Critic's Notebook: Kellyanne Conway Gloats, Robby Mook Mourns on CNN 'State of the Union' Election Post-Mortem

Kellyanne Conway Harvard - Getty 2016 - H
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The Trump and Clinton campaigns' chief strategists reopen still fresh wounds on CNN's 'State of the Union.'

Watching campaign managers Kellyanne Conway and Robby Mook deliver a dignified post-mortem of the traumatic presidential election on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, it was hard not to wish that the network had broadcast the far more raucous exchange that had occurred Thursday at Harvard. As was widely reported, the opposing campaigns’ top strategists had erupted into a raucous verbal brawl that would have made for far more entertaining viewing.

Still, the program hosted by Jake Tapper was fascinating, with Conway exuding the languorous, satisfied air of a cobra that had just swallowed a large mongoose whole, and Mook displaying distinct signs of PTSD.

There weren’t exactly any revelations in the edited discussion, with Mook largely blaming Clinton’s loss on the “head winds” of FBI director James Comey’s letters to Congress and the leaking of Democrat operatives’ hacked e-mails. Conway, not surprisingly, ascribed the failure to Clinton herself, describing her as a “joyless candidate” as opposed to Trump’s “happy warrior.” It’s good to know that the chief qualification for commander in chief is apparently the ability to have a swell time.

“He gets his oxygen from being out with the people,” Conway enthused about the president-elect. Now that Trump has embarked on his unprecedented “Victory Tour,” his doctors might want to make sure he doesn’t hyperventilate.

Conway disagreed with Mook’s claim that Russia had been responsible for the hacked e-mails, apparently not trusting the word of more than a dozen U.S. intelligence agencies. It provided an interesting forecast of a Trump presidency in which he’ll apparently be taking those daily intelligence briefings with a grain of salt. Later, she did reluctantly concede, “We’re not pro-foreign government interference,” which in the new, Trumpian world counts as a reassuring statement.

Asked whether Trump would continue his habit of tweeting after assuming office, Conway said that Twitter was “a very good platform to transmit his messages,” which is true since most of them barely have the intellectual depth to fill 140 characters.

“Is that really presidential behavior?” Tapper pressed.

“He’s the president-elect, so that’s presidential behavior,” she replied. It uncomfortably brought to mind Richard Nixon’s famous comment during his interview with David Frost: “If the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”  

“I hope the truth doesn’t get lost or sacrificed,” commented Mook, apparently unaware that we’ve just gone through, as Tapper put it, “a post-factual election.” He also vigorously complained about the relentless focus on Clinton’s e-mails, claiming that it was the “most overhyped, over-reported and over-litigated story in the history of electoral politics” and going on to complain about the “fake news” propagated by such outlets as Breitbart News, whose former head happens to be Steven Bannon, the new White House chief strategist.

“I’m not attacking him personally,” Mook hastily added, suddenly realizing the inherent danger.

“The biggest piece of fake news in this election is that Donald Trump couldn’t win,” Conway testily countered, saying that the news media all but made the claim that Trump “takes the wings off butterflies” (Wait, he doesn’t?).

Mook admitted that Clinton regretted her comment that half of Trump’s supporters were a “basket of deplorables,” with the ever-snappy Conway interjecting, “She regretted getting caught!”

Asked if the Clinton campaign had rejoiced after the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, Mook claimed that there had been “no popping of champagne bottles,” which only lent credence to Conway’s claim that Clinton was a joyless candidate. (Seriously, if you can’t celebrate the release of a tape in which your opponent brags about grabbing women “by the pussy,” maybe you should think about becoming more of a “happy warrior.”)

Why hadn’t Bernie Sanders been asked to be Clinton’s running mate, Tapper inquired. “It’s a great question,” Mook replied, which was his way of sarcastically saying, “Thanks a lot, Jake.” He went on to deliver platitudes about the need to select a vice-president “who you can see as a partner” and with whom you would have “chemistry.”

“I would like to publicly thank Bernie Sanders for his effect on our campaign,” Conway gleefully announced, further twisting the knife already firmly embedded in Mook’s midsection. She went on to admit that if Sanders had been on the ticket, Clinton would have been far harder to beat.

Oh, sure. Now she tells us.