Call it another Bad Day at Black Rock for the “inevitable” Hillary Clinton and her once dominant Democratic presidential campaign. After being swept by Barack Obama in all four contests of Semi-Super Saturday, Clinton has just had a Sobering Sunday, which ends with a blast from the past of the Clintons’ 1990s controversies.
First, she fired her longtime campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, the first Latina to manage a major presidential campaign. Replacing her is Hillary’s White House chief of staff, Maggie Williams. She’s African American. But she’s not the first black woman to manage a big presidential campaign, with Donna Brazile having picked up that honor in 2000 with Al Gore.
Then, Hillary lost the Maine Democratic caucuses to Obama in a landslide. Which was quite interesting, in that many thought she would win. She had the backing of the governor and his political organization, as well as labor. The demographics of the state — 98% white and heavily blue collar — are quite different from that which has usually gone for Obama. Hillary campaigned heavily there, as did former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea, matching Obama in TV advertising.
But Obama, with the help of Senator Ted Kennedy and a huge turnout of first-time caucus participants, swamped her, 58% to 41%.
As Clinton was in the process of losing her fifth contest of the weekend — following blowout losses in Washington, Louisiana, Nebraska, and the Virgin Islands yesterday — she fired her campaign manager.
And replaced her with a veteran of the Clinton White House, who served as Hillary’s chief of staff. Williams is an intriguing figure, in some ways a liberal idealist who worked on children’s issues when she entered politics, and in her post-White House career headed up the big liberal PR outfit Fenton Communications.
However, in her White House days, she found herself caught up in the major fundraising controversies that dogged Bill and Hillary Clinton. She was a key gatekeeper who gave convicted influence peddler Johnny Chung regular access to the White House. It was through Williams that Chung was able to eat for free whenever he wanted in the White House Mess. It was Williams who arranged for Chung and his associates to attend the president’s radio addresses. One of those Chung friends was the CEO of China’s national oil company. It later emerged that some of the nearly $400,000 Chung contributed to the Democratic National Committee came from China’s intelligence service.
The ability to revisit these sorts of issues — not to mention dredge into Bill Clinton’s post-presidential business dealings and massive fundraising for the Clinton Library — is a major reason why John McCain and the Republicans are hoping that Maggie Williams can right the Good Ship Hillary and beat back the surging Barack Obama.