Who's on first?
Yesterday while New Hampshire voters were going to the polls, Hillary Clinton's "chief strategist" Joel Benenson was interviewed about rumors of a Clinton shake-up. He was asked the telltale question: when did he last speak with the apoplectic Bill Clinton, the husband with a supposedly limited role in his spouse's feminist campaign. (Absent her marriage to Bill, would Hillary even be a presidential candidate?) A few weeks ago Hillary said if she were elected, Bill would have to prove the worth of his counsel at the kitchen table.
This is not the Year of the Dynasty, for the Clintons or the Bushes. Besides, there is no rationale for either Hillary or Jeb. After leaving as President Obama's secretary of State, Hillary did not inoculate against her vulnerabilities but arrogantly gave in to her greed as she created new ones, like the three $225,000 speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.
And after Jeb left two terms as Florida's governor, he did not create a narrative - in the years following -- to rationalize a presidential run or even prepare himself for a campaign. Like Hillary, Jeb focused on establishment cronies and money. All this explains why the original "frontrunners" - Hillary and Jeb - are in trouble.
Back in 2008 when David Axelrod was Barack Obama's general election "chief strategist," Benenson was a "senior strategist," as distinct from a mere "strategist" - the term CNN and Fox News apply to their talking heads, most of whom were wrong about Hillary and Trump. On the Republican side, Jeb's "chief strategist" is David Kochel -- recommended by Jeb's "longtime strategist" Sally Bradshaw. Kochel has been close to Mike Murphy, "chief strategist" for Jeb's SuperPAC, Right to Rise. It is likely Jeb's people stay on, but if Benenson continues, others on the Clinton team will go, and the Clintons will leak that the campaign is somehow being retooled and that new colleagues will be working with Benenson.
All of these people - the strategists, senior strategists, and chief strategists -- represent the so-called Consultant Class. Trump has spent a fraction of Jeb's spending, but Trump has steadily climbed, Jeb (who may have spent $22 million just in New Hampshire) has consistently declined, except for the meaningless bump in New Hampshire last night. Bernie Sanders is not merely a socialist-gone-wild candidate and, in that sense, revolutionary. His campaign itself is revolutionary - surpassing the grassroots direct mail fundraising of Barry Goldwater in 1964 and George McGovern in 1972. Bernie's people are more successful than Barack Obama's team in New Age fundraising - getting money off the Internet, with a marginal cost (mainly credit card fees) of fundraising. And the money comes quickly.
The Clintons have a history of blaming staff for their own shortcomings. In 2008, Hillary "chief strategist" Mark Penn was the fall guy. Benenson and his team are not responsible for a generation-long history of Clinton machinations. Nor is Hillary's campaign responsible for her deception following the Benghazi attack, or her scandal-ridden past. By making changes in her campaign team, the Clintons can pretend that the Clintons are not the problem. Instead, we know the main problem is that Hillary, has always been Wall Street's candidate, but this is not the year of Wall street. Further, the attacks on Bernie Sanders by the Clintons - Chelsea, Bill, and Hillary - have backfired. Hillary's supporters hurt her: Madeleine Albright overplayed the gender card and Gloria Steinem insulted young women supporting Bernie.
Benenson has been aboard for more than a year. He had ample time to create a "new" Hillary Clinton and preempt the predictable Sanders "rigged economy" campaign. On another issue, it's true that in the age of Law and Order SVU, Hillary can no longer get a pass on her complicity, as an enabler and more, for Bill's predatory sex. But her campaign should have found a way around this ticking political time bomb. Also, Hillary's campaign itself is most responsible for not involving younger voters in campaign messaging. Instead, we have 78-year-old Madeleine Albright and 82 year old Gloria Steinem, who are grandmothers or great grandmothers of Bernie's supporters. The irony is that the unreconstructed socialist -- 74 year old Bernie, compared to Hillary's surrogates, seems like the new kid on the block.
For now, one way or another - whether the campaign is restructured, reorganized, or new consultants brought aboard, or just plain retooled, something will be done to suggest Hillary Clinton was not served well by her campaign. Then for awhile, Hillary's campaign will be schizophrenic - trying to be positive and upbeat, and then launching unguided missiles -- daughter Chelsea, husband Bill, or others - to attack Bernie. Like eight years ago, those attacks may backfire. The Clinton modus operandi will be to dig deeper in what will strike voters as personal attacks and mudslinging. If she succeeds, the Democratic party will be deeply divided. If she fails, the Clintons will insist it was all the fault of the campaign, not the candidate.