This past week I finished reading Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recently released book, “What Happened,” which dealt with questions related to how the heavily favored Clinton lost her bid to become the nation’s first female president.
I have to be honest on two points: (1) I am not a huge Hillary fan as a candidate; (2) however, as a self-proclaimed politico I am fascinated by the former secretary of state. Whatever may be said about her, the history books will record her as the first female nominee of a major political party, and that she received 3 million more votes than the ultimate victor.
Previously I read her book “Hard Choices” about her time as secretary of state. I read that with a grain of salt, recognizing it to be an introductory primer on her leadership qualities for when she made her run for president. Most books of this sort are written with the assistance of other writers, and this was no exception. However, I came away thoroughly impressed with the scope of her job, the intricacies of foreign diplomacy, her preparedness and her work ethic.
The tone of the book was technocratic, interspersed with bland political exhortations. But in terms of explaining our relationship with other parts of the world, it was mind opening.
I thought she would be the next president, a view nearly universally held by observers with far greater insight than I have.
In her new book, Clinton does go into great detail into what happened, as the book promises. And I’ll say this, call them what you want, the factors she explores are cited with objective numbers to support her positions.
She also took the media to task — well not really, mostly conservative outlets — for not focusing on the issues. She rightly criticizes the bias of all news outlets in getting a story. Unfortunately, those stories dealt with such niceties as the size of one’s hands and tweets from either a drunk 14-year-old or a candidate for the presidency.
My criticism of Mrs. Clinton has always been that she is soulless and comes across as entitled. After reading the book, I am wrong as to the first part, and mostly wrong on the second part. She addresses this in several sections, oddly enough with an uncanny sense of self awareness. (Maybe her ability to do this, which should be viewed as a tremendous asset, ironically lends credence to her being “soulless).
Observing her knowledge of polls that show the level of dislike for her, she asks rhetorically, “What makes me such a lightning rod for fury? I’m really asking. I’m at a loss.” At another point she exposes her vulnerability, “It hurts to be torn apart. And yet … it hurts to be torn apart.”
The book is clearly a cathartic exercise for the former first lady, and when she is being vulnerable and self-reflective you can’t put it down. Then, as if to mirror real life, the view into her soul gets shut down, and Clinton goes into robotic policy wonk mode, outlining plans, programs, initiatives, etc., she has or would have supported.
The most poignant chapter is where she goes into detail about the day and night of the election. This had to be heart wrenching to relive, not only because she lost, but knowing the ridicule to which she would be exposed from detractors and the satisfaction they would get from reading it.
Clinton goes into painstaking detail about what had to be humiliating for her: Acceptance speech drafts and edits, transition binders, phone calls from President Obama, and policy goals for when she took office. The book was ultimately about that night, and not about perceived excuses.
At times the book reads like a policy manual, at others like a scholarly article on the election, at others like a stream of consciousness from a jilted lover talking at a bar between sobs to a bartender about why she got left at the altar. I prefer the latter, because I could satisfy my intellectual curiosity as to the questions I have long had about who Hillary Clinton really is. Turns out she’s hellaciously human. I can’t help but to believe that had she opened that metaphorical glass door sooner by revealing her humanity, she might have shattered that glass ceiling.
Observations from the unwashed but well read … and unexpectedly tipping the hat to Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Morris lives in Erwin. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNWASHED BUT WELL READ