The Clintons Broke Out The Scooby-Doo Van ... In 2000

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Apr 14, 2015 12:35 PM
The Clintons Broke Out The Scooby-Doo Van ... In 2000

NBC News’ Chuck Todd said Hillary’s Scooby-Doo van odyssey from New York to Iowa was “spontaneous.” Clinton staffers have been making it known that the van ride was the former secretary of state’s idea, as her communication director, Jennifer Palmieri, tweeted. Of course it was; Clinton did the exact same thing in 2000. It seems everything from the name to the reason (optics) appears to be rehashed, albeit in a national campaign setting.  The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper wrote about this in his book based on an account from a former secret service agent (via Time) [bold text indicates Halper’s excerpt]:

Here’s journalist Daniel Halper’s description of her first Senate run in New York in his critical book Clinton, Inc.:

They were driving around New York in an armored brown van, “which we had called the mystery machine, the Scooby Doo van, which was an interesting thing to drive and learn to manipulate,” the agent tells me in an interview. That’s because Hillary and her staff objected to the customary limo the First Lady would normally use. They complained the “optics” weren’t right for an aspiring senator who wanted to look like she was a woman of the people—and not a product of the White House.

Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer criticized the van.

“How stupid do the Clintons think the American people are?” he told TIME. “They pulled the same exact stunt in 2000. This is not resetting, it’s recycling.”

Now, The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, then with Politico, also mentioned the van in her 2013 piece about Hillary’s pending 2016 campaign, though it seems the press called it the “HRC Speedwagon” instead:

Clinton barely engaged with Iowa voters in a meaningful way in 2007, a fact that came back to bite her when the better-organized Obama vaulted ahead. Voters complained throughout the race about a lack of access to the candidate.

In 2000, by contrast, Clinton made a point of visiting towns that had rarely, if ever, seen a Democratic statewide political candidate before.

Her aides were convinced the Midwestern-born Clinton would be able to compete in upstate New York.

“She let people really see her,” said Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings.

Clinton famously ate a sausage at the State Fair (Rick Lazio [her Republican opponent] declined the offering), focused on her jobs plan for the economically depressed upstate region and sold herself as a get-the-job-done pol, not a partisan. Clinton loved traveling to all corners of the state in a van the press dubbed the “HRC Speedwagon” — and it showed.

Toward the end of the race, many of the attacks that Lazio and state Republicans lobbed at her rang hollow to voters — because they had gotten to know her.

The 2008 candidate never gave herself that chance, maintaining an ambivalent relationship with Iowa, where retail politics are at a premium. The 2000 campaign showed it need not be that way if Clinton were to run again.

Clinton’s 2008 campaign has been derided as hostile toward the press, an attitude that was believed to have stemmed from the candidate herself.

Yes, the press rest hasn’t been good. Business Insider  reported that some on Clinton’s team poked fun at the various journalists waiting for the official 2016 announcement:

After Business Insider broke the news Clinton would launch her campaign some time this weekend, the Guardian followed it up with a story claiming she would announce via a video released at noon on Sunday. However, when the appointed time arrived, there was no video. Now, there are multiple reports Clinton plans to make her announcement at an unspecified time later on Sunday.

This left reporters assigned to cover the launch — including many camped out in front of Clinton's campaign headquarters — spending the day in limbo waiting for the expected news to break. Many of them took to Twitter to express frustration with the situation. Some even made up dedicated hashtags like #waitingforHillary and #WhyHillaryIsLate.

One member of Clinton's team seemed to poke fun at the reporters who were spending part of their weekend at work waiting for the announcement. Teddy Goff, who is working with Clinton's campaign on digital strategy tweeted what appeared to be a comment teasing those who were trapped at their desks awaiting the video at 12:01 p.m.

"Beautiful day out there!" he wrote.

Goff's tweet prompted testy replies from several reporters.

Now, the Clinton camp didn't really hit a pothole; this is a media trip up. The van used by Clinton in the 2000 election is mentioned in various publications NY Post, Politico, Halper’s book etc., so Todd truly walked into the propeller on this one. But he’s since acknowledged his mistake and updated his coverage. We all step in it at some point in the blogosphere. It happens. Bus/caravan/van tours are not uncommon for political campaigns, especially ones for the presidency. As for the Clintons, I can see why they like this strategy. They did a bus tour during the 1992 presidential election, and won. You also get some weird memories while traveling on them–like Tipper Gore kissing a llama. At the same time, the caravans deployed by Clinton supporters in 1994 to sell Clintoncare did not end in success.

Once could easily say, like Spicer, that this is “recycled” politics; an affirmation that Clinton can't bring what Obama brought to the political scene in 2008.  I feel like that's a point that's going to be repeated often for the next 19 months.      

Ouch: Washington Post's Ruth Marcus called  Hillary's rollout video "relentlessly, insultingly vapid — a Verizon commercial without the substance."