Donna Brazile offers defenses, critiques of Democrats at U. of C.

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Democratic strategist Donna Brazile discussed her new book and the 2016 campaign and election at the Institute of Politics on the University of Chicago campus on Monday. | Leslie Adkins/For the Sun-Times

Speaking at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics on Monday night, former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile said that despite her criticisms of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential bid, her new book is “a testament to how much I wanted her to win.”

For more than an hour, Brazile spoke frankly and cracked jokes, while offering both critiques and defenses of her time at the helm of the DNC and of the party’s strategies and leadership.

Her appearance at the Institute of Politics came as part of her tour to promote her new memoir on the 2016 presidential election.

The discussion was moderated by Institute of Politics fellow Fred Hochberg, a fundraiser for President Barack Obama, who later appointed him to serve as president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

Brazile bemoaned, as she characterized it, a breakdown in substantive policy debates and the role the media played in the 2016 election.

Recalling an appearance she made on CNN in which she was on the same panel as a former Miss America pageant contestant, Brazile said: “We’ve gone from having candidates talk about their prescriptions for so many different big issues to talking about who’s likable.”

Brazile has been on tour to promote the memoir “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.”

Brazile said critics of her book have said she only wrote it to get paid. While she said that was not her primary motivation, she did concede that “Mama has to eat.”

In the book, Brazile revealed that she considered replacing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party nominee in favor of Vice President Joe Biden.

Brazile wrote that she considered the switch after Clinton, who was battling pneumonia, fainted during a 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York City. The next day, according to Brazile, she received a call from Biden’s chief of staff.

However, hours before Brazile addressed the audience of about 200, Biden told NBC’s Matt Lauer that no one had suggested he replace Clinton on the Democratic ticket.

“I give you my word,” Biden said. “I would never have taken it. I was for Hillary. I did 83 campaign events for Hillary.I think I can say I did more events and worked harder for Hillary, as hard for Hillary, as anyone else. She would have been a first-rate president.”

Biden had repeatedly said he would not seek the 2016 nomination due to the death of his son, Beau Biden, in May 2015.

After WikiLeaks hacked DNC emails, it was revealed that Brazile had given the Clinton campaign a list of questions in one of the Democratic debates.

“It may haunt me for the rest of my life,” she said.

Despite her critiques of Clinton, Brazile maintained that she would have been a better president than Donald Trump.

Brazile also alluded to Seth Rich, a former DNC staffer who was murdered during a botched armed robbery in Washington D.C. Rich’s death has sparked the far-flung conspiracy theory that he was killed by the DNC as retaliation for giving the committee’s emails to WikiLeaks. Police have repeatedly said that they do not believe that was the case.

“As painful as that experience was, as painful as losing Seth Rich, going seven, eight months without pay, I’d do it again, because I believe Hillary would’ve made a better president than Donald Trump,” she said.

The book, Brazile said, is “a testament to how much I wanted her to win.”

When asked by a University of Chicago student if she would still be criticizing Clinton’s campaign if she had won, Brazile flatly replied, “Yes” without offering further explanation.

Another student asked Brazile how the Democratic Party should work to cultivate a new generation of leaders. Brazile encouraged the attendees, many of them students of political science and public policy, to take up the torch.

“This is your call, answer it. This is your moment, seize it,” she said.

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