THE BLOG
02/10/2016 02:39 pm ET Updated Feb 10, 2017

Will Hillary's Campaign Self-Destruct (again)?

Now that Bernie Sanders has won New Hampshire handily, perhaps we should ask whether Hillary's campaign may be repeating its self-destruction of eight years ago. In her concession speech last night she mounted an arcane attack on the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and positioned herself implausibly as a champion to take on Wall Street. She is now debating the campaign on Bernie Sanders terms, not a good place to be. At times she wandered - talking about the firing of "LGBT people because of who they love" as part of a hodgepodge of constituencies she enumerated -- from firefighters to hungry children. She seemed incoherent, subsuming every sort of "right" as a "human right."

She suggested she had work to do among young voters. The reality is that the only age group she carried was seniors. Perhaps it reflected her two prominent surrogates -- Madeline Albright, 78, and Gloria Steinem, 82. Let's look at the backdrop for what happened last night.

Monday in Milford New Hampshire, former president Bill Clinton was on the attack against Bernie Sanders. It seemed part of an overall campaign mosaic, within which Hillary Clinton's campaign did everything possible to assure Bernie Sanders of a decisive victory in New Hampshire and momentum down the line.

We all recall over the years Hillary Clinton's repeated protestations of poverty, the unfortunate (for her) Clinton-greed backdrop for how this campaign is developing. In 2014, Hillary again complained that the Clintons left the White House "dead-broke." No wonder Bill and Hillary have collected $153 million in speaking fees - to get out of poverty. Last year Harper Collins published Peter Schweizer's Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich. Coverage of the book's release helped dampen Hillary's poll numbers but the book has been little discussed this year. Still, in 2015 it helped frame and renew the distrust of the Clintons as money predators and remains indirectly in the back of the mind of many voters. Expect to see the book back in the news soon.

I consider the number one issue among Democratic Party voters to be special interests, in general, and Wall Street, in particular. This "economy is rigged" matrix could be the ball game for Hillary. And it's also one reason why Donald Trump is strong among Republicans, who are attracted to a "self-funder" who supposedly will stand up to the crony capitalists. Many Republican voters believe the big banks and brokerages self-deal and manipulate Wall Street to the detriment of individual investors.

In last week's debate Hillary was quite unprepared for the entirely predictable question about her Wall Street connections and contributions, in particular the $675,000 Goldman Sachs paid her for three talks. In a prior debate, she improbably explained her massive Wall Street contributions by invoking 9/11, and Sanders jumped on that explanation, and journalists ridiculed it.

And just week Hillary told the debate moderator about the $225,000 per Goldman Sachs speech: "That's what they offered." Incredibly, Hillary implied she would not have accepted the fees if she knew then she would run for president. The problem for Hillary is FOURfold. First, Hillary did know she was running. Second, Hillary implies expediency, that she would not have accepted the fees because she looks bad. Third, Hillary's explanation reinforces the perception that she is into money. Fourth, Hillary clearly is not that strategic or shrewd, or as Trump would say, "not smart."

If Theodore White were writing The Making of the President 2016, Hillary's awful response to the Goldman Sachs question might be a defining moment. The triple honoraria, which amount to more money than many Democratic voter households make in a decade, will have high retention among voters.

Daughter Chelsea Clinton is part of the impoverished Clinton clan. She gets $65,000 per speech. She had no journalism experience, but ABC nonetheless hired her a couple of years ago, starting salary $600,000 a year for a few "special reports." Everyone needs an entry-level job, and the minimum wage is just too low, which is why Bernie wants to raise it to $15 an hour.

In a New York Daily News interview that same year, Chelsea insisted she isn't "well off." She explained her job-hopping by saying, "I was curious if I could care about money on some fundamental level, and I couldn't." Perhaps that's why Chelsea and her husband, hedge fund manager Marc Mezvinsky (whose father served five years in prison for investment fraud, a nice touch in the Election Year of Wall Street) paid $10.5 million for a condo. Every young couple needs a modest starter home.

Chelsea Clinton has been a prop, testimony to Hillary's tender love for her daughter and grandchild, with another one on the way. This was part of the narrative of a softer, kindler, gentler Hillary. But a couple of weeks ago all that changed. Chelsea Clinton--who seems to be off-limits for critical analysis among many political reporters, made the astounding charge that Sanders wanted to do away with Medicare. The simple answer is, of course, that Sanders wanted "Medikeh fuh ul." Hillary defended her daughter 's misleading - actually false -- accusation by citing her daughter's "expertise" on health care. But the damage was done, not to Bernie, but to Chelsea and Hillary's credibility. And political reporters will no longer give Chelsea any slack.

Back to her father -- Bill Clinton was campaigning as a surrogate for his independent feminist wife who, she has told us that upon her election as president, might advise her sparingly, from the kitchen table.

"When you're making a revolution you can't be too careful with the facts," Bill Clinton began, as he scoffed at Bernie Sanders theme of a political revolution. In an appearance before several hundred supporters - a nice crowd in New Hampshire, he criticized Sanders for hypocrisy and negative campaigning, the same tactics Bill Clinton employed eight years earlier criticizing Barack Obama, with disastrous results. It was after Bill commenced his attacks against Obama eight years ago that Hillary's campaign truly imploded. Back then, Bill was really off-message. This time, we don't know if he's an unguided missile, or just going according to plan. But he's not doing her any good.

Even before the 2008 primary campaign ago was in full stride, Bill was demeaning Obama's candidacy. On December 15, 2007, Clinton told PBS's Charlie Rose: "I mean, when's the last time we elected a president based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?"

A month later Bill Clinton was deeply concerned that Hillary's campaign was not the easy cakewalk pundits predicted. "Give me a break," Clinton said while campaigning then in New Hampshire. "This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen," he said, referring to Obama and his foreign policy expertise. "Just because of the sanitizing coverage that's in the media doesn't mean the facts aren't out there," Clinton continued, with a dual attack on what he termed Obama's negative campaign and the media's pro-Obama bias. Now, they claim (probably true) Media Bernie Bias.

Back then the Clintons leaked that the problem was the campaign team, and the campaign retooled. Expect the same situation now, rather than the candidate and her husband accept responsibility.

By the spring of 2008 Hillary's campaign was really falling apart. "Hillary's opponent, in his entire campaign, every two or three weeks has said for months and months and months, beginning in Nevada, that really there wasn't much difference in how America did when I was president and how America's done under President Bush," Clinton said in an April 17 campaign speech in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. "Now, if you believe that, you should probably vote for him, but you get a very bad grade in history."

Four days later during a radio interview that became a national story, Clinton -- who had been called the "first African-American president, said: "I think that they played the race card on me. We now know, from memos from the campaign, that they planned to do it all along." Four months earlier in South Carolina, Clinton had offended many African Americans with this observation: "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here."

On Monday Bill Clinton was in good form, or bad form, depending on your viewpoint, as he raised the specter of the Sanders backers' "vicious trolling and attacks that are literally too profane, not to mention, sexist, to repeat" on a Hillary female "progressive" blogger. Bill Clinton's theme is not incidental; in the last debate Hillary suggested that Sanders is attacking her character by "innuendo." Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's new book suggests Hillary changed positions in the Senate due to Wall Street money. Expect more on that in the coming weeks as Bernie focuses on the "rigged economy."

Bill Clinton also faulted Sanders ofor misrepresenting newspaper endorsements of Hillary by quoting the "good" things they said about Bernie. For good measure Clinton then criticized the Sanders campaign for misrepresenting the American Legion. Throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, Clinton again reprised the matter of the Sanders campaign stealing data, via the Democratic National Committee, from Hillary's campaign.

It's hard to attack Sanders because he comes across as positive. In the first debate last year Sanders, in a moment that voters will remember, seemed magnanimous when he proclaimed, "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails." Last week he began walking back his graciousness and gently said the emails may be a serious issue. From this point on, a threatened Hillary will attack Sanders, certainly her SuperPAC will, and Sanders will hold Hillary responsible.

"I happen to admire Hillary Clinton," Sanders said two days ago in New Hampshire (the trademark Sanders tactic of "nice" before sticking the knife in). He then attacked David Brock as "Hillary's attack dog." He was responding to Brock's threat to burst Bernie's "purity bubble." Brock once was paid handsomely two decades ago by conservatives to uncover Hillary scandals. Since then Brock, now her SuperPAC impresario, has been paid handsomely by Hillary to discredit her attackers and unhinge Sanders. Last month Brock in a hit ad was suggesting that Sanders had major health problems. He also criticized a Sanders Iowa ad as "bizarre" and a "significant slight to the Democratic base" because it did not show blacks "From this ad it seems black lives don't matter much to Bernie Sanders," Brock told the Associated Press. The Sanders campaign brought up Brock' role as "a mud-slinging, right-wing extremist" who set out to destroy black law professor Anita Hill, who had testified against the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas.

This last weekend was especially disastrous for Hillary Clinton. Madeleine Albright, 78, who served as Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, said this at Hillary rally, with Hillary laughing at her side: "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other" (i.e., support Hillary Clinton).

To make matters worse, 82-year-old feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who later issued an apology and claimed she had been misrepresented about what she said to Bill Maher about young women supporting Sanders, said THIS: "When you're young, you're thinking, where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie."

The Albright-Steinem double-header showed just how out of touch these two elders are with how young women think in the age of Law and Order SVU, when Bill Clinton's alleged sexual assaults, and Hillary's enabling, are no longer off limits. Moreover, women of all ages took offense at Steinem's suggestion that women supporting Bernie were traitors to their gender, and young women betrayed their true self-interest for short-term gratification with "boys."

Hillary is running defense, even on offense. The continued blunders not only will firmed up Sanders support in New Hampshire and carry into other primary states. All these attacks - from Hillary, Chelsea and Bill, and from Albright and Steinem, and the crude David Brock statements and ads --- (a) demonstrate low confidence, deep concern, and both angst and anxiety, if not panic; (b) offend some of the very voters they need; and (c) hurt Hillary among undecided voters.

So far, Sanders is surgical in his attack, yet seems positive. The more scared she runs, the more the electorate takes Old Socialist Bernie seriously.