Clinton’s Tactical Failures


In my opinion Hillary is a poor political tactician. Her other deficiencies as a candidate have been widely noted, but this aspect bears mention because it may reveal more basic problems that could bleed over into her performance as President. Some of the blame could be laid at the feet of her advisors, but that hardly deflects it as they were chosen by her. I have in mind two recent examples.

Trump’s refusal to reveal his tax returns could be a real vulnerability. However he has brushed aside requests for them by noting that nothing requires him to do it and — absurdly — that his taxes are now being audited. Opening up a candidate’s tax records has been a universal practice since the time of Nixon, but there is a reason beyond historical precedent to demand this of Presidential candidates. A President has wide latitude in proposing financial and tax laws and regulations. How can we be assured that none are specifically tailored for his profit? The content of his tax returns would reveal a lot that could assuage that concern. Any honest candidate should be willing to undergo this invasion of privacy to satisfy the valid concerns of his fellow citizens.

Hillary could and should rake Trump over the coals on this basis. But I suspect that she fears an irrelevant but damaging counter response. Trump could say, “I will open my books, but only if you reveal the 30,000 emails you unilaterally decided were personal and only if you release the transcripts of your Wall Street speeches that garnered millions for you.” If Hillary really has nothing to lose, she is missing a telling shot at Trump. Either this is a tactical shortfall or Hillary really does have hidden problems.

The second example relates to the zombie campaign of Bernie Sanders. His chance of winning the nomination is vanishingly small, and continuing his quixotic quest causes great damage to Hillary. It costs time and money better spent preparing for the fall contest and produces sound bites of criticism that Trump will exploit. I believe that Bernie could be induced to relent if Hillary were to promise him real power at the convention. Give him strong representation on key committees, like the rules and platform committees, and assure him a prime time speaking slot. What would be the harm? If he promises to fight hard to bring along his unruly supporters and sincerely backs Hillary against Trump, this would remove one major stumbling block to her candidacy. But in fact Hillary, through her surrogate DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has done exactly the opposite. As Bernie has noted with anger, he is being frozen out instead. I think this is a tactical mistake and one she will come to regret when she doesn’t “Feel the Bern” in the fall.