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On the West Porch with Hillary

My problems with What Happened, Hillary Clinton’s nearly 500-page self-proclaimed explanation for why she isn’t the 45th President of the United States as she fully expected to be, began around page 7. Clinton was describing how it felt to be sitting on the inaugural platform on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol when Republican Donald Trump, the man who actually won the election, was sworn in: “The day was unusually warm.”

Actually, it wasn’t. The temperature high for January 20, 2017 was 48 degrees Fahrenheit, only marginally higher than the 43 degrees that is Washington’s average high for January 20. The bulk of the day was gloomy: iron-gray of sky, off-and-on rainy, and bone-chillingly damp. I know this because I happened to be outdoors on Pennsylvania Avenue on that very day for a very long time (about 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.), because, having donated to Trump’s campaign along with my husband, I’d been invited along with him to shepherd fans of the new President who had traveled hundreds of miles to Washington to view the inaugural parade from grandstands. We and the other volunteers shivered on the sidewalk in our parkas and knit caps, and we slipped inside nearby public buildings for warmth whenever we got a chance.

But Clinton (or whoever ghostwrote that sentence) was trying to score a political point against Trump: “I had heard that the first batch of white [rain] ponchos that had arrived [for the West Porch VIPs] could have looked something like KKK hoods from a certain angle, and a sharp-eyed inaugural organizer quickly replaced them.”

Oh, really? Rain ponchos that looked like pointy Klan hoods? “I had heard” covers quite a bit of imaginative territory. Then there were these thoughts that Clinton reports as racing through her head while she, winner of the popular vote but big-time loser in the Electoral College, endured Trump’s swearing-in:

I also thought about Al Gore, who in 2001 sat stoically through George W.’s inauguration. Five members of the Supreme Court decided that election. . . . John Adams, our second Commander in Chief, suffered the indignity of being the first President ever voted out of office, losing to Thomas Jefferson in 1800. . . . In 1972, George McGovern lost forty-nine out of fifty states to Richard Nixon—Bill and I worked hard on McGovern’s campaign and have indelible memories of that defeat. And let’s not forget William Howard Taft, whom Teddy Roosevelt had groomed to succeed him. Four years later, in 1912, Teddy decided that Taft wasn’t doing a good enough job as President, so he ran as a third-party candidate, split the electorate, and Woodrow Wilson won. That had to hurt.

Oh, yes, Hillary was wonkily reflecting on the 1912 defeat of William Howard Taft as she sat in the rain wearing her just barely non-Ku Klux Klan poncho that the Trump people had foisted upon her. And don’t forget how “hard . . . Bill and I” worked on McGovern’s campaign!

I’m far from the first reviewer of What Happened to take due note of the thoroughly inauthentic, self-pitying, and self-serving tone that pervades its every page. One blog commenter made a list of over 40 different people and entities that Clinton blames for her defeat. At the top: the Electoral College (“gave disproportionate power to less populated states,” “profoundly undemocratic”), the Russians (“we’ve got to get to the bottom of what really happened”), former FBI director James Comey (“I felt I’d been shivved”), primaries rival Bernie Sanders (“routinely portrayed me as a corrupt corporatist”), the 62,984,825 people who voted for her GOP opponent (still mostly “deplorable”—see page 413), and, of course, Satan McDevil himself (“My skin crawled” when Trump stood behind her during the second campaign debate).

There’s an entire chapter titled “Those Damn Emails.” That would be the classified ones on her hack-vulnerable home server that she’d used for State Department business while serving as President Obama’s Secretary of State, also the ones that turned up on the laptop of her top aide Huma Abedin’s sex-felonious husband just before the election (the final “shiv” from Comey), and the 30,000 that she deleted from her server in 2014 contrary to State Department orders on grounds that they were “personal.”

The email chapter provokes Clinton to list yet another villain in the perfidy of her electoral defeat: the press, with Washington Post political reporter Chris Cillizza’s 50 e-mail-related stories about her as the most egregious crime: “Coverage of my emails crowded out virtually everything else my campaign said or did.”

