Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that she accepts “absolute personal responsibility” for her defeat in the presidential election, but she also pointed to a number of other factors that she believes contributed to the loss.
Misogyny. James Comey. WikiLeaks. They all made Clinton's list and all have reasonable arguments behind them.
However, another excuse offered by the former secretary of state is revisionist history of the highest order. Here is how Clinton recalled her debates with Donald Trump, at the Women for Women International Luncheon in New York:
I kept waiting for the moment — you know, I’ve watched a million presidential debates in my life — and I was waiting for the moment when one of the people asking the questions would have said, “Well, so, exactly how are you going to create more jobs?” Right? I mean, I thought that, you know, at some moment that would happen. And I was ready for that moment.
In reality, “that moment” did happen. In fact, it was the very first moment of the very first debate.
“We're calling this opening segment 'Achieving Prosperity,' and central to that is jobs,” NBC News anchor Lester Holt said at the top of the first Clinton-Trump showdown. “There are two economic realities in America today. There's been a record six straight years of job growth, and new census numbers show incomes have increased at a record rate after years of stagnation. However, income inequality remains significant, and nearly half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Beginning with you, Secretary Clinton, why are you a better choice than your opponent to create the kinds of jobs that will put more money into the pockets of American works?”
When Clinton's time was up, Holt turned to Trump: “Same question to you,” he said. “It's about putting money — more money — into the pockets of American workers. You have up to two minutes.”
Trump named a couple of job-growth strategies. He said he would lower the corporate tax rate and renegotiate international trade agreements.
“Companies will come,” Trump promised. “They will build. They will expand. New companies will start.”
Holt wasn't satisfied.
“Let me follow up with Mr. Trump,” he said. “You've talked about creating 25 million jobs, and you've promised to bring back millions of jobs for Americans. How are you going to bring back the industries that have left this country for cheaper labor overseas? How, specifically, are you going to tell American manufacturers that you have to come back?”
Holt did exactly what Clinton had hoped he would.
Clinton is right about one thing. She was ready for the moment. Even members of Trump's team acknowledged privately that Clinton bested him in the first debate.
Yet Clinton's sharp performance was not enough to win the election. She is clearly still frustrated by the result and is searching for ways to explain it.
The idea that journalist moderators didn't demand the specifics of Trump's jobs plan might be comforting. It shifts blame to someone else. But it's an idea that doesn't square with what actually happened.