It’s difficult for me to write about Hillary Clinton’s What Happened without revisiting my anger over the continuing injustice of her treatment by much of the press. Yes, there have been appreciative reviews of the book, reviews that recognize that Clinton, as Megan Garber puts it, “is doing the thing so many women politicians and citizens have done, recently, in a world that refuses to make space for them: It reclaims.” In doing so, it inaugurates “a newly emotional style of political engagement”—but without sacrificing the factual, as some other politicians have done. Yes, it’s a candid, warm, and sometimes angry account of Clinton’s experience; it’s also an astute, multifaceted analysis of the “perfect storm” that resulted in the disaster of 2016.
The unvarnished malice of the negative reviews, however, makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that many responses to the book are an extension of the same desire to castigate Hillary that pundits brought to their reporting of the campaign. The book is “useless” (Sam Kriss) and “essentially wrong-headed” (Sarah Leonard); it’s like “Hillary cornering you in a coffee shop, replaying the game tape.” And of course, there’s the “blames everyone but herself” theme, with which we’ve been bludgeoned since the night of the election.
How James Comey Made the Media Forget the “Access Hollywood Tapes”— and Helped Trump Win the Election
On October 4, right before the Access Hollywood tapes broke, an article appeared in the Washington Post, describing the disappointment of Roger Stone and other backers of Donald Trump that the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks had not yet produced the “October surprise” it had been promising. “For weeks,” the article read, the Trump contingent had “hyped the tantalizing possibility” that a set of documents would be released that would “doom Hillary Clinton’s chances in November.” The promised leaks, whose origin Julian Assange would not reveal, was touted as “historic” and Texas radio host Alex Jones pronounced that “the Clintons will be devastated.” Assange recommended patience; he promised to reveal documents every week for the next ten weeks, and said that “some will have a direct bearing on the U.S. election.”
We now know, thanks to a 14-page U.S. intelligence finding released on January 6—a joint product of the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency–that the leaks were part of an intelligence operation personally ordered by Vladimir Putin with the purpose of “denying Hillary Clinton the presidency” and “installing Donald Trump in the Oval Office.” Putin had held a grudge against Clinton since 2011, the report stated, blaming her for inciting mass protests against his regime.