Dear Donna

“By contrast, on the executive floor, where Hillary’s top staff worked, it was calm and antiseptic, like a hospital. It had that techno-hush, as if someone had died. I felt like I should whisper. Everybody’s fingers were on their keyboards, and no one was looking at anyone else. When I was tip-toeing around the muffled Clinton headquarters, I thought of what my friend Tony Coelho used to ask me about my campaigns. He’d always ask, ‘Are the kids fucking? Are they having sex? Are they having fun? If not, let’s create something to get that going, or otherwise we’re not going to win.’ I didn’t sense much fun or fucking in Brooklyn.”

- “Hacks: The Story of the Break-Ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.” By Donna Brazile (p. 86)

* * * *

For the one-year anniversary of the election, please enjoy a virtual tour of the Clinton Headquarters. Respectfully, I don’t think Ms. Brazile quite captured the mood.

Staffers cram into cubicles arranged by department like cliques in a high school cafeteria. Except instead of jocks and nerds, we had Digital and Paid Media. Instead of food fights, we battled over conference rooms. And like high-schoolers, we griped about our work as we sat next to our best friends.

First, the Communications team: an orchestra of top-notch musicians given the wrong sheet music five minutes before show time. A press assistant, sprinting to the printer, collides with two rapid response leads as they edit a press release. The national spokesman throws skittles into the air and catches them in his mouth as he whispers hurriedly on the phone with a reporter. Everyone shouts out indeterminable phrases to no one in particular:

“Can someone turn on MSNBC? Maddow’s got something on tax returns.”

“Who took my computer charger.”

“Let’s blast this transcript ASAP — travelers are asking.”

“MSNBC? Guys?”

“For every minute I don’t get my charger back, I’m donating one dollar to Bernie.”


Look across the aisle to the Research Department, and you’ll find a discreet, inquisitive group of sleuths — whose noses graze their laptops as they hunch forward, delighted to capitalize on their childhood dream: digging up dirt and getting paid for it.

Just beyond Research, the Coalitions area is a watering hole for a revolving cast of characters:

The Women’s Director is accompanied by a swath of adoring Wellesley undergrads who have taken off a semester to fuck the patriarchy. Each wears glasses. Each will someday run for office. Each will win.

The Millennial Director’s red, high-top converse sneakers announce her agenda before she even speaks.

Androgynous women with black, leather jackets wear the same “Love is Love” t-shirt four times a week. The more often they wear it, the more attractive they become.

Toward the back, the Paid Media director swings a baseball bat as he paces around his office during a conference call. His adoring group of staffer-bros sit outside and trade stories about the time he sent them all an e-mail from a hospital bed.

Fight Song erupts from someone’s computer and the melody competes with the Digital Department’s “Hamilton” sing-a-long. Speaking of singing, the States team randomly breaks out into the “Wobble” to celebrate a particularly good day at the doors. Our Chief Financial Officer emerges from the Finance area and joins in. Seriously.

It’s a chaotic miasma of stress, sweat, and pizza boxes. And dogs. You can’t spell “antiseptic” without “pets” — Ms. Brazile must not have seen the office dogs running around the cubicles.

But the best time to be in the office — the absolute best — is right around 10:00pm. The first, second, and third wave of staffers have escaped to bars on Montague Street, happily drinking away the pressure. Some have boarded the subway back to their Manhattan walk-ups to spend a few, fleeting hours with loved ones.

But for the few who stay — just a few — the office is an ethereal twilight zone. Our Communications Director leaves her door ajar as she speaks on the phone with Secretary Clinton. “So, how’d the day go?” Our Press Secretary sits ontop of a desk and, in between bites of a burrito bowl, argues on the phone with the New York Times editor-in-chief. Our Campaign Manager has his assistant in hysterics as he nails impressions of television pundits. Two schedulers flirt just outside the kitchen like they’ve been waiting all day for alone time. An Analytics staffer FaceTimes his son — the only bedtime ritual his schedule allows. The Research Director scrawls debate hits on a whiteboard. He’ll erase them tomorrow, but for now, they’re up for all to see.

Calm and antiseptic, like a hospital? If Ms. Brazile was referring to the Grey’s Anatomy hospital in which the residents copulate in storage closets and an ambulance crashes into the entrance during the season finale, then sure. I wish we could have given Ms. Brazile a proper tour when she was at headquarters. We will next time — because we’ll be back.

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