LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lulu Garcia-Navarro. Good morning. We begin this hour with a look back at the defeat of Hillary Clinton one year ago - a subject that is still grabbing a lot of headlines. We do it this morning with longtime Democratic strategist Donna Brazile who headed the Democratic National Committee at a crucial time during last year's campaign.
She's out with a book that stirred a new round of recrimination about what went wrong. The campaign post-mortem is called "Hacks: The Inside Story Of The Break-Ins And Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump In The White House." Donna Brazile joins me in the studio. Welcome to the program.
DONNA BRAZILE: Oh, it's a great honor. Thank you so much.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So this book, to put it lightly, has been making a lot of waves. But there seems to be some confusion on where you stand. Was the process of the Democratic Party nomination rigged - yes or no?
BRAZILE: No. The primary was not rigged. What I said in the book was that in exchange for bailing out the party, which was broke, the Clinton campaign would get control over certain decisions and aspects of the DNC that made it difficult, if not impossible, for me to do my job. I call it unethical, but the primary itself was not rigged.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you think Bernie Sanders could have defeated Donald Trump had he been given the opportunity?
BRAZILE: You know, I have never once thought of that because...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Really, you never thought whether Bernie Sanders or not could've won?
BRAZILE: No. No, not even after because, look, Hillary won more than 3 million votes over Donald Trump. She won 4 million more than Bernie Sanders. I think had the hacking not taken place, I think she could have won this election.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Looking back, though, now, do you think he could have won?
BRAZILE: I have not thought about it. I haven't thought about any combination, you know, including Michelle Obama. People say Michelle should've ran. This one should've ran.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. But Michelle didn't run.
BRAZILE: Hillary Clinton was our nominee. I volunteered to be chair for the second time in my career so I could help Hillary Clinton and the other Democrats win office.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: In your book, you write about the overdependence on data for voter turnout of the Clinton campaign, the failure to reach out to people on the ground, poor morale at the DNC, the impact of the hacking. Why didn't you speak out before it was too late?
BRAZILE: I was speaking out every day that I went to work. I was speaking out every night that I went to bed. Remember, the Democratic National Committee nominated Hillary Clinton to be the president of the United States. And as a member of the party and an officer, my role was to try to help her and all of the other Democrats.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Should you not, though, have gone public with your concerns? Do you have any regrets that you didn't?
BRAZILE: Oh, never in a lifetime would I have publicly aired my laundry. By the way, my laundry was being aired. It was being aired by WikiLeaks and Guccifer and all of those who sought to discredit Hillary Clinton, hurt the Democratic Party and destroy our democracy.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You have deep roots with the Democratic Party and with Secretary Clinton, but you call out everyone in this book. You even call Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri a very bad word beginning with a B in the book. How is this helpful to the party? Even people on Bernie Sanders' side say the party needs to move beyond this.
BRAZILE: You know, first of all, I've known Jennifer Palmieri for a long, long time. She's a great public servant. And what I was referring to in the book - you know, so much has been taken out of context. I needed Tim Kaine to come over to the DNC meeting on the last day of the convention. And there were some disagreements. And I basically said, if that - you know, won't ever do that again. It was disrespectful.
Look, the bottom line is I've been involved in 11 presidential cycles, 21 non-presidential cycles. And I respect those who are more educated about algorithms and data analytics. All I know when I was growing up, there was a certain person in every precinct that you contacted and said I need you to help us get out the vote. And I believe that Brooklyn was missing a lot of that strategic sense because they were relying...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Brooklyn, which is where the Clinton campaign was based.
BRAZILE: I call the Brooklyn - because they were over-relying on data.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. You sound angry.
BRAZILE: No, I'm not angry. It's early in the morning. I just had my first cup of coffee.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You were...
BRAZILE: I'm not angry. I'm agitated by those who would basically use certain excerpts of the book to tarnish what I'm trying to say. I want my party to lead. I want my party to be victorious at the ballot box as you saw last week on Tuesday across the country. But I also want my party to learn from the mistakes of the past. You don't spend seven months of your life during one of the most extreme cyber espionage campaigns getting, you know, attacked each and every day to wake up the day after and say, OK, let's go back to usual.
No, we can't go back to usual as long as we have a president who will not acknowledge that the country was under attack by Russia, a president who will not work to ensure that we strengthen our democracy in the future, and a president who continued to call the investigation a hoax. So if I'm angry about anything, is that I'm disappointed that more Americans are not upset at the fact that we were hacked last year.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I would like to ask you about where you think the Democratic Party is going. Was it just a flawed candidate that lost the election or are the problems much deeper with the Democrats right now and what they stand for in the age of Trump?
BRAZILE: I believe that we had a very strong, formidable candidate in Hillary Clinton. And for those voters who supported President Obama in 2008 and 2012 but rejected Secretary Clinton, let me just say this, we have to have a message for them. We have to talk to everybody whether you live in the suburbs or the inner city. I think the Democratic Party has to have a strong message.
What we saw on Tuesday was that we have to feel candidates all across America. Take a chapter from the book we just made on Tuesday - the history that we just made on Tuesday. We have to invest in these down-ballot races, whether it's city council or a school board. We have to, essentially, go back to the American people with a positive message moving forward, not just that we're anti-Trump, although Trump gives us enough ammunition every day to go after him.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Donna Brazile is the author of "Hacks: The Inside Story Of The Break-Ins And Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump In The White House." Thank you so much.
BRAZILE: It's always a pleasure. Thank you.
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