Opinion

What happened? What happened?! You blew it, Hillary.

Hillary Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate who ran an atrocious campaign and should never have been anointed as the presumptive nominee in the first place

Hillary Clinton has written a memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign and election. I suppose that was inevitable.

But did it really need to be called What Happened?

That title really is unfortunate. Because the thing is that "what happened" is patently obvious to everyone who isn't blinded by partisanship or personal fealty to the Clinton family: She lost — to the most flagrant demagogue-charlatan in American history, a man whose lack of fitness for the job was so obvious and total that she should have won in a landslide.

There is not a chance in the world that Clinton's memoir will frankly examine and reflect on the true causes of her catastrophic defeat. How do we know this? Because she and her surrogates have spent the last eight months doing everything they can to deflect blame away from where it belongs — on herself, on her campaign, and on the Democratic Party establishment — and onto a series of convenient Forces Beyond Our Control: James Comey, Vladimir Putin, and an incorrigibly racist and misogynist electorate that rallied to her opponent.

No one who's appalled and disgusted by the civic demolition derby that is the Trump administration should accept such self-serving prevarication.

The point isn't that Comey and Putin and unsavory political views played no role. Of course they did. If the FBI director hadn't announced less than two weeks before Election Day that he was reopening the investigation into Clinton's email server, she might have won. If Russian intelligence (with or without Trump campaign collusion) hadn't broken into John Podesta's email account and released politically damaging correspondence via WikiLeaks, she might have won. If fewer than 100,000 voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had refrained from casting a ballot for a professional con man who whipped up racial (and many other kinds of) animus, she might have won.

In an election that close, anything and everything could have changed the outcome.

The question is: Why was it so close to begin with?

And the answer is: Because Hillary Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate who ran an atrocious campaign and should never have been anointed as the presumptive nominee by the Democratic National Committee in the first place.

If Clinton wanted to run for president while under investigation by the FBI, that was her business. But why on Earth would the DNC and the party's "superdelegates" decide so far in advance that a candidate running with that kind of baggage should be considered the inevitable victor? Aside from the obstacles it placed in the way of her one serious challenger (Bernie Sanders), it helped to discourage many others (including Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren) from jumping into the race. Why bother when you know the party is standing against you?

That decision on the part of the DNC had fateful consequences. A fiery right-wing populist who'd aptly been dubbed the "chaos candidate" got to run against a doyen of the center-left establishment, a woman who'd been close to the center of power in Washington for over two decades — and close to the center of (mostly minor) scandals for just as long. She didn't have a populist bone in her body, and all efforts to make her sound like an "ordinary American" reeked of inauthenticity.

But the Clinton campaign didn't care. They'd drawn a wildcard: Donald Trump as an opponent! What a dream! Clinton didn't even need to campaign in August. She could just rest up and travel to a few fundraisers where she could rake in $143 million in excess cash. The media buy would take care of Trump. Hell, she wouldn't even need a motivating message of her own. Just being Not Trump and reminding voters over and over and over about his self-evident awfulness would be more than enough to win — and not just in the usual states behind the fabled Blue Wall. No siree, she could clean up in other places, too. Arizona. Georgia. Maybe even Texas! Wouldn't that be something?

Yeah, it would have been amazing. I even believed it for a while, writing the most boneheaded column of my career as a writer, on how Trump would lose in a historic landslide.

That was before Comey's memo to Congress announcing the discovery of new Clinton emails on the computer of the serial sexual deviant who just so happened to be the husband of the candidate's top aide, Huma Abedin. That memo, which threw the campaign into a tailspin in its final 10 days, came less than two months after Comey publicly recommended that charges not be filed against Clinton or her staff, while also describing their handling of "very sensitive, highly classified information" as "extremely careless" — a judgment he felt obliged to make in his own name because of the personal visit that the candidate's husband and former president of the United States had paid to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who had ultimate authority over whether to press charges in the email server investigation, on the tarmac at the Phoenix airport in early May of 2016.

Oopsie! Coulda happened to anyone!

Actually, it could have only happened to Hillary Clinton. Not that you're likely to find in her memoir any kind of honest reckoning with what is now a lengthy track record of piss-poor decisions — or with the crucial contribution of those bad decisions to her defeat.

But that is nonetheless exactly what happened.

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