The Russians and their supposed pro-Trump election-skewing merit their own super-long chapter of 50 pages (“If all this sounds unbelievable, I know how you feel”)—even though not much substantive has turned up either before or after Clinton finished writing her book in July. Even the liberal press has mostly lost interest in the Russian connection, preferring to focus on newer alleged Trump depravities: insulting take-a-knee NFL players, calling North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man” at the United Nations, whatever.

(And speaking of shivs, Clinton pokes a teensy but catty one into Green Party rival Jill Stein, who she says “wouldn’t be worth mentioning” if Stein with her tens of thousands of votes hadn’t pulled the victory rug out from under the Democratic candidate’s feet in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.)

Not surprisingly, even some on the Left have characterized What Happened as a “soaringly, malignantly useless” waste of Clinton’s reported $20 million advance for writing it. In the words of the Huffington Post’s Sam Kriss: “Everything she writes feels metallic in the mouth.”

On the other hand, that is not quite true. What Happened is not entirely useless, nor is it entirely metallic. Even the most ghostwritten autobiography, retouched to the same wrinkle-free sheen as the portrait of Clinton by fashion photographer Mario Testino on the back of the book’s jacket, offers a glimpse, sometimes inadvertent, into its author’s soul. We learn something real and genuine about Hillary Clinton even in this self-justifying pity party of a book whose main theme is how much its author deserved to be President and how close she came to winning.

One of the things we learn, for example is that she is enormously fond of food and drink: Witness the loving descriptions of the salmon salads, the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers (I’m addicted to them myself), the pizza with sliced jalapenos, the lattes, the Mideast takeout, the pork chop on a stick at the Iowa State Fair, the “ice-cold Tito’s martini with olives” on which she gorged as she flew from airport to airport. Indeed, for a few pages you wonder why she just didn’t write a fun book about daily life for a woman on the campaign trail: the meals, the clothes, the hairdresser sessions.

She is also extremely self-conscious about her looks and what other people might think about them. “In junior high, a few unkind schoolmates noticed the lack of ankles on my sturdy legs and did their best to embarrass me.” She is similarly hyper-aware that millions of Americans don’t really like her. “Imagine what it feels like,” she writes. “It hurts. It’s a hard thing to accept. But there’s no getting around it.”

And she is deadly earnest about, well, about everything. The book overflows with pious epigraphs and quotations (probably collected by her ghostwriters) from the iconostasis of liberal saints toward whom she feels constrained to nod: Nelson Mandela, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, Harriet Tubman. It also overflows with the binders full of dutiful research, position papers, and elaborate policy proposals (job retraining, infrastructure, childcare plans, gun control, carbon dividends, taxation schemes) whose collecting and perusing seem to fill up every spare moment of Clinton’s time. “I sweat the details,” she writes. She certainly does.

As Kriss and others have noted, What Happened tells you nothing you don’t already know about Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 campaign; indeed it leaves out everything you might want to know about the hash that she and her aides made of it (for that, you have to read Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’s Shattered). But as I said, the real Clinton does somehow come through, as one realizes with a shock, that behind the carefully constructed carapace is an actual and even occasionally sympathetic human being who got into a presidential race way over her wonky head.

Reader Discussion

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on October 02, 2017 at 10:30:59 am

This review is far more entertaining, and far better written, than Clinton's book

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Josh
on October 02, 2017 at 11:11:13 am

I think the question is, how did we end up with Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump as the leading candidates for President of The United States of America?
Woe to us, and our Founding Judeo-Christian Principles, which by recognizing that it Is God, not Caesar, John Locke, or King John, Who Has Endowed us with our unalienable Right to Life, to Liberty, and to The Pursuit of Happiness, recognized that God Is The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage.

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Nancy
on October 02, 2017 at 12:26:03 pm

"Five members of the Supreme Court decided that election. . . . "

Has she convinced herself of this fiction or is she just lying as usual?

First it was 7, not 5, justices who ruled Gore's selective and ever changing g re,re,re count scheme illegal. 5 determined that FL had the authority to legislatively set and uphold a final "drop dead" date for electors to be appointed.

Second, there is very little evidence that Gore would have won had he gotten his way. None of the recounts, even by his partisans with tainted ballots, put him ahead.

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J.H. Dove
on October 02, 2017 at 14:05:45 pm

Here's the real unanswered question of the 2000 election: Who stole Tennessee?

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Owen Glendower
on October 02, 2017 at 14:11:11 pm

A few months ago, I saw someone point out that nowhere in the record of the past 40 years is there any indication that Hillary Clinton ever read a serious book or had a serious thought. That record remains unblemished.

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Owen Glendower
on October 02, 2017 at 14:33:03 pm

A strict party-line vote. SCOTUS justices are mavens of mediocrity, selected because they could be counted on to be partisan hacks.

"The details, again with USA Today's explanations cited in parentheses:

Lenient standard: Gore +332 ("One uses the most permissive definition of a vote. It counts chads that are merely dimpled or bear slight impressions. Under the "dimple standard," Gore would have won by 332 votes.")

Palm Beach standard: Gore +242 ("The other standard counts dimples as votes only if dimples are found in other races on the same ballot. This is known as the "Palm Beach Standard" because that is the rule that county's elections board adopted to determine voter intent in the early hand recounts of the Florida vote. The board's theory was that if dimples appeared in other races, that most likely meant that the voter just didn't press hard enough. Under this standard Gore would have won by 242 votes.")

Two corner standard: Bush +407 ("The most widely used rule — that at least two corners of a chad must be detached to count as votes — is used in many states, including California, Oregon, Washington and Michigan. Recounting by that standard, Bush would have won by 407 votes, narrower than his 537-vote official margin.")

Strict standard: Bush +152 ("By the strictest standard — one that requires a completely clean punch for the vote to count — Bush would have won by 152 votes. Some cleanly punched ballots were disqualified by counting-machines because of glitches, such as two ballots sticking together.")"

http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/31/politics/bush-gore-2000-election-results-studies/index.html

lt could have gone either way ... but SCOTUS stepped in when Gore was getting too close.

The problem was that SCOTUS--both Thomas and O'Connor should have recused!--raided the game, with Scalia and Thomas putting their corpulent arses on the scales of justice to ensure the outcome that they wanted. Remember States' Rights? Process matters, and the counting of votes was always a matter that was left to the States, even if the outcome was not precise.

But of course, the Right only worships States' Rights when it precipitates an outcome they want.

lrrespective of who would have won, the process was compromised beyond repair. And that is the lasting stain of Bush v. Gore.

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Miss Creant
on October 02, 2017 at 15:05:23 pm

"I’m far from the first reviewer of What Happened to take due note of the thoroughly inauthentic, self-pitying, and self-serving tone that pervades its every page. One blog commenter made a list of over 40 different people and entities that Clinton blames for her defeat. At the top: the Electoral College (“gave disproportionate power to less populated states,” “profoundly undemocratic”),"

This lS a valid point, and ought to be discussed. l'm not sanguine that it would have mattered this year, but it definitely would have changed Election 2000, and our country's fate. lt is hard to imagine that the Framers intended that a vote in Wyoming would have thirty times the clout of one in California. A simple solution is to increase the number of Conmen to 2,500. There would be some inequity, but not at an oppressive level.

HRC appears to omit the fact that she was the most corrupt candidate for any office since Mayor Daley or Boss Tweed, and that she ran the most inept campaign we have seen in our lifetimes. Even though Trump is the dumbest and least mentally stable candidate we had ever seen ["As a psychology professor who studies narcissism, I have said this many times, but he is a more textbook case of narcissism than any text book I’ve ever seen. @JoshuaGrubbsPhD], you don't have to outrun the bear--you just have to outrun the other guy.

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Miss Creant
on October 02, 2017 at 15:36:03 pm

"The book overflows with pious epigraphs and quotations (probably collected by her ghostwriters) from the iconostasis of liberal saints toward whom she feels constrained to nod:"

As opposed to St. Ronald of Reagan? This is petty.

"It also overflows with the binders full of dutiful research, position papers, and elaborate policy proposals"

Would it be impolite to remind everyone that the author gave money to The Man Without A Clue? :) Yeah, give me someone who has actually THOUGHT ABOUT what to do about NoKo, lