude (that I’m aware of) to give a picture of any internal dissent or strife. Though with the wins and delegates mounting, clashes of egos don’t usually rise to the surface. It appears the Team Clinton problems have been brewing for some time.

No doubt there will be Obama leaks (we’re talking about human beings, not machines) if things get uglier along the way, be it desperation warfare from Team Clinton, or from dealing with McCain. If Obama is the nominee and Karl Rove joins Team McCain (officially or unofficially), no doubt it could lead to sad, if interesting, pieces like this.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

4 Comments