Hillary Clinton Campaign Insiders Dish On What Went Wrong

Vanity Fair's Gail Sheehy talks to Clinton insiders about what went wrong with her once 'inevitable' campaign. See excerpts below and read the entire article here.

Sheehy on Hillary's top advisors: The word among her staff was "I don't want to get spanked by Mama."

Ickes was the only member of the Big Five to have ever run a national presidential campaign. "The rest hardly knew a delegate when they saw one," says a top adviser sarcastically.

But the real flaw in Hillary's presidential campaign was the lack of any clear lines of authority. Her "team of rivals," as she thought approvingly of them, assured she would remain in total top-down control. But it is often necessary to tell a candidate what she doesn't want to hear in a cold, hard, neutral manner. With Hillary, the word among her staff was "I don't want to get spanked by Mama."...

...It was impossible to find anyone who could lay out the hierarchy of Hillary's campaign. Almost everybody had veto power, but no one could initiate. The group was about as effective as the U.N. Security Council. After Super Tuesday and Obama's remarkable run of February victories, it was clear their arrogantly defended strategies had failed. They became consumed with trading personal invective, hurling expletives, and trashing one another in print.

Bill's Clinton's oversized campaign role:

And she had a new Bill problem. "Bill Clinton was out of control ... even the night she won in New Hampshire. Even Hillary couldn't control him," a Clinton fund-raiser tells me. "He began calling me directly," says one of Hillary's Big Five, "and you don't talk back to the president of the United States." Not only did Bill give "advice" directly to Penn, Wolfson, and Doyle, he wanted to set up his own shop in campaign headquarters, but the team persuaded him he was better used out on the stump.

When her friends and mentors in the Senate endorsed Obama:

Senator Kennedy's rejection stung most of all. He was one of Hillary's earliest mentors in that clubby body of the U.S. Senate--"he's my friend, and he's my inspiration," she said of him. Hillary's other close colleagues in the Senate then began to peel away, a tragic tide receding from her after all the work she had done for eight years to win friends there.

Senator Chris Dodd, who had often comforted Hillary as the beleaguered First Lady, declared his true sympathies were with Obama. Hillary was not amused by his call. Senator Claire McCaskill's disaffection hurt--the Clintons had raised more than $1 million for her campaign--and Senator Patrick Leahy infuriated them with his call to urge her to drop out. According to a Clinton spokesperson, she refused to take a call with the same message from George McGovern, her first political hero. Later she was deserted by the venerated Senator Robert Byrd, who had taught her the ropes. By May, 17 Senate Democrats would have endorsed Obama, with only 13 in Hillary's camp.

Hillary's chances for becoming Barack Obama's Vice President:

The aggressive drumbeat for Hillary as veep grew louder. Lanny Davis, Hillary's longest-suffering defender, launched a petition drive, Vote Both, and Sally Minard, the East Side Manhattan activist who headed Hillary's Ambassadors network of high-status women loyalists, sent an e-mail asking for two million signatures. Rangel had second thoughts about this strategy: "If I thought for one minute the pause in endorsing him was to improve her chances of becoming vice president, I would have been opposed to it," he told me. "I would have told her, 'You're killing your chances.' If people thought Obama was caving in to pressure, he would be disinclined to do it."

The next day Obama said publicly he would not respond to pressure from others about his choice of running mate. Hillary disavowed the efforts, but her and Bill's desperate campaign for any toehold in the White House was already doomed.