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The Hillary Clinton Campaign That Could Have Been

Sen. Hillary Clinton campaigns for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in Henderson, Nevada. Ethan Miller, Getty Images hide caption

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Ethan Miller, Getty Images

That's a photo of Hillary Clinton campaigning solo for Barack Obama in Nevada last week. If you are still trying to figure out how in the world Clinton, the once presumptive Democratic nominee (presumed by many, at least), could end up stumping for the actual presumptive party nominee, The Atlantic takes an inside look:

How did things look on the inside, as they unraveled?

To find out, I approached a number of current and former Clinton staffers and outside consultants and asked them to share memos, e-mails, meeting minutes, diaries—anything that would offer a contemporaneous account. The result demonstrates that paranoid dysfunction breeds the impulse to hoard. Everything from major strategic plans to bitchy staff e-mail feuds was handed over.

Two things struck me right away. The first was that, outward appearances notwithstanding, the campaign prepared a clear strategy and did considerable planning. It sweated the large themes (Clinton's late-in-the-game emergence as a blue-collar champion had been the idea all along) and the small details (campaign staffers in Portland, Oregon, kept tabs on Monica Lewinsky, who lived there, to avoid any surprise encounters).

The second was the thought: Wow, it was even worse than I'd imagined! The anger and toxic obsessions overwhelmed even the most reserved Beltway wise men. Surprisingly, Clinton herself, when pressed, was her own shrewdest strategist, a role that had never been her strong suit in the White House. But her advisers couldn't execute strategy; they routinely attacked and undermined each other, and Clinton never forced a resolution. Major decisions would be put off for weeks until suddenly she would erupt, driving her staff to panic and misfire.

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Read the rest, including adviser Mark Penn's strategy to zero in and attack Obama's "lack of American roots."

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