Like so much involving Hillary Clinton, Sunday’s departure of her campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, has gotten tons of attention, but its larger significance has been somewhat misunderstood. I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last two years reporting on “Hillaryland,” as Clinton’s inner circle is known, for pieces like this one and this one, and also, infamously, for one that did not run when GQ magazine opted to kill it after learning of the Clinton campaign’s displeasure (full story here). The latter piece focused on the inner workings of Clinton’s presidential campaign and Solis Doyle’s controversial role in it, and I’ll draw on what I learned then to try to add perspective to recent happenings.
For the many people in and around Washington who obsess over the latest machinations in Hillaryland, the firing of Solis Doyle—and she was fired, several insiders confirm—is a big deal, but for reasons somewhat different from what the media coverage has suggested. Her title of “campaign manager” implies a loftier role than the one she actually played. She is the furthest thing from a Rove-like strategic genius (Mark Penn inhabits that role for Hillary), so her leaving doesn’t signify an impending change of strategy, as some reports seem to assume. Rather, Solis Doyle, who began as Clinton’s personal scheduler in 1991 (and who, as it happens, coined the term “Hillaryland”) was Clinton’s alter ego and was installed in the job specifically for that reason. Her performance in Clinton’s past races and especially in this one reflects all the good and the bad that the alter-ego designation carries. I’ve always felt that the most revealing thing about Solis Doyle is her oft-repeated line: “When I’m speaking, Hillary is speaking.” It is revealing both because it is true and because it conveys—and even flaunts—an arrogance that I think is the key to understanding all that has gone wrong for the Clinton campaign.