A woman who still can’t face her failure
As Hillary’s self-serving book blames everyone else for her defeat . . .
EVERY horror movie has it: the moment at the end when the monster is dead and the threat is over and everyone is dusting themselves down and . . . suddenly the monster is back for one last thrashing attack.
one last doomed effort to bring everyone down. one last book. Well, not normally the book. but we are talking here about Hillary Clinton and books — long books — are her thing.
Just as you thought it was safe to go out and poke around in the ashes of the 2016 u.S. presidential election, she has come back with a book called What Happened to re-ignite the fire, reopen wounds, carry on simmering feuds.
She is raising her voice again to lecture a nation. The message seems to be: they didn’t listen last time — they’d better listen now. However, I am not sure they will.
Hillary Clinton is properly Shakespearean. She has enormous strengths. She is one of the most hard- working politicians in American history. My friend who advised her when she was Secretary of State told me he used to try to miss the official plane home from foreign trips and fly economy because it was more restful. He could put on his eye-shades and get some sleep; on the Hillary plane there was no time for kip.
And yet all this hard work has got her nowhere. Given the chance to win the presidency against a man many Americans regarded as a loon, a circus trick, a balloon ripe for pricking, she fell flat on her face, balloon-pricking pin stuck in her own foot.
And now we have the book she claims will tell us why. only it doesn’t. No, of course it doesn’t. Because Hillary Clinton’s Shakespearean flaw is the inability to see that Hillary Clinton is part of the problem.
She can play at being self-critical, asking at one point: ‘ What makes me such a lightning rod for fury? I’m really asking. I’m at a loss.’ But she is not really interested in the reply that many Americans, inside and outside her party, might give.
Could it be, for example, that she and Bill groomed and then captured the democratic party and used it for their own ends? We learn nothing more about the allegations aired during the election that she personally assisted the adulterous Bill in attacking women who accused him of sex abuse.
She ignores those who wonder how feminist and sisterly she really was when she and Bill were climbing the greasy pole. This is a glaring omission in the book — an opportunity to set the record straight that she missed.
COULD it also be that when she lectured people about sexism and racism last year, she sounded as if she was above them, looking down on them? That when she took huge sums of money from Wall Street firms for speeches, she seemed high-handed?
Her real problem, of course, is that unlike Trump, she couldn’t find a way of appealing to working- class Americans in his camp because she found those who supported him, as she infamously put it, ‘deplorable’.
But Hillary doesn’t do selfcriticism. Again and again in her memoir she looks as if she is going to conclude that she messed up, only to swerve at the last moment and it’s someone else’s fault.
It was the Russians who were to blame for leaking damaging emails! It was Bernie Sanders, the elderly left-wing senator who ran so vigorously against her for the democratic nomination! It was then-FBI director James Comey who, days before the election, reignited a scandal over whether her use of a private email server was illegal! It was sexism! It was him. It was them. Above all, it was not her.
of course, her excuses have some validity. The Russians were up to no good. The FBI director probably messed up by announcing a new investigation so close to the poll. Bernie Sanders was a nuisance. And let us be blunt: Hillary did not become president, in part, because of sexism that sees many Americans unable to take a woman seriously.
I remember the jibe back in 2008, when I covered her campaign to win the democratic nomination against Barack obama, that she ‘reminded men of their first wives’. Would people have been comfortable using a racial slur about obama along those lines? No, to be fair, the first woman candidate has had a very tough time. To deny that is idiotic.
It’s also worth acknowledging that there is a deranged group of Americans who see Hillary Clinton as the anti-Christ.
And she is at her strongest in this book, writing — for the first time — about the impact this has: ‘For the record, it hurts to be torn apart,’ she says. ‘It may seem like it doesn’t bother me to be called terrible names or have my looks mocked, but it does.’
But, wait a moment. The Clintons have done more than their share of tearing apart. And this is where What Happened stinks.
Throughout the book, she suggests that Bernie Sanders messed it up for her and behaved badly. Sanders, Hillary writes, resorted to ‘ innuendo and impugning my character’ in a way that caused ‘lasting damage’.
But I was there in 2008 when the Clintons — both of them — were trying to see off Barack obama, using methods that would make poor Bernie Sanders’s spectacles mist up.
Remember, obama believed that staffers in the Clinton camp had spread the rumour that he was secretly a Muslim. Hillary was asked about it on TV and gave this painfully nuanced answer: ‘I take him on the basis of what he says,’ and then when pressed, she said he’s not Muslim ‘ as far as I know’. So who is she to complain about innuendo?
Sometimes it went further and the mask slipped. In May 2008, she said this: ‘Senator obama’s support among hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again . . .’
White Americans! The New York Times (a newspaper traditionally supportive of the Clintons) called it ‘negative campaigning with disturbing racial undertones’.
So how bitterly ironic it is to recall candidate Hillary playing at populism in 2008 and to think about this adopted constituency of poor white people ditching her so spectacularly when an authentic version came along in 2016.
But she doesn’t remember any of that now. Bernie Sanders gets it in the neck for saying the truth: that the Clintons were close and cosy with big money. They were. They are. Nobody in America thinks otherwise, except them.
At one point, Hillary manages to hint at a mea culpa over her highrolling financial allies: ‘Especially after the financial crisis, I should have realised it would be bad “optics” [in other words, it looked terrible] and stayed away from having anything to do with Wall Street. I didn’t. That’s on me.’
BUT Sanders wasn’t attacking Hillary because of the ‘optics’: he was talking about where her priorities were, where her heart was and where her funding came from. Sanders raised staggering sums from small donors. She chose Wall Street — though she didn’t have to.
And choosing Wall Street as her bedfellow in 2016, then failing to make peace with Sanders and bring him on board as the vicepresidential candidate, was a horrible mistake.
It was compounded by the usual Clinton over-thinking and over- analysis, to which she alludes again and again in the manner of those annoying people at job interviews who, when asked about their greatest failing, grin smugly and say: ‘I might sometimes be a little too good.’
The best bit of the book is when she loses. It’s human. Almost unbearable. And well-written.
‘Reading the news every morning was like ripping off a scab,’ she says. And whatever we think of her campaign, we wince.
We also laugh at some black humour when she writes: ‘I doubt that many people reading this will ever lose a presidential election, (maybe some have: Hi Al [Gore], hi John [ McCain], hi Mitt [Romney], hope you’re well).’
But if only she had mixed that up with some genuine soulsearching about why the party she led failed to appeal to so many people it should have appealed to. That would have been worth the effort.
unfortunately, she seems to think the populism that swept Trump to power is temporary, but it isn’t.
She doesn’t understand either, that a clever, wealthy candidate such as Bill Clinton or Barack obama can no longer win the White House simply by telling America’s workers to shape up.
Some of her most ardent supporters have complained that no man would be called on to write a full-scale apology; it would not occur to a male politician to bother. But that’s not true.
When the former u.S. defence secretary Robert McNamara wrote his memoirs in 1995, he began with this short sentence about the Vietnam War that he had helped prosecute: ‘We were terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.’
Not a bad first sentence. But not one that you’d ever get from Hillary Clinton.