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