I am not a Hillary Clinton fan. But, I have always loved politics. This last Presidential election was especially fascinating. When I heard that there was a new book out about Clinton’s campaign, I wanted to read it, because I love learning the inside stuff of a campaign.
Shattered, Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign
Shattered, Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign largely delivered. The book follows the campaign along chronologically, from the primaries up until right after the election.
I credit the authors with writing a book mostly free of ideological bias, although there are some digs at Trump and conservatives, and they’re clearly Democrats: Jonathan Allen has worked for Politico and Amie Parnes covered Clinton during the campaign for The Hill. Obviously, they have the benefit of hindsight in this book. And they make use of it with quotes like this, describing Hillary’s ultimate dilemma: “… the variable she couldn’t change was the candidate.”
Hillary’s email scandal is covered at length, and her attitude is one of passing the buck. She blamed staffers, opponents, consultants, and the public, but never seems to direct anger or blame at herself. Bill shared this attitude, and as I read the book I found myself wondering why anyone would want to work on a campaign, given the treatment many of the workers were subjected to. Bill angrily chewed out staffers, blaming them for not burying the email issue, for not figuring out a way to get Hillary’s core message to the voters. Now go do your *^$% jobs, he told them.
In fact, given Bill’s treatment of Hillary throughout their marriage (at least the part that I know of it), it almost surprised me how vehemently he supported her. On the issue of her emails, while her staff urged her to apologize publicly for using a personal server for classified information, Bill was against this. This made me think of his Monica Lewinksy situation and the way he was so careful not to apologize or admit to anything.
Somebody Else’s Job
“In her (Hillary’s) view, it was up to the people she paid to find the right message for her — a construction deeply at odds with the way Sanders and Trump built their campaigns around their own gut feelings about where to lead the country.”
Bill gave Hillary suggestions, but according to an adviser, he “did not really get where the country is. He has this perception of politics which is very much like the 1990s.” Bill hardly comes across as the lovable buddy he’s often portrayed as in the media: “Bill’s temper, never far from the surface, would emerge time and again during the 2016 campaign.”
We Can’t Have Nice Things
My girls have used the phrase “we can’t have nice things” to describe a situation where you just can’t win. According to this book, the phrase was coined by a Hillary aide during the 2016 campaign. I’m not real sure that’s accurate, but it does seem to sum up Hillary’s experiences in life many times. She was expecting to easily become the Democrat nominee, after all. Then Bernie Sanders comes along, and is more wildly popular than she would ever have expected. Her campaign urged him to drop out, but there was the irony that she had insisted on running against Obama in all 50 states in 2008.
Bernie supporters continued to plague Clinton right up through the convention. While I couldn’t tell from TV, apparently there was quite a bit of disruption and shouting on the floor by Sanders supporters, but staff at the convention worked hard to downplay/quiet this so that it wasn’t obvious to home viewers. Not surprisingly in the current political environment, staff were worried about some Sanders supporters who were more devoted to disrupting the political order than to supporting Bernie.
Money = Votes
Throughout the book, there was much minutiae on the amounts of money spent in various states and in various ways. And I’ve heard this other places as well: in politics, money appears to equal votes. I find myself wondering how this is. Is it just that money buys advertising, and advertising results in more awareness and thus more votes? If so, this is strange to me. I don’t think I’ve ever voted for a candidate based on advertising, but am I really that unusual? It just seems odd to me to think that many elections may be won or lost based on advertising. Perhaps I’m naive?
Hillary Thought She Would Win
Hillary thought she would be President. Pretty much her whole campaign staff did as well. There’s a part of the book where, a week or two before the election, a staffer tells her about a trait that will be her biggest problem as President, and Hillary agrees, “Yep.” There’s never any “IF you’re President” talk. I was kind of amazed at their certainty, but maybe that’s my personality (or maybe I’m just too accustomed to “we can’t have nice things” Ha!). But on election night, Hillary and her campaign were all stunned, STUNNED I tell you, as the results came in. Hillary apparently was very calm, responding to most all the news by saying, “Okay” repeatedly.
I found it kind of humorous that Hillary’s campaign team finally flipped to “the reviled Fox News Channel” because the other stations weren’t calling states as aggressively.
As it became pretty clear that Trump had been elected, Hillary and her staff still weren’t quite ready to concede. Obama even called her that night, telling her that it was over and that she needed to accept that. But, she wasn’t ready. I have to say that I was impressed that when some aides came to her with a concession speech, she felt it was too combative. She said that that wasn’t her job anymore; that she just wanted to be gracious.
However, by the next day she got her indignant attitude back and added some of that anger back into the speech.
“Like the rest of the Democratic world, Hillary was in shock. But, at a deeper level, she wasn’t completely surprised. Over the course of her life, no matter how good things got for her, she was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
I enjoyed this book overall. Downsides were that there were so many names of so many people that I didn’t know that they became hard to keep straight. I also was hoping for more insight into Hillary, and there really wasn’t a whole lot of this — it was more a straight “what happened” in the campaign. I felt that Hillary’s collapse on Sept. 11 was a huge problem for her campaign, yet this was glossed over in just a page or two. I still wonder if she has serious health issues, yet this was not delved into at all. Still, if you’re a political junkie like me — check this one out. I think you’ll be glad you did.