Memoir shows no remorse
her. She mistakenly assumed that American politics is about policy, whereas Trump saw that it is now an extension of showbiz.
Instead of recuperating, Clinton has opted for a re-enactment of a remote past. Her book grows fat on rosy reminiscences about her childhood baseball games, her first date with Bill, and Chelsea’s breech birth, with victory laps to commemorate her achievements as a “lady lawyer” in Arkansas, a “hometown senator’ in New York (where she had never actually lived when she ran for office), and a secretary of state who travelled “almost a million miles”. She has reason to be proud, but does any of that help explain what happened on November 8? When the reckoning arrives, she diverges into fantasies about an alternative future. She gives details of the legislation she would now be advancing, and even prints (or, as she puts it, “shares”) the oration she “never got a chance to deliver that night”, which ends by declaring that “America is the greatest country in the world” and promising that “we will make America even greater” — lines that might have dribbled from the mouth of Trump.
It’s all very well to repeat “I love America”, as she ritualistically does: mustn’t she also dislike at least half of it for rejecting her? Here her immense self-possession comes to her aid.
She remembers the white supremacist who murdered worshippers in a church in Charleston, being told by relatives of his victims “I forgive you”. Then she asks herself what she feels about Trump voters, the so-called “deplorables”. She answers: “It’s complicated”, but the preceding anecdote speaks for her. She forgives them: like the rabble of crucifiers, they knew not what they did.
A brief, embarrassed reference to earlier times is inadvertently telling: Bill and Hillary were guests at Trump’s wedding to Melania (and, as the titanically petty bridegroom still remembers, they didn’t bring a present). “We weren’t friends,” says Hillary defensively. Then why go?
It turns out Bill was “speaking in the area that weekend”, so they went for a laugh; Hillary calculates that Trump wanted them for their “star power”. The comment reflects as badly on the Clintons as it does on Trump: they remind me of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who subsidised their residence at the Waldorf Astoria by charging a fee for attendance at Manhattan cocktail parties.
There is one wrenchingly perceptive insight about Trump, who seems, she says, as if he “didn’t even want to be president at all” — unlike Clinton, who wanted it almost more than life itself. Yes, he now relives the election as obsessively as she does, and with similar misgivings.
He thought it would be the prize handed out in the season finale of The Apprentice; it didn’t occur to him that four years — if we’re unlucky — of tedious office work lay ahead. Maddened by the false position he finds himself in, the prisoner of a reality that is not at all like reality TV, he’s therefore concentrating on finding a way to get himself fired.
Despite Clinton’s appeal for sympathy, it’s Trump that her book made me feel momentarily sorry for.
Hillary Clinton makes a statement after losing out to Donald Trump in the presidential election