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What Hap­pened Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton Si­mon & Schus­ter €17.99

IN com­mon with everyone who is likely to read this re­view, I grieved when Hillary Clin­ton lost the elec­tion last Novem­ber. Now there is an ex­tra rea­son for re­gret: with time on her hands, the woman who was so qual­i­fied to be an able, dili­gent, clear-headed pres­i­dent has hastily writ­ten — or presided over the writ­ing of — an un­re­flec­tive book that in its com­bi­na­tion of num­ber-crunch­ing wonkery and stren­u­ously pi­ous up­lift re­veals more than she might have in­tended about why she lost. Her be­wil­der­ment is easy to un­der­stand, but couldn’t she have waited be­fore mon­etis­ing fail­ure and re­launch­ing her brand with a na­tion­wide book tour?

Bill Clin­ton’s mantra was “I feel your pain”, a phrase he ut­tered not at the site of a flood or a quake but in a Man­hat­tan night­club, where he was heck­led by an Aids ac­tivist. Hillary’s equiv­a­lent is not an of­fer of em­pa­thy but a de­mand for sym­pa­thy: she wants us to feel her pain — the numb­ing shock of elec­tion night, the an­guish of hav­ing to face a hos­tile crowd at Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion and lis­ten to him rant about so­cial car­nage in a speech that Ge­orge W Bush de­scribed as “some weird shit”.

Pub­lic fig­ures like to claim that they’re self­lessly serv­ing us — the lit­tle peo­ple, their vot­ers and cus­tomers — and Clin­ton presents this ther­a­peu­tic ex­er­cise as if she had our emo­tional health in mind rather than her own. “Maybe it’ll help you too,” she says when de­scrib­ing how she healed her mis­ery with chardon­nay, al­ter­nate nos­tril breath­ing, and a daily de­vo­tional text emailed by her pas­tor (whose an­thol­ogy of th­ese mis­sives has just been pulped, since some of his feel­good smarmi­ness was pla­gia­rised). Then she glimpses her­self in the mir­ror and adds: “I doubt that many peo­ple read­ing this will ever lose a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.” All com­mis­er­a­tion dries up: it’s as self-re­gard­ing a re­mark as Trump’s “I’m the pres­i­dent and you’re not”, or his smug­ness when he’s given two scoops of ice-cream while guests get only one.

This is a clas­sic tale of hubris (nowa­days called “en­ti­tle­ment”). Clin­ton pack­aged her­self as Amer­ica per­son­i­fied, wear­ing suc­ces­sive trouser suits — styled by Ralph Lau­ren — in red, white and blue for her three de­bates with Trump, and on elec­tion night she in­tended to de­clare vic­tory on a stage shaped like a cut-out US map. Her gar­ment bag that even­ing in­cluded the pur­ple suit she planned to wear “on my first trip to Wash­ing­ton as pres­i­dent elect”; she had al­ready bought the house next door in sub­ur­ban New York as over­spill ac­com­mo­da­tion for her trav­el­ling troupe of White House aides. Not

‘When the reck­on­ing ar­rives, she di­verges into fan­tasies about an al­ter­na­tive fu­ture’

since Agamem­non swag­gered on to the red car­pet in the tragedy by Aeschy­lus has any­one so vain­glo­ri­ously asked for a come­up­pance.

All this tri­umphal­ism is re­called with no twinge of re­morse. In­stead, oth­ers are blamed — James Comey for rais­ing the alarm about her emails, Bernie San­ders for split­ting the pro­gres­sive vote, the “odi­ous” Ju­lian As­sange for Wik­ileak­ing, and those best bud­dies Putin and Trump for the Darth Vader-like “dark en­ergy” they con­jured up. Everyone who op­posed her is ac­cused of do­ing so out of misog­yny: is As­sange’s dump­ing of scur­rilous in­for­ma­tion about the Demo­cratic party re­ally ex­plained by the fact that he “was charged with rape in Swe­den”? De­spite th­ese ac­cu­sa­tions, her post-mortem on her cam­paign’s “data an­a­lytic plat­form” and “wordof-mouth favoura­bil­ity met­ric” re­veals why the masses didn’t warm to

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