You may remember T.A. Frank from such articles as “Chelsea Clinton’s anodyne Twitter feed is destroying America.” You will probably remember him for his forthcoming article, “Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky’s nefarious scheme to impose neoliberalism on her elementary school student council.” His latest article is “Can Hillary Clinton Go Quietly Into the Night.” It is certainly…representative of the “Clinton should adhere to newly invented “tradition” that losing candidates disappear from public life” genre:
We can’t expect them to accept this, of course. Psychologist Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, has famously observed that optimists tend to do better in life but exhibit more delusion. They tend to attribute failure to changing external factors rather than enduring internal qualities, blaming outside causes, not themselves. Hillary—who has been pinning her defeat on Comey and Vladimir Putin and the Democratic National Committee and Wikileaks and “a thousand Russian agents” and high expectations and the press and sexism and voter suppression and, for all I know, static cling—is a major optimist. That’s great for persistence and mental well-being. She’s ready to keep driving the bus. But it’s not so great for knowing when to quit. That’s where the passengers come in.
You have to love the incredibly smarmy setup here. You will note, while he calls Clinton delusional and irrational, that Frank has no case to make on the merits about, say, the very strong evidence that the Comey letter influenced the campaign. He just asserts without any argument — let alone evidence — that thinking that the director of the FBI baselessly implying that Clinton was a crook, or awful substance-free press coverage, or vote suppression (!), or Russian/Wikileaks ratfucking influced the election is as irrational as thinking that “static cling” affected the election. I don’t think Clinton is the delusional one here.
But it’s even worse than that. Frank frames the whole column as concern about the future of the party. But Clinton making some banal observations about factors that obviously influenced the outcome of the election is not an indication that she wants to “keep driving the bus,” and indeed they will have no effect at all on any future election whatsoever. Vote suppression, ratfucking by domestic and foreign opponents, and substance-free media coverage devoted to Both Sides Do It coverage, conversely, are all highly relevant going forward. Because the point of these columns isn’t to think about how to win about future elections; the point is pundits seizing on any excuse to say that Hillary Clinton sucks.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you a photograph from Inauguration Day. Here is George W. Bush giving his second inaugural address. And there watching is John Kerry.
SEN. KERRY: I was in the wrong seat there, wasn’t I?
MR. RUSSERT: What was going through your mind at that moment on that morning?
SEN. KERRY: Respect for the process, not feeling sorry for myself at all. I mean, look, I think we waged a great campaign. Did we make some mistakes? You bet we did. I take responsibility for them. You know, I am the person in charge, my campaign, I am responsible. I am not going to sit around worrying about what we did or didn’t do. But we did some unbelievable things. We raised more money than any Democratic campaign in history. We involved more volunteers than any campaign in history. I won more votes than any candidate on the Democratic side has ever won in history. I lost, Tim, to an incumbent president by a closer margin than an incumbent president has ever won re-election before in the history of the country, and if you add up the popular vote in the battleground states, I won the popular vote in the battleground states by two percentage points. We just didn’t distribute it correctly in Ohio.
So I think we did a great job, and we are going to continue to build on that campaign as I am now with my Kids First health plan. We have over 400,000 co-sponsors through the Internet who want to fight for this, and we are going to fight for it.
MR. RUSSERT: At the Clinton Library dedication on November 18, a few weeks after the election, you were quoted as saying, “It was the Osama bin Laden tape. It scared the voters,” the tape that appeared just a day before the election here. Do you believe that tape is the reason you lost the race?
SEN. KERRY: I believe that 9/11 was the central deciding issue in this race. And the tape–we were rising in the polls up until the last day when the tape appeared. We flat-lined the day the tape appeared and went down on Monday. I think it had an impact. But 9/11, you know, it’s a very difficult hurdle when a country is at war. I applauded the president’s leadership in the days immediately afterwards. I thought he did a good job in that, and he obviously connected to the American people in those immediate days. When a country is at war and in the wake of 9/11, it’s very difficult to shift horses in midstream. I think it’s remarkable we came as close as we did as a campaign. Many Republicans say we beat their models by four or five points as to what they thought we could achieve.
I am proud of the campaign, Tim. And I think if you look at what we did in states, I mean, millions of new voters came into this process. I won the youth vote. I won the independent vote. I won the moderate vote. If you take half the people at an Ohio State football game on Saturday afternoon and they were to have voted the other way, you and I would be having a discussion today about my State of the Union speech.
Oh, sorry, my mistake — this was John Kerry on January 30, 2005. Oddly, this appearance did not set off a wave of pundits arguing that John Kerry was obligated to retire from public life and certainly never to make any comment about the election other than “I ran the worst campaign in known human history and I go to the box and feel shame.” This is for the obvious reason that this Longstanding Tradition is sexist nonsense that was invented in May 2017. And AFICT nobody argued that Kerry’s comments were CONSUMING OXYGEN that would prevent the next generation of Democratic leadership from emerging, presumably because the idea that interviews or speeches given by losing candidates affect future primary or general elections is transparently idiotic, and this is obvious to anyone in any context that doesn’t involve Hillary Clinton.