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Former DNC head Donna Brazile says she considered replacing Clinton with Biden as nominee

  • Democratic National Committee Vice Chairwoman Donna Brazile speaks during the second day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016. AP file



Washington Post
Saturday, November 04, 2017

Former Democratic National Committee head Donna Brazile writes in a new book that she seriously contemplated replacing Hillary Clinton as the party’s 2016 presidential nominee with then-Vice President Joe Biden in the aftermath of Clinton’s fainting spell, in part because Clinton’s campaign was “anemic” and had taken on “the odor of failure.”

In an explosive new memoir, Brazile details widespread dysfunction and dissension throughout the Democratic Party, including secret deliberations over using her powers as interim DNC chairwoman to initiate the process of removing Clinton and running mate Sen. Tim Kaine, Va., from the ticket after Clinton’s Sept. 11, 2016, collapse in New York City.

Brazile writes that she considered a dozen combinations to replace the nominees and settled on Biden and Sen. Cory Booker, N.J., the duo she felt most certain would win over enough working-class voters to defeat Republican Donald Trump. But then, she writes, “I thought of Hillary, and all the women in the country who were so proud of and excited about her. I could not do this to them.”

Brazile paints a scathing portrait of Clinton as a well-intentioned, historic candidate whose campaign was badly mismanaged, took minority constituencies for granted and made blunders with “stiff” and “stupid” messages. The campaign was so lacking in passion for the candidate, she writes, that its New York headquarters felt like a sterile hospital ward where “someone had died.”

As one of her party’s most prominent black strategists, Brazile also recounts fiery disagreements with Clinton’s staffers – including a conference call in which she told three senior campaign officials, Charlie Baker, Marlon Marshall and Dennis Cheng, that she was being treated like a slave.

“I’m not Patsey the slave,” Brazile recalls telling them, a reference to the character played by Lupita Nyong’o in the film, 12 Years a Slave. “Y’all keep whipping me and whipping me and you never give me any money or any way to do my damn job. I am not going to be your whipping girl!”

Brazile’s book, titled Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House, will be released Tuesday. A copy of the 288-page book was obtained in advance by the Washington Post.

In it, Brazile reveals how fissures of race, gender and age tore at the heart of the operation – even as Clinton was campaigning on a message of inclusiveness and trying to assemble a rainbow coalition under the banner of “Stronger Together.”

A veteran operative and television pundit who had long served as DNC’s vice chairwoman, Brazile abruptly and, she writes, reluctantly took over in July 2016 for chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Florida congresswoman was ousted from the DNC on the eve of the party convention after WikiLeaks released stolen emails among her and her advisers that showed favoritism for Clinton during the competitive primaries.

Brazile describes her mounting anxiety about Russia’s theft of emails and other data from DNC servers, the slow process of discovering the full extent of the cyberattacks and the personal fallout. She likens the feeling to having rats in your basement: “You take measures to get rid of them, but knowing they are there, or have been there, means you never feel truly at peace.”

At first, Brazile writes of the hacking, top Democratic officials were “encouraging us not to talk about it.” But she says a wake-up moment came when she visited the White House in August 2016 for President Barack Obama’s 55th birthday party. National security adviser Susan Rice and former attorney general Eric Holder Jr. separately pulled her aside to urge her to take the Russian hacking seriously, which she did, she writes.

That fall, Brazile says she tried to persuade her Republican counterparts to agree to a joint statement condemning Russian interference but that they ignored her messages and calls.

Backstage at a debate, she writes, she approached Sean Spicer, then-chief strategist for the Republican National Committee, but “I could see his eyes dart away like this was the last thing he wanted to talk to me about.” She asked RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, too, but “I got that special D.C. frost where the person smiles when he sees you but immediately looks past you trying to find someone in the room to come right over and interrupt the conversation.”

There would be no joint statement.

The WikiLeaks releases included an email in which Brazile, a paid CNN contributor at the time, shared potential topics and questions for a CNN town hall in advance with the Clinton campaign. She claims in her book that she did not recall sending the email and could not find it in her computer archives. Nevertheless, she eventually admitted publicly to sending it, believing her reputation would have suffered regardless.

Brazile describes in wrenching detail Clinton’s bout with pneumonia. On Sept. 9, she saw the nominee backstage at a Manhattan gala and she seemed “wobbly on her feet” and had a “rattled cough.”

Two days later, Clinton collapsed in New York. Brazile blasts the campaign’s initial efforts to shroud details of her health as “shameful.”

Whenever Brazile got frustrated with Clinton’s aides, she writes, she would remind them that the DNC charter empowered her to initiate the replacement of the nominee. If a nominee became disabled, she explains, the party chair would oversee a complicated process of filling the vacancy that would include a meeting of the full DNC.

After Clinton’s fainting spell, some Democratic insiders were abuzz with talk of replacing her – and Brazile says she was giving it considerable thought.

“Again and again I thought about Joe Biden,” Brazile writes. But, she adds, “No matter my doubts and my fears about the election and Hillary as a candidate, I could not make good on that threat to replace her.”