HH: I am joined now by an old friend, Donna Brazile, whose brand new book, Hacks, is on bestseller lists everywhere and an amazing read. Good morning, Donna, I’m sure you join me in wishing all the best and saying a prayer for our friends in New York. I was in the Penn Station last night at 8pm. I just can’t believe this, actually.
DB: I can’t believe it as well. I’ve been looking at the live stream, and you’re right. The local authorities are on top of it. It looked like people are walking out okay, but this is still disturbing. As you know, we’re one day away from Chanukah, just a few weeks away from Christmas, and this is the time of the year that we have to remain vigilant.
HH: It’s also the busiest place, the beating heart of New York, so it would be an obvious target and disturbing. Donna, let’s talk about Hacks. I’ll come back and update people on details as we get along. But I want people to know about and get Hacks. There is throughout Hacks a generational split. I want to get right to the heart of it. I remember you and I had dinner on Sunday night before the New Hampshire primary, and people were gawking at us, because you know, conservative Hugh and liberal Donna, we were talking Catholic, talking, swapping stories. It used to be that politics was a once every four years event. And then Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, would get along fine for three years. That’s over, and that generational split is deep in your book.
DB: It’s really one of the things that bothers me as an American. Civility is something that we have to return to. I have Republican friends dating back to the 1980s when I worked on the campaign to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. I had friends who wanted to assist us in that effort, and Senator Chuck Mathias of Maryland, former senator, he was very helpful in making sure we got past some of the partisanship along with Tip O’Neill and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Ronald Reagan was, signed the bill in November of 1983, and now, every January, the third January, we celebrate this momentous occasion. It used to be that we could cross the party divide and reach out and find common ground. But it’s become more and more difficult over the last couple of decades.
HH: It’s also become more and more difficult to get millennials to believe that we know anything. And I, what I was struck by is the moneyball gang around Secretary Clinton froze out the old pros. The new guard, the data maestros, you know, Donna Brazile shows up in Brooklyn, and they condescend and they treat you like oh, you’re nice, give them a nice, inspiring speech, and they send you away. I think that’s actually going on throughout politics much to the damage, because politics doesn’t change. It hasn’t changed since Aristotle wrote the book called Politics.
DB: Well, you know, I saw Ed Rollins a few weeks ago, and Ed and I also go back to the 1980s. And I said Ed, I remember when we had 3 X 5 cards before we had Facebook and Twitter and all these other tools. We actually talked to people. I mean, you and I both know from our hometowns, the precincts who, you know, deliver the goods. I mean, they deliver the goods on Election Day, because they know the people, they know who gets out and vote. They get up early. The post is out there. The yard signs are in the right location. That’s politics. You talk to people. You go to the local barber shop or the beauty parlor. You talk politics. You go to a local diner or café, you talk politics. After church, when you go and get your brunch or whatever, you talk politics. Nowadays, everybody has a machine, a gadget, and then you know what? They just rip us apart. They don’t talk politics.
HH: No, they don’t. On Page 155-6 of Hacks, August 23rd, Donna Brazile writes, my destination was Brooklyn. I would finally see HQ, the high rise epicenter of campaign power. Security was tight. I had to be escorted up the lobby to the offices on the 10th floor where I felt some sort of the campaign energy I crave. By contrast, the executive floor, where Hillary’s top staff worked, it was calm and antiseptic like a hospital. It had a techno hush as if someone had died. I felt like I should whisper. Everybody’s fingers were on their keyboards, and no one was looking at anyone else. You half expected to see someone in a lab coat walk by. They were so precise, they made me feel as though this style of politics I had learned in my 40 years was about to be put out to pasture. That’s the best paragraph in the book, Donna Brazile.
DB: Well, you know, I love it. Campaigns are about passion. You’re passionate about the cause, the candidate. You’re passionate about getting out the vote. You’re passionate about going out there and singing the high praises of democracy and why your candidate would be the better person. This campaign was, you know, it was managed by someone who believed in data and analytics. Look, I respect data. I respect analytics. But that’s just one part of politics. Without passion, you’re basically left with a dry toast with no jam or no butter.
HH: Dry toast. That’s very well put, Donna. 80,000 votes in three key battleground states, you point out, now they had some communicators on the team – Neera Tanden, Brian Fallon, Robbie Mook would occasionally go out there. Do you think any of their communicators attempted to connect with anyone not already identified as a Hillary voter?
DB: You know, there was so much anger in the 2016 campaign, anger on both sides. And I think whenever you saw spokespeople out there, they were defending their candidate or they were ripping the other side apart. You didn’t see a lot of joy. You didn’t hear a lot about policy proposals, because it was drowned out in the big noise machine of 2016. I hope that as we turn to 2018 and 2020 and beyond that we can find a way to bring back some civility so that we can have honest discussions. I mean, you participated in many of the Republican debates. We needed more of that on the Democratic side. I tried to get more debates, as you well know, but I would hope that next year, we could go back to civility.
HH: It’s going to be a long time coming, Donna Brazile. Let’s talk a little bit about the key moment in the campaign, Page 184, when she, Secretary Clinton, said basket of deplorables, I knew that no matter what she said in the rest of her remarks, this would be the comment that made it to the evening news. Did she not understand where she was? You know, it landed like an anvil, Donna Brazile. It never got off, it was always on the lower third.
DB: Well, I thought that night, I was in New York with her, I could tell from her mannerisms just a few minutes before that she was under the weather. She wasn’t feeling good. Despite that, I think she went ahead and did her very best given the significant headwind that she faced. It’s time, I mean, look, we had two candidates that often traded insults against one another, let alone, you know, said things that probably they regret. But overall, I believe that had this election cycle been different, we would have seen a different result. And when I say different, I mean it was explosive. I mean, I was out there most of the time as an analyst, and it was just explosive. It was a year of anti-establishment. She came ahead with the popular vote, he won the Electoral College. You know, 2020 is going to be a different election season, and I already feel it with some of the results that we saw this year.
HH: Donna, last question. Page 189, you’re talking about the day of the collapse, September 11. Secretary Clinton said some nonsense about how she was fine, wasn’t it a beautiful day in New York. Then, she stopped to take a selfie with a little girl who had been waiting, got in the SUV to go home to Chappaqua. Again, who decided, you write, this was the best approach. She should have thanked them for their concern and told the truth about what was happening to her body. If she had been honest, we all could have moved forward. Now in all the interviews I’ve seen you do, no one brought that line up, if she’d been honest. I had Secretary Clinton on two weeks ago. She was remarkably candid and honest with me. Where did she get that advice from, do you think?
DB: You know, when I was talking to the staff people early that morning, they kept telling me well, she’s overheated. I said you don’t say that. You never say that about a woman being overheated. That’s just sexist jargon. I said what’s wrong with her. I saw her on Friday night. She’s under the weather. What’s wrong? Tell me what’s wrong. Go get a doctor and make a good analysis. When she came out and smiled and looked at the little girl, I’m like okay, I had hoped that a doctor would have come out with her. I don’t think they knew at the time that video would go viral, and that video would tell a different story. And as a result of that video going viral, I had to make a very difficult decision. I had to confer with people who were calling me about what if, what if. And luckily, we never got to that. But I did have to think through what if she did not recover.
HH: Did you talk to John Kerry as a former nominee during that period of time, Donna?
DB: No, I didn’t. I saw John Kerry on multiple occasions, but I never talked to former Secretary of State Kerry.
HH: How about Al Gore, because another former nominee? Those are the people you would turn to in a situation like that.
DB: Well, no, I would turn to President Obama, because he was the highest-ranking Democrat. I would talk to, of course, Leader Pelosi as well as Mr. Schumer. I would talk to Joe Biden, because he was the vice president. And of course, I would confer with my colleagues on the Democratic National Committee. That’s the charter. That’s the bylaws. The good news is that Secretary Clinton got back up. She went back out to California. She competed very well in the debate.
HH: Did you discuss it with President, did you discuss it with President Obama and Joe Biden?
DB: No, I said I would confer with them if we had to, but we never had to.
HH: Never had to.
HH: Donna Brazile, Hacks is a great read. I hope the return of civility is around the corner. Congratulations on a great read.
End of interview.