Here’s what you may have heard about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new book What Happened: it’s just finger pointing, it’s a popularity stunt to benefit her in the next election, it’s a bunch of lame excuses, it’s a rant from a sore loser, etc. It may be a little bit of all of these things. But, it’s also a personal account of the loser (who was supposed to win from the beginning) of the most impactful election in decades. That’s what piqued my interest the most.
What Happened is a fantastic read. It’s quick (unless you fact check everything she says), and it’s easy (unless you were especially traumatized by that momentous, fateful day last November). This book is interesting for two main reasons: Hillary Clinton had a lot of shit thrown at her in 2016, and she took it until she was too stinky for many people to trust her. She didn’t defend herself very often. But now, she vents, and it’s exhilarating.
She airs her grievances — with Bernie Sanders and the media. She does some finger pointing — at James Comey and Vladimir Putin. She defends her campaign team, her policies based on data and not emotions and her emails. She apologizes to all the people who she let down by losing. She tells us all the zingers she would’ve used if her team didn’t urge her not to fight back. She mourns, she consoles and she says everything is going to be okay in the end.
The last part is probably what a lot of us needed to hear.
Clinton wrote this book because the election shocked a lot of people and divided a lot of people. She wants to remind everyone that she would’ve made, not only a better president than the current one, but a very good President – and the first woman one at that. She wants her supporters to know that she is just as disappointed as we are. She seems just as exasperated and confused as the rest of us. This is a bit comforting and a bit concerning. If she doesn’t know how we ended up with Trump, who does?
What Happened is less about what actually happened during the 2016 presidential election and more about what she wishes would have happened. She doesn’t reveal much that we didn’t already know or assume, but it’s nice hearing it from her.
She concedes that she was often duped and she wished she could have said more.
She wishes she would’ve fought back when she was treated unfairly, when everything she said or did was met with skepticism.
She should’ve spoken out when Comey said the State Department’s handling of classified information was irresponsible before having all the facts and after already declaring there was no illegal activity.
She should’ve turned around and called Trump a creep when he was lurking behind her during the second, town hall style debate.
She should’ve fought back against the media who skewed her words and made scandals out of silliness. She says, “Throughout the 2016 campaign, I watched how lies insinuate themselves into people’s brains if hammered long enough. Fact checking is powerless to stop it.”
She should’ve pressed harder on Bernie Sanders when he claimed to have grand progressive ideas without any practical policies. “It’s easy to ridicule ideas that ‘fit on a bumper sticker,’ but there’s a reason campaigns use bumper stickers: they work,” she writes.
She should’ve been the first woman president for a nation that desperately needs one.
Her tone, at times, is unabashedly mean (dare I say nasty? I daren’t). Her recounting of unpleasant events, like Trump’s inauguration, and encounters with adversaries, like confronting Congressman Ryan Zinke who had called her the antichrist, reads like the Internet blog of someone who really doesn’t like the people they work with but can’t vent about their frustrations. She definitely seems to be writing for a younger audience. One could say she’s only writing for the type of people who supported her in the election. That’s problematic if she really wants to change the minds of Trump supporters in the future. She doesn’t speak their language.
Through parts of the book, she even talks down to Republicans and Trump supporters, making them sound obviously and foolishly mistaken in their beliefs. In large part she attributes her loss to “a historic wave of angry, tribal populism sweeping the world.” This may be true, but this language seems just as divisive as Trump’s emotive beratement of the left during the campaign and today. This won’t solve problems.
No matter which candidate you voted for, this book provides fascinating insight on the election. I doubt Trump will ever write something so personal. I think that might be a reason Clinton decided to write the Book – to provide some real insight. While the campaign was full of constant dishonesty, this book seeks to be an honest retelling of Clinton’s thoughts and perspectives. And, you can choose to not believe everything she says, or view the entire book as a sort of political stunt (possibly written by a ghostwriter), but you have to give Clinton points for trying to be transparent.
I don’t foresee Trump writing any sort of memoir because he’d probably prefer to keep his campaign strategies, manipulations and personal feelings in the dark. However, I would very much like to read that memoir, not so much for the personal revelation, but more so for the entertainment of reading something he actually wrote down. I imagine his memoir in James Joyce’s style with a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror vision and substance.
Clinton’s What Happened is full of sadness, regret, animosity for the people who wronged her, but also hope for the future. All I can hope for these days is someone that tells it straight and says something positive for once. This book is an honest attempt at that. I hope everyone takes the time to read it. I give it a one star out of one star rating, a thumbs up, a favorable review.