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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Book Review: The airing of grievances in Donna Brazile’s “Hacks” comes at her true crime memoir’s expense

Hacks, by Donna Brazile

Hacks: The Inside Sto­ry of the Break-ins and Break­downs That Put Don­ald Trump in the White House, by Don­na Brazile (Hard­cov­er, Hachette)

Giv­en the media blitz lead­ing up to the release of her 2016 cam­paign mem­oir Hacks, Don­na Brazile’s rec­ol­lec­tion of what it was like to be on the receiv­ing end of the Russ­ian cyber­at­tacks against the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee was far more enlight­en­ing than I had expected.

That’s because, ahead of the Vir­ginia state elec­tions in Novem­ber 2017, Brazile’s press inter­views and excerpts tend­ed to be internecine and con­spir­a­to­r­i­al, focus­ing on how the Hillary Clin­ton cam­paign had uneth­i­cal­ly took over the DNC at Bernie’s expense, or how Hillary didn’t call Brazile for a while after she lost the Elec­toral Col­lege, or how staffer Seth Rich’s mur­der­er still need­ed to be found.

Now, this is not what most of the book, sub­ti­tled The Inside Sto­ry of the Break-ins and Break­downs That Put Don­ald Trump in the White House, turns out to be about, but the strat­e­gy was suc­cess­ful. The book reached No. 5 on the New York Times best­seller list, sold out on Ama­zon, then fad­ed from pub­lic consciousness.

That’s a shame, because the best part of Brazile’s mem­oir ought to be excit­ing enough to have last­ing appeal. As the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion into the Trump cam­paign and its Russ­ian ties con­tin­ues, it’s cer­tain­ly the most consequential.

The for­mer DNC Chair goes into what it was like at the nation­al com­mit­tee that sum­mer and fall, know­ing two com­pet­ing Russ­ian intel­li­gence agen­cies had bro­ken into their sys­tems and gained access to months’ worth of pri­vate data with the inten­tion of hurt­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee in every way possible.

The coun­ter­mea­sures that vol­un­teer, White Hat hack­ers had to make; the dilem­ma of whether to take down com­pro­mised sys­tems but poten­tial­ly ruin Get Out The Vote efforts; and the coop­er­a­tion they had with the Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion, even as Don­ald Trump con­tin­ued to pub­licly ask for more Russ­ian hack­ing and Wik­ileaks dis­sem­i­na­tion — it’s all deeply engross­ing material.

For that sub­ject, at least, Brazile seems to have no vest­ed inter­est in doing any­thing more than relat­ing infor­ma­tion to the read­er, shar­ing the most­ly untold sto­ry of what it is to be the vic­tim of a break-in when all any­one wants to talk about is the most embar­rass­ing items your bur­glars stole.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, with every­thing else she recounts, Brazile is con­cerned more with CYA work than writ­ing any­thing trust­wor­thy or insightful.

Brazile was mem­o­rably in the lime­light pri­or to the con­ven­tion after it was report­ed that she sent a minor ques­tion to the Clin­ton cam­paign in advance of a Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry debate. She lost her job at CNN over it; it had to be addressed. That’s the inher­ent unfair­ness with this bur­gled communication.

Yet, after admit­ting in a Time mag­a­zine edi­to­r­i­al that send­ing those emails “was a mis­take [she] will for­ev­er regret”, she claims in this book that her ear­li­er apol­o­gy was insin­cere because she couldn’t remem­ber or find where she’d sent the mes­sage in her own records and it must have been a work of Russ­ian sabotage.

Like a Schrodinger’s thought-exper­i­ment ver­sion of a cam­paign mem­oir, in Brazile’s telling, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry was both one-sided and fair; Seth Rich’s death was both a nefar­i­ous con­spir­a­cy that made Brazile fear for her life walk­ing around D.C. and a cyn­i­cal ploy of Julian Assange and right-wing media at the expense of Rich’s par­ents; Hillary Clinton’s bout with pneu­mo­nia was a seri­ous issue of a candidate’s health to the point her campaign’s deceit com­pelled Brazile to con­tem­plate replac­ing her on the tick­et as well as a com­plete over­re­ac­tion by the mass media, anoth­er exam­ple of society’s per­va­sive misogyny.

Most fun­da­men­tal­ly, Brazile is the over­stretched fig­ure­head of a hap­less DNC that was deeply in debt, sub­or­di­nate to the Clin­ton cam­paign, and hob­bled by cyber­at­tacks while also a cen­tral play­er in the dra­ma, the pow­er­ful leader of the estimable nation­al par­ty whose strate­gic plans were often thwart­ed by the Clin­ton cam­paign based in Brook­lyn that would­n’t listen.

Brazile is a life­long Demo­c­rat and expe­ri­enced polit­i­cal oper­a­tive. She sure­ly had valu­able insights to give, whether in a cam­paign or in a mem­oir. But in 2000, as Al Gore’s cam­paign man­ag­er, she also lost a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion by a razor-thin mar­gin, despite win­ning the pop­u­lar vote, and her deci­sions after­ward were easy to mock and sec­ond-guess by those who didn’t have deci­sions to make.

Incred­i­bly, Brazile actu­al­ly had expe­ri­ence with what a cam­paign can do if it receives uneth­i­cal help against its oppo­nent, as Gore’s did when it received mate­r­i­al from George W. Bush’s prepa­ra­tion pri­or to their first debate.

She was some­one active­ly involved in both 2000 and 2016 from dif­fer­ent posi­tions, and she ought to have a unique per­spec­tive into what it’s like to lose an elec­tion under cir­cum­stances con­sid­er­ably short of strict­ly fair. There are few peo­ple I can think of who could have writ­ten a bet­ter mem­oir than her.

Instead, Brazile and her pub­lish­er decid­ed to release some­thing that was timed and mar­ket­ed for Fes­tivus, but not intend­ed to last beyond it.

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