Hillary Clinton has got a posse problem. Just take a look around her and her flailing campaign. She has been surrounded by a group of doting loyalists for far too long. In the current issue of More Magazine, there is a paean of praise for “Team Hillary, her coterie of devoted women.” The group written about in the magazine, of course, included her recently departed campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, who is leaving the job for “personal reasons.” Obviously written during the now hard-to-remember good times, the piece in More is all about the campaign’s air of “calm, disciplined, consistent energy” when “the stumbles are few, the recoveries quick…” When Ann Lewis, another Team Hillary insider, could chirp, “Women are beginning to realize, “this really could be up to us. We don’t have to choose from these shmucks.” Ah, yes, those were the days, when insulting men just because they are men was fun, and when figuring out how to get even a few of them to vote for Hillary wasn’t important.
I have known women in the business and media world who have had posses, too. For example, an editor who won’t take a new job unless her art director and managing editor are paid high salaries to come along. The insecure leader brings her posse along from place to place until, somehow, the success story of the past is no longer replicated. Men have posses as well. George Bush had, in his way, his Texas posse and his loyalty to them led to the debacle of Harriet Miers’s Supreme Court nomination and Alberto Gonzalez’s sorry stint as attorney general. And, one might say, the president was part of the posse that followed Cheney-Rumsfeld. Obviously the problem with posses is loyalty trumps everything else, but loyalty, after all, is never enough.
Hillary has hired Maggie Williams to replace Doyle as her campaign manager, but this is simply more of the same. In fact, some consider Williams the ultimate Clinton loyalist and insider. In 1995, a uniformed Secret Service officer swore under oath he saw Williams leave the office of Vince Foster’s, Hillary’s lawyer and confidante, carrying documents after Foster committed suicide. Williams denied it.
Lisa Caputo, another friend of Hillary, said of Williams in the Washington Post, “She knows Hillary better than anybody in the campaign.” But, hey, I thought that was Doyle who used to like to tell people, “When I’m speaking, Hillary is speaking.” Behind the scenes Williams and Doyle were fierce rivals; Williams had even threatened to leave the campaign before she was given Doyle’s job. That’s another problem with members of a posse: They are possessed by jealousy of one another, and are always trumpeting their intimacy with the leader of the pack as if that was more important than competency.
Getting rid of one loyalist to replace her with another demonstrates Hillary’s basic weakness. Everything she does or says seems so expected. She keeps talking about her experience, but she won’t acknowledge that voters, even loyal Democratic voters, don’t want to be reminded of the soap opera Clinton years. And Williams, who held Hillary’s hand during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, was very much part of those bad times. While she is being overwhelmed by Obama and his exciting, albeit unsubstantiated, mantra of change, Hillary seems almost frozen, unable to change either her tacits or her message or the women on whom she needs to rely.