The very lamest excuse of the 2016 Presidential election

Since November 8, we’ve been treated to no end of explanation for Donald Trump’s triumph over Hillary Clinton. Certain segments of the media have branded these “excuses” “lame“, and point to their own preferred explanations. But I’m not here to evaluate the validity of various claims that are essentially unprovable; I’d rather focus on lame excuses that are more verifiably so: ones that self-evidently lack explanatory power to the degree that they could have only been offered to the public in bad faith.

It is difficult to produce an excuse for the race’s outcome that fell unambiguously into this category; political scientists and pundits may debate what actually happened for years to come. So, without further ado, I would like to focus your attention on a slightly different category: the lamest excuse offered by the Hillary campaign for something other than the race’s final outcome.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times treated its readers to a strong contender for the title:

“This is a legitimate email,” Charles Delavan, a Clinton campaign aide, replied to another of Mr. Podesta’s aides, who had noticed the alert. “John needs to change his password immediately.” . . . Mr. Delavan, in an interview, said that his bad advice was a result of a typo: He knew this was a phishing attack [and] had meant to type that it was an “illegitimate” email, an error that he said has plagued him ever since.

This excuse strikes me as slightly suspect, to say the least. If the email prompting Podesta to “change password” was — as Delavan claimed to believe — illegitimate, why should John change his password immediately? Or, if Delavan believed Podesta’s password had already been compromised, why did he seemingly give the matter no further attention, when a more strident response might have limited the damage (at the very least, by minimizing the likelihood future phishing expeditions would succeed, as another one described in this very article did just three days later).

But while you could certainly make the case that Delavan’s excuse is self-serving bullshit, maybe — just maybe — he’s telling the truth. So please allow me to instead draw your attention to a brief anecdote recounted in a New York Times Magazine article on the Clinton campaign published less than a month before the election. In that article, Mark Leibovich related several paragraphs of “stupidity” surrounding a clementine.

In brief, one journalist on Clinton’s plane used a rolling clementine to ask whether Hillary would rather have dinner with Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump. The clementine was returned in such a way as to indicate Putin, but after that news hit Twitter, campaign employee Nick Merrill “clarified that the clementine had not actually reached Clinton, but rather he picked it up first and read the question aloud. To which Clinton remarked that she had once eaten dinner with Putin. Merrill then circled ‘Putin’ and rolled back the clementine.”

Just one obvious problem with this excuse: Clinton may claim to have based her answer on having once dined with Putin, but we have actual photographic evidence that she once attended Donald Trump’s wedding. And presumably, no one went home hungry:


So previous dinner dates can’t possibly have decided it; Merrill’s alleged explanation is an obvious and transparent fig leaf. Which means we now know that at some point before the election, Hillary would have preferred dining with Putin over Trump. I wonder if the contents of the first New York Times article excerpted above have done anything to change her mind?

No one asked, but — me, personally — I’d prefer to dine with Trump over Putin. Sure, Trump might one day kill us all in a nuclear inferno, but at least that’s unlikely to happen while we’re sitting down to dinner. While dining with Putin, on the other hand, I would be far too preoccupied with whether or not my cup of tea had been laced with plutonium-210 to actually enjoy the meal.


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