The Unbearable Disorganization of the Clinton Campaign

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 7:40 PM EST

NEW YORK, NY — Out on the campaign trail Hillary Clinton has frequently touted her experience, telling voters time and again that she is the candidate most prepared to be president "from day one." If her campaign's preparation for her gala celebration in New York City tonight is any indication, that argument doesn't wash.

You would think a campaign that had been going on for so long, in so many states, dealing with so many reporters and volunteers, would exhibit some semblance of organization for its biggest rally of the race. You would think it would have the savvy not to piss off hundreds of reporters who showed up six hours early to cover its event. You would think wrong.

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Being young and naive, I showed up an hour early (seven hours before the event, that is) to pick up my credentials for tonight's 8:00 rally. The early bird gets to the front of the line, right? Wrong. There was no line. Instead, there was a table with a few staffers and—get this—ONE copy of the list that had the name of every single journalist who had RSVP'd. So we media types, being pushy and anxious, crowded around the table, waiting to be told how to line up. (I'll note that this event is being held at the Hammerstein Ballroom, so velvet ropes and an actually organized line were by no means out of the question.)

But as media continued to flow in, the campaign made no effort to organize any sort of line. In fact, the staffers and volunteers made no effort to organize anything whatsoever. As 2:00 (the designated start time for credential hand-out) came and went, the staffers continued to say the room upstairs was not ready and they could not hand out credentials.

The television folks started to grow restless. They were lugging incredibly heavy equipment and many of them had live shots scheduled within the hour. Harsh words were exchanged as reporters began offering angry "suggestions." The room echoed with whispered curses. Eventually, around 2:30, the staffers agreed to begin handing out credentials on the condition that no one went upstairs. The room was still not ready. It was then that they finally mentioned lines, asking reporters to form two queues to the side of the credentialing table.

But since the campaign made no effort to enforce their decision (and started handing out credentials to the closest journalists instead of those who lined up), no one moved. Noticing this, a few of the smarter and more experienced reporters pushed around the back, where staffers handed them credentials. This of course prompted screaming and cursing from the rest of the assembled media circus—especially the people who had been waiting longer. I just tried to convince myself it would all be over soon.

It wasn't, of course. Someone eventually came down and told everyone to leave the lobby and line up outside. He promised no one would get credentials until that happened. About half the crowd, including yours truly, complied. Boy were we suckers. Once the room was partially cleared out, the campaign finally organized a line of the remaining, more cynical, far smarter reporters. The people who followed the campaign's directions were rewarded by more than an hour in a half waiting outside in the rain.

I finally got to the front of the line around 4:05, three hours after I showed up and two hours after the campaign was supposed to begin issuing credentials. There were at most 150-200 people ahead of me, and it took the campaign more than two hours to credential them. I wasn't the only one who was shocked by the campaign's incompetence—hours later, the reporters around me were still talking about it.

Some disorganization in campaigns is inevitable. They depend heavily on volunteers and their plans change quickly. But for a candidate who showcases her supposed preparedness as a major part of her campaign's argument, this kind of disorganization is really shocking. The Clinton organization, allegedly a tightly-run, meticulously organized ship, obviously had NO PLAN to handle the media today. Today, Super Tuesday, at a rally the candidate herself is attending, in New York, her home state, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign couldn't handle credentialing a couple hundred reporters. They were unprepared, obviously unsure of themselves, and somehow unfamiliar with the size and aggressiveness of the New York City press corps. It was quite literally chaotic. This kind of failure of campaign organization makes Hillary's "preparedness" argument look like something of a joke. Could Obama's campaign have performed better? It would be hard to do worse.

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