Hillary Clinton Needs a Headline Writer

Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton spoke Tuesday about reasons for her loss to Donald Trump in last year’s presidential campaign. She did so in response to questions from CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the moderator for a talk during Women for Women International’s award luncheon in New York.

Clinton gave detailed explanations for several problems that affected her campaign.

None of the problems she elucidated was a failure to provide concise points summarizing her extensive policy positions.

Amanpour asked Clinton about lacking a “vote-for-me” summary in a sweeping question about her campaign: “Your supporters have said they’re devastated, some are angry, and some say, could it have been different, could the campaign have been better, could you have had a better rationale? He had one message, your opponent, and it was a successful message, ‘Make America great again.’ And where was your message? Do you take a personal responsibility?

Clinton ignored messaging, as she did while on the stump.

Nonetheless, what she said in response to Amanpour was enlightening. Notes: Clinton twice alludes to a book she is writing about the campaign, mentions FBI Director James Comey, gives the wrong date for the Nov. 8 election and reverses the name of the “Access Hollywood” television show.

“Oh, of course. I take absolute personal responsibility,” Clinton said. “I was the candidate. I was the person who was on the ballot and I am very aware of the challenges, the problems, the shortfalls that we had — again, I will write all this out for you — but I will say this, I’ve been in a lot of campaigns, and I’m very proud of the campaign we ran, and I’m very proud of the staff and the volunteers and the people who were out there day after day.

“It wasn’t a perfect campaign. There is no such thing. But I was on the way to winning until the combination of Jim Comey’s letter on Oct. 28 and Russian Wikileaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off. And the evidence for that intervening event is, I think, compelling, persuasive.

We overcame a lot in the campaign. We overcame a barrage of negatively, of false equivalency and so much else.

“We overcame a lot in the campaign. We overcame a barrage of negatively, of false equivalency and so much else, but, as Nate Silver, who doesn’t work for me — he’s an independent analyst, but one who’s considered to be very reliable — has concluded that if the election had been on Oct. 27, I’d be your president. And it wasn’t, it was on Oct. 28, and there was just a lot of funny business going on around that.

“Ask yourself this, within an hour or two of the ‘Hollywood Access’ tape being made public, the Russian theft of John Podesta’s emails hit Wikileaks. What a coincidence. You just can’t make this stuff up.

“Did we make mistakes, of course we did. Did I make mistakes, oh my God, yes. You’ll read my confession and my request for absolution. But the reason why I believe we lost were the intervening events in the last 10 days.

“I think you can see I was leading in the early vote. I had a very strong — and not just our polling and data analysis — but a very strong assessment going on across the country about where I was in terms of the necessary votes and electoral votes. And, remember, I did win more than 3 million votes than my opponent. So, it’s like, really?”

Clinton’s comments produced concise summaries in the form of headlines from many news organizations. From CNN, “Clinton: ‘If the election had been on Oct. 27, I would be your president.’” This was a representative summation of the sort that Clinton has shown herself incapable of producing.

The shame is that so many of Clinton’s campaign positions were thoughtful and thoroughly fleshed-out, unlike those of Trump — then or now.

Hearing a would-be president speak with a vocabulary greater than that of a grade-schooler was a pleasure. Unlike Trump, she does not stoop to repeatedly slapping double adjectives such as “very, very,” “beautiful, beautiful” or “many, many” on words he wishes to grant extra importance. Clinton speaks extemporaneously with ease.

However, if Clinton hopes for a future in which she influences outcomes within the nation or world, she needs a summarizer in chief. Better, she should take a course in headline writing at a journalism school.

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