With the 2016 election behind us, Hillary Clinton's former Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri is focusing on the female leaders of tomorrow with her #1 New York Times bestselling book, Dear Madam President, which offers insight and guidance for those seeking higher office. In her latest chat with Capitol File, Palmieri shares her perspective on Clinton's 2016 campaign, the impact of James Comey, and the best advice she could offer a candidate running for office.
Jennifer Palmieri, former Clinton campaign Communications Director, shares her perspective on the 2016 campaign with guidance for future female leaders in her latest book, Dear Madam President.
Congratulations on the new book, which I've already seen is a #1 New York Times bestseller. Tell me why you decided to write it. JENNIFER PALMIERI: Thank you! Obviously, losing the 2016 campaign was devastating. But I was very inspired by the way women—who didn't support Trump—rallied after the loss. Instead of feeling crushed, they chose to feel empowered. The women's march showed me that. I wanted to write an optimistic book that gave advice to these women who so inspired me. They are saving America in my view. I want them to know how much their efforts matter and hope they see themselves reflected in my book.
In each chapter of your book, you offer advice to a future female president. What's the best piece of advice you could give anyone who is doing something against the odds? JP: People take their cue from you. That's the advice I got as a young women working in the Clinton White House from the Deputy Chief of Staff Evelyn Lieberman and it is still the best advice I have ever gotten. If you believe at your core what you are doing is right, people will see that it is. If you show that you believe that your voice matters, people will see that it does.
Obviously, there were obstacles for Hillary, but, for you, what were the biggest? JP: The biggest obstacle I faced was the lack of imagination on the part of press and broader political world to be able to imagine that Trump could actually win and that the Russians were interfering in our elections to help elect Donald Trump. It was all too whacky for them to be able to absorb. If I had succeeded in getting them to appreciate what a big story Russia's interference really was, and that it was possible for Trump to win, I think the outcome would have been different.
In retrospect, now that we've heard from James Comey, do you feel he was a factor in Hillary's campaign loss? JP: When you lose an election by so few votes, any one factor could have cost you the election. I believe Comey's letter was one of those factors. I don't think he sent the letter with the intention of hurting her campaign, but just because his actions were not politically motivated doesn't make them right. He overstepped his role and it had big consequences.
There's a passage in the beginning of the book about Hillary entering into the 2016 election with a sense of reluctance that you and others tried to dissuade her of. What was that? It read to me as if she ran even though she didn't think she could win. JP: She was reluctant because—contrary to some caricatures of her—running for President was not something she was desperate to do. She decided to do it in the end because she believed she was best positioned to win and best able to do the job of all possible candidates out there. And I agree that she was.
What do you think it was that caused women to run for office in record numbers this year? JP: Two words: President Trump.
After working for a few politicos myself, I sometimes get the urge to jump back in and reach out to a candidate running for office. I feel like I need to help them, want to help, and, with butterflies in my stomach, I do reach out. Do you ever get that feeling? JP: I do. And I advise a number of candidates informally. There are so many good candidates running in 2018, it's hard to resist! And I love how you phrase the question by saying you feel like you "need to help them." I have that same impulse. Helping candidates is something I need to do.
Are we far from the day when we'll have the first female president? JP: No. Depending on how you keep score, a woman already "won" a contest for president. Hillary did get nearly three million more votes than Trump. She proved it was possible for a woman to win. And the next woman who tries will have an easier time thanks to the trail Hillary blazed.
Would you ever throw your hat back in the ring with a campaign in 2020? Does working with Kamala Harris or Kirsten Gillibrand peak your interest? JP: I never say never.