Top strategists from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns came face to face at Harvard’s Kennedy School for a “post-mortem” of the presidential race and successfully turned a traditionally civil discussion into a nasty screaming match.
The event, supposed to be a clinical dissection of the campaign and Trump’s upset victory, descended into chaos as the participants interrupted each other, raised their voices, tossed out sarcastic comments and, well, had a complete meltdown.
Several staff members from the Clinton campaign accused the Trump team for winning the presidency by appealing to the white supremacist, racist and xenophobic population of America. They also slammed the Trump aides for praising the incoming White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon — a proud anti-Semite and white nationalist — as a “brilliant strategist.”
“If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am proud to have lost,” declared former Hillary Clinton staffer Jenn Palmieri. “I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.”
The comment did not sit well with Trump’s former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, who has not been having a great time at such events recently.
“No, you wouldn’t. That’s very clear to me. No, you wouldn’t. Respectfully,” she responded indignantly. “Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacy had a platform? Are you gonna look me in the face and tell me that?”
As a grim looking Palmieri said, “You did, Kellyanne. You did,” another Clinton spokesperson, Karen Finney, argued that “part of what Donald Trump did in this campaign was to mainstream the alt-right,” which is “now part of the mainstream of our politics.”
“They see Donald Trump as their standard-bearer,” Finney added, referring to the dramatic rise in hate crimes against minorities and the horrifying Nazi salute episode at an alt-right conference.
“I’m waiting for someone to tell me who you’re taking the country back from,” Joel Benenson, a strategist for Clinton camp, asked Conway. “Is it my parents who came here two generations ago? I’m trying to figure out who that message was for.”
Conway then began to criticize the former Democratic nominee for failing to connect with working-class white voters. She even went on to call the Clinton staffers sore losers, which led to Benenson pointing out all the “dog whistles” Trump sent out at his rallies.
“You’re not being nice. You’re certainly not being analytical,” Conway taunted, adamant that Trump won by connecting with voters who were frustrated with their lack of economic progress.
“How in the world did we have a female candidate whose closing arguments were so negative?” she inquired. “It was all about Donald Trump. She was obsessed with Donald Trump. Obsessed with calling him a racist, a xenophobe, a homophobe, a sexist. And guess where it got you.”
So, was no one supposed to call out a racist, xenophobe, homophobe and sexist candidate for what he really was?
“You guys won. That’s clear. You won the electoral college, that’s the currency,” Benenson shot back. “But let’s also be honest. Don’t act as if you have some popular mandate for your message… The fact of the matter is that more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump.”
It’s true. The former secretary of state is currently leading the popular vote by 2.5 million.
“Hey, guys, we won,” taunted Conway. “You guys are bitter. You’re all bitter.”
While the forum proved that it is still too soon for civility between the two deeply divided camps, it also presented a rare point of agreement for both the parties: It is all media’s fault.
The Trump team, unsurprisingly, blasted the press for its supposedly biased coverage of their candidate.
“The largest super PAC, called the media,” sneered campaign Digital Director Brad Parscale. “We had media bias that we had to spend money and energy to push and correct the message … We had to fight media bias and corporate bias.”
Meanwhile, Clinton campaign chief Robby Mook claimed that political analysts brought down voting numbers by signaling that a Clinton victory was inevitable.
“When The New York Times or the other prognosticators say you have a 90% chance of winning, that suppresses [voters],” Mook explained.
Perhaps the most accurate description of the presidential race and its result came from Jeb Bush’s former campaign manager Dave Kochel.
“Trump touched the third rail. He touched the fourth rail. He touched the fifth rail and just kept growing,” he said.