Minutes – literally – before President Donald Trump entered the House chamber to deliver his first State of the union address, Hillary Clinton apologized for the way she had handled allegations of sexual harassment against a senior staffer in her 2008 presidential campaign.
“I very much understand the question I’m being asked as to why I let an employee on my 2008 campaign keep his job despite his inappropriate workplace behavior,” Clinton wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. “The short answer is this: If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t.”
That timing was no accident.
Doubt it? The story – regarding inappropriate behavior by Burns Strider, Clinton’s faith adviser in the 2008 campaign – broke five days ago in The New York Times. In her initial response to the Times, Clinton described herself as “dismayed” when the incident occurred. She did not, however, say anything about why she didn’t fire Strider at the time – or whether she would have done things differently now.
Patti Solis Doyle, who was serving as Clinton’s campaign manager at the time of the Strider allegations, told CNN earlier this week that she had urged his removal but had been overruled.
Of Clinton’s “dismayed” statement, Solis Doyle said, “It was the wrong call. I wish she had said it was the wrong call.”
Solis Doyle, a CNN political commentator, was far from alone in expressing disappointment with not only Clinton’s initial failure to act on the allegations against Strider but also with her unwillingness to say that decision, with the benefit of hindsight, was the wrong one. Clinton’s “dismayed” reaction landed with a thud in a culture being transformed by the #metoo movement.
And so, Clinton knew she needed to fix it, needed to find a way to make a more fulsome apology and explanation of why she acted the way she did with regard to Strider.
Rather than do so when the entire political world would immediately seize on her words, Clinton picked a time to release her second apology when she knew the eyes of the country would be on something else – namely President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.
Clinton knew that SOTU coverage would, to a certain extent, drown out the news of her admission that had she had a chance to do it all over again, she would have fired Strider. Of course the Facebook post would still get attention – she is the most recent Democratic presidential nominee, after all. But the amount of negative press Clinton would receive would almost certainly be mitigated by the demands of covering Trump’s speech.
A Clinton aide said that the fact the message was posted minutes before Trump’s State of the Union was nothing more than that is when it was finished.
“It’s simply when she finished writing it,” the aide said.
If you like Clinton, you won’t care about any of this. She isn’t the president or even a politician anymore! Who cares?! She did the right thing, right?
If you don’t like Clinton, you will see in this episode as everything you don’t like. The equivocating. The planning – always. The strategic news dump to bury the news. It reeks of calculation – you can literally see the political wheels turning – and people who don’t like Clinton really don’t like that.
Clinton got to where she needed (and wanted) to be on the Burns Strider issue. Which will be good enough for her supporters. That it took her five days – and, really, eight years – to get there will affirm for her critics why they didn’t think she had the stuff to be president.