One More Peril of "Buy One, Get One Free"

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Apr 10, 2008 11:58 AM
Below, Matt notes that there are a number of post-mortems (or would that be post-mortes?!) on the Clinton campaign circulating through the media, with a general consensus being that Hillary has run a poor campaign.

Over at Real Clear Politics, Jay Cost performs a thorough examination and reaches the insightful conclusion that, in a sense, the poor campaign wasn't the disease; it was a symptom:

What we are talking about here is plain old arrogance. I think this is the central mistake of the Clinton campaign. It presumed that the nomination was Clinton's. Not Clinton's to lose. Just Clinton's. Period. As a consequence, it behaved in an unduly confident manner.

And that's absolutely true.  In truth, the Clintons are hardly incapable of running a tough, disciplined campaign -- that's what they did in 1992, after all. 

So then the question becomes, what accounts for the arrogance?  In my view, the Clintons never had any illusions about the fact that Hillary is very disliked (some would even say hated) in many circles.   What they overestimated was the extent of the country's "Clinton nostalgia."

That's easy to do, I guess, when one is surrounded by people who are constantly glorifying the "good old days" of Clinton rule and finding the Bush administration horribly lacking by comparison.  But it was particularly likely that the Clintons would continue to find themselves surrounded by flatterers and courtiers of many kinds, who would end up inadvertently misleading them.

That's because, from the day Bill Clinton left office (and really, even before) it was widely assumed that Hillary would run for President -- and possibly even win.  So even though every former President is surrounded by a coterie of fans, it was practically guaranteed that the Clintons would continue to be courted by an army of flatterers who would celebrate their '90's reign. 

Perhaps that was in all sincerity, but no doubt some also praised the Clintons with redoubled vigor in the hopes that their loyalty and praise would be remembered and rewarded in a second Clinton administration.  This group probably includes some in the media, who probably felt it was worth their time and a little good coverage to build up a rapport that might produce White House exclusives down the road.

As a result, the Clintons fell into the trap of overgeneralizing the adulation they received -- and thinking that it was being more widely experienced than it has turned out to be.

Just one more peril of "Buy One, Get One Free."