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February 13, 2008

Clinton Staff Woes

Senator Clinton's campaign staff shakeup is still a work in progress, and it's a bigger deal than even I had realized. New details about Solis Doyle's firing (and it turns out it was a firing) and today's exit of deputy campaign manager Mike Henry are below. But first, let's talk about the gigantic race element in all of this, because that's what is really blowing my mind.

To start with, I hadn't even considered the ethnicity of Patti Solis Doyle or Maggie Williams, and I'm betting that none of you did either. When I wrote about Solis Doyle's connection to Norman Hsu back in September, it never even crossed my mind. And when I wrote on Sunday that Williams was replacing Solis Doyle, I didn't think about Solis' race either. What the hell does the race of the campaign manager matter?

Apparently it matters a great deal. The New York Post reveals that Clinton is losing the support of the Hispanic Caucus because she fired "the most prominent Latina" in her campaign. Support among Hispanic voters was the key to Clinton's success in Nevada and California. She's depending on it in Texas next month, too. But it looks like Hispanic superdelegates are having second thoughts, all because Clinton fired Solis Doyle:

"Apparently, loyalty is not a two-way street," [Steven Ybarra] wrote. "Latino superdelegates like myself . . . will have cause to pause."

Ybarra told The Post yesterday that the loss of Solis Doyle, a child of Mexican immigrants, just weeks before the Texas primary, where 36 percent of the population is Hispanic, was "dumb as a stump."

The New York Times' blog reprints the letter New York assemblyman Ruben Diaz sent to Clinton. His letter also recasts the firing as a betrayal of Hispanic supporters, but it goes much further and delivers a threat directed at President Clinton. One commenter wrote the other day to say, "Get the popcorn. This is getting good." They were right:

It is hard to understand how the Hispanic community that has been there to keep your campaign alive could remain in your corner when the first Hispanic woman to serve as your presidential campaign manager has resigned from her post.


Although we are inclined to believe that Patti Solis Doyle did resign, we would like you to realize that it will be very troubling to many if somehow we later find that she left her post under pressure because of the recent primary losses your campaign suffered. If so, we will have many questions about why a Hispanic woman who has helped to build Latino support for you throughout the nation would have been the one to take the blame and resign from her post instead of others involved with your campaign, including former President Clinton, who have caused serious problems and embarrassing situations for your campaign.

Did you notice what was missing from the letters? There is no mention that perhaps, as campaign manager, Solis Doyle was properly dismissed following the poor showing in the past month (and keep reading for information on Solis Doyle's failures during the past seven years). It apparently doesn't even occur to these writers that Solis Doyle should be evaluated based on anything other than the color of her skin. She's Hispanic and Clinton wants the Hispanic vote, therefore, she cannot be fired. I have only one thing to say to that: these people should be embarrassed to show their faces in public.

There is another elephant in the room and I didn't even realize it until I sat down to write this post. Maggie Williams is black. Who knew? For that matter, who cares? But every article I've read about this has mentioned it, so I guess it's damned important for you to know that Clinton swapped out a Hispanic woman for a black one in her campaign's top spot. Women and minorities hardest hit, I guess.

Both letters claim to accept the Clinton campaign's protestations that Solis Doyle is staying on as an adviser and that this was an amiable decision. (Ignore, I guess, that Solis Doyle said she was quiting to spend more time with her very young children.) But, as you see in the second letter, that explanation is not going to fly for long and it's going to alienate even more voters when it is revealed that Clinton lied to them.

Which brings me to the latest: the Atlantic's Joshua Green has a must-read, inside look at Solis Doyle's role in Clinton's senatorial and presidential campaigns. Green recounts Solis Doyle's numerous failures over the years and claims to have been informed of the firing by campaign insiders. But the real creme filling is the revelation that it took several other staffers' decision to quit their jobs last week which forced Clinton to act. A taste:

Solis Doyle, who began as Clinton’s personal scheduler in 1991 (and who, as it happens, coined the term “Hillaryland”) was Clinton’s alter ego and was installed in the job specifically for that reason. Her performance in Clinton’s past races and especially in this one reflects all the good and the bad that the alter-ego designation carries. I’ve always felt that the most revealing thing about Solis Doyle is her oft-repeated line: “When I’m speaking, Hillary is speaking.” It is revealing both because it is true and because it conveys—and even flaunts—an arrogance that I think is the key to understanding all that has gone wrong for the Clinton campaign.

As the man says, read the whole thing.

One last bit of Clinton campaign news: Deputy Campaign Manager Mike Henry has announced his resignation. Henry joined the campaign after managing Virginia Governor Tim Kaine's victory in 2005. In May of last year an amusingly prescient memo he wrote, arguing that Clinton should skip the Iowa caucuses because she'd lose, was leaked to the press amid a quiet civil war between Clinton staffers. Now he writes:

Our campaign needs to move quickly to build a new leadership team, support them and their decisions and make the necessary adjustments to achieve the winning outcome for which we have all worked so hard for over a year now.

The emphasis is mine and represents what I believe is the truest part of Henry's note. Clinton's campaign is still in breakup mode.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 02:52 AM

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