Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, is a 450-page naughty-or-nice list.
The defeated US presidential candidate released a memoir this week in which she lays out exactly why she believes she lost the 2016 election. She’s angry—at misogynists, former FBI director James Comey, the media, and, occasionally, herself.
The US now has its hands full with a president waging a war on the media, with a constantly unspooling inner circle, with no regard for facts, as he threatens to dismantle US immigration policy and undo decades of progress combating climate change. Why would anyone want to waste time on what a defeated nominee has to say about an election long past? Indeed, Clinton writes in What Happened: “I honestly wondered why anyone would want to hear from me ever again.”
But her fans are still devoted—the book has been a bestseller for weeks—and perhaps even more eager to hear from her again are her former staff, to whom she dedicates the book. At times What Happened reads like a team post-mortem, where the team is American liberals.
In the first 170 pages Clinton resumes her role as a manager, writing the political equivalent of a big internal thank-you email after a product launch. She takes her time, and thanks nearly every person she can think of, no matter the role. Clinton mentions five hair and makeup people: “Isabelle is French and full of positivity; she doesn’t walk so much as bop.”
In multi-page passages, she thanks her advisors and debate prep team. We get a long paragraph about a flight attendant Clinton particularly liked, who made food for the traveling staff at her house in Queens and then packed it for flights. Clinton thanks the person who introduced her to Tito’s vodka martinis. And the videographer who brought back her new favorite hot sauce from Belize.
Like a director at the Oscars taking care to rattle off every person who touched the film, Clinton writes in a typical passage:
We held most of our debate prep sessions at the Doral Arrowood, a hotel near my home in Westchester County. We were joined by more people from my team: campaign consultants Joel Benenson, Mandy Grunwald, and Jim Margolis; Tony Carrk, our head of research and an Obama debate-prep veteran; and Bob Barnett, who had helped prepare Democratic candidates for debates since Walter Mondale.
The Buffetts and the Bushes; Beyoncé and Sheryl Sandberg; Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, and Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, all get glowing mentions. Of course, the former secretary of state also writes of her gratitude for her daughter, Chelsea, and her husband and former US president, Bill, as well as her late mother, Dorothy Howell Rodham.
Clinton’s book is at times corny, at times cutting; she meanders, and she reflects; she lays plenty of blame and says plenty of thanks. Clinton has said she won’t run for public office again, so that leaves a lot of campaign staffers looking for a new candidate. But in what surely feels like a dark period to them, at least they have been acknowledged.