In Clinton World, everything is political — even the prospect of a party for the campaign staff.
Since Oct. 7, when WikiLeaks began releasing emails hacked from the account of Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta, a flurry of revelations potentially damaging to her bid for the presidency have surfaced. Less discussed has been the extent to which the emails document the way the campaign runs nearly every decision and news event through a political filter.
“And if some staff take pictures of her with a beer and letting loose to some music — that end up going viral and eventually on tv — so much the better.”
Consider the batch released Saturday. Informal adviser Neera Tanden sent an email close to midnight in September 2015 to Podesta, campaign Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, and longtime aide Huma Abedin to praise Clinton’s performance in an interview with David Muir for “World News Tonight.” In that interview, Clinton apologized for using an email server for work-related correspondence at secretary of state.
In Tanden’s email, marked “Another Crazy Idea,” she also suggested that Clinton throw a party for her staff at the campaign headquarters. It had been a long summer and the staff needed to “gear up” for the fall, she wrote. Plus, Tanden suggested, it could have political benefits — making Clinton look like a regular person.
“And if some staff take pictures of her with a beer and letting loose to some music — that end up going viral and eventually on tv — so much the better,” she wrote. “The clubbing she did in Latin America as [secretary of state] was awesome. Just thought I’d share. She was great today!!! thank you!!!”
In another email exchange, from Sept. 16-17 of last year, aides strategized over which slogan to use in an upcoming speech at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention. Head speechwriter Dan Schwerin wrote Podesta and campaign manager Robby Mook to ask if they had talked to Clinton and asked her whether she preferred “making America work for people again” or “fighting for you.”
Mook responded that he thought Schwerin should model the speech after remarks Clinton had delivered at a Democratic National Committee event in Minnesota until the campaign received results from a poll to offer guidance.
“My instinct here is to just go with a tweaked version of the DNC Minnesota speech … just make sure it’s New Hampshire-ized,” he wrote. “We are waiting on the poll to determine which direction to go overall and that won’t be ready until after the weekend … and I thought she rocked the house at the DNC, so no need to do anything new.”
In April 2015, Schwerin asked campaign staff for feedback on a speech he was writing for Clinton’s appearance at the Women in the World Summit the next day. He wrote a line for the speech having Clinton declare the event above politics: “There’s going to be plenty of time for politics as we head toward the next election.”
It was a prelude to an attack on Republicans for not quickly confirming Loretta Lynch as attorney general.
But the internal campaign emails confirm that staff viewed the event in starkly political terms.
“We discussed the idea of throwing an elbow at Women in the World with John [Podesta] and HRC today, and she was reluctant to touch the abortion issue,” Schwerin wrote. “John suggested focusing more on the inappropriateness of playing politics with trafficking and Jake [Sullivan] suggested hitting equal pay, and she seemed ok with that.”
Schwerin wrote that Clinton was open to a wider strategy of trying to “pin GOP candidates down on wedge issues, but doesn’t want to throw darts that won’t land.” He cited as a possible model a tweet Clinton sent mocking Republican candidates for equivocating on whether vaccines should be mandatory.
“If we use vaccine tweet as a model — timely, with Republicans divided and looking nutty — she’ll be happy,” he wrote.
On Aug. 31 of last year, Clinton aides fretted over a labor union endorsement. The campaign’s labor outreach director, Nikki Budzinski, warned the campaign in an email that the Service Employees International Union indicated it would not make an endorsement in September, a departure from previous conversations.
“I think we need to lock in 1199SEIU,” she wrote, referring to the nation’s largest union of health care workers. “As we’ve previously discussed, we’ve worked out a compromise with them where 1199SEIU board will stop in for a campaign briefing at Brooklyn HQ. We would do this on a day that HRC is in the office and she would be able to stop in and say hello. I think now, this could be helpful for us in their process.”
Mook added his chief of staff, Heather Stone, to the email string.
“This is concerning,” he wrote. “We should try to get to the bottom of this.”
Marlon Marshall, director of state campaigns, responded that the campaign was “punting” the health care workers union to October. He asked Podesta to let the staff know if he reached SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.
As it turns out, the SEIU did not endorse until November. It backed Clinton, although several local chapters revolted and backed her rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders.