Democrats say they’d like Hillary Clinton to take a cue from former President Obama and step out of the spotlight.
They say her string of remarks explaining her stunning loss in November coupled with the public remarks blaming the Democratic National Committee for the defeat — which many took as also critical of Obama — are hurting the party and making the 2016 candidate look bitter.
The Hill interviewed more a dozen Democrats about Clinton’s remarks, including many staunch Clinton supporters and former aides.
They said they understood the need for Clinton to explain what happened in the election, and many also empathized with Clinton’s anger over former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of a probe into her private email server.
But they also unanimously said Clinton needs to rethink her public blaming tour.
“Good God, what is she doing?” one longtime aide wondered after watching Clinton at the Recode conference in California on Wednesday. “She’s apparently still really, really angry. I mean, we all are. The election was stolen from her, and that’s how she feels.
“But to go out there publicly again and again and talk about it? And then blame the DNC?” the aide wondered. “It’s not helpful to Democrats. It’s not helpful to the country, and I don’t think it’s helpful to her.”
Former Obama aides are among those scratching their heads over Clinton’s strategy.
At the Recode conference, she said she had inherited nothing from a “bankrupt” Democratic Party led by Obama for eight years.
“If she is trying to come across as the leader of the angry movement of what happened in 2016, then she’s achieving it,” said one former senior aide to Obama. “But part of the problem she had was she didn’t have a vision for the Democratic Party, and she needs to now take a break and let others come to the forefront.”
Clinton’s remarks come at a point in time where the Democratic Party feels somewhat leaderless after the eight years of Obama and the surprise Clinton defeat.
Obama has largely gone out of public view, though he reappeared with a statement this week blasting President Trump for pulling the United States from the Paris climate deal.
Advisers to Obama have said he wants to give a new generation of leaders room to grow.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is perhaps the leading figure on the left after he gave Clinton a run for her money in the 2016 primary. Yet he is not even a member of the Democratic Party.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez is still adjusting to his leadership position after winning his post in a contest with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). The two have worked hard to forge a united front since the election.
The former Obama aide said Clinton’s criticisms of the DNC can make it tougher for new leaders to come forward.
“It’s hard to do that when you have the former nominee out there in a newsy, aggressive manner,” the former Obama aide said.
While Obama has made public appearances since leaving office, he has generally refrained from talking about Trump. Instead, he has held events focused on getting young adults active in civic engagement, as he did in April.
That puts Obama in the tradition of other past presidents who have generally sought to avoid public criticisms of their immediate successors.
Whether Obama sticks to that role consistently going forward is unclear.
Clinton, of course, is not a former president.
Longtime aides and advisers say she will not run for public office again, and that she feels liberated to finally speak her mind. They anticipate that Clinton will keep discussing the election, particularly to promote her upcoming book, which is expected to be published this fall.
“She’s saying the same stuff she would say on a phone call with me,” said one former aide, who worked on the 2016 campaign. “And I think she’ll continue to have a national dialogue on what needs to be fixed.”
Some Democrats say Clinton is better off laying low.
“I’m not sure there is a political strategy here,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “It sounds to me like more of a personal strategy.
“Complaining about an outcome and blaming everyone else is not a good political strategy,” Bannon added.
Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, acknowledged some frustration among Democrats over Clinton’s remarks.