Hillary's 2016 Communications Director: 'She vexes people'

Hillary Clinton’s former Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri has a new book out which means she’s making the rounds giving interviews to promote it. Today she gave an interview to NPR in which she seemed to be subtly responding to Clinton’s own recent comments about why she didn’t win the election.

Our biggest problem for women trying to lead in politics is there’s not a model that people are used to seeing that they can compare that woman to and be comfortable with her in that role. Our only model that we have for anyone who runs America, who is the head of the United States, is a man. So, I had a moment where I realized in October during the campaign, I thought “Wow, what we have done is made Hillary a female facsimile of the qualities that we look for in a male president.” And … it was a gut punch … realizing there was a fundamental [flaw in the] design — in October! — and you can’t go back and fix it … And I think that people’s distrust of her isn’t that everybody is sexist or misogynist; she vexes people and they don’t know what to make of her… because I think they don’t know what a woman in charge looks like.

We were trying to present her with these qualities that you’re used to seeing in a male president: That she’s strong enough, that she can handle national security, that she’s tough enough that Donald Trump can come after her and try to humiliate her and she’s never going to let it show. And I think she had to do that. I do think that the first woman nominee had to prove that she could do the job the way a man would, but that robbed her of a lot of her own authenticity.

There’s a lot I would disagree with here but before we get to some of that, notice that Palmieri seems to be disagreeing with Clinton’s recent comments about the election. Clinton suggested that Trump won with people who didn’t like “women getting jobs.” She went on to say that too many women felt pressured by “a sort of ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.” In other words, some kind of male misogynist intimidation was responsible.

Palmieri, on the other hand, is suggesting people just don’t know what to make of a woman in charge. Where Hillary is blaming misogyny, Palmieri is claiming it’s ignorance. There is a difference in that misogyny implies a person with retrograde views and possibly bad intent. Palmieri’s analysis at least allows room for people to have voted for Trump without any bad intent.

However, I think there’s probably less difference between the two than it first appears. Why does Hillary vex people? Because people have never seen a powerful woman. But I suspect if Palmieri had asked why not, her answer would be about historical misogyny and sexism. So she is still pushing the problem back on misogyny, just in a slightly different way.

There is, of course, an alternative to both views. The alternative is that people on the right don’t have a problem with powerful women, they just don’t like Hillary Clinton (and never have). She’s secretive and lies even when it’s not necessary. She tries to play it cool but often appears awkward and inauthentic. Try to imagine Mitt Romney doing rap and that’s how Hillary often comes across.

I really don’t think it has much to do with her being a woman. People can tell when someone is being real and when they’re saying what they think you want to hear. Hillary often seems to be doing the latter. Even in that clip above, she’s not speaking for herself, she’s echoing a script provided by someone else.

So, getting back to Jennifer Palmieri, there really was a flaw in the campaign. It was the candidate. All of the effort to make her seem real and authentic was in vain. At the center of all that effort was someone a lot of people just don’t like and don’t trust and for good reason. But don’t generalize Hillary’s failures as a candidate. There are plenty of women out there who don’t have her personality deficit. Someday, probably not too far off from now, one of them will be president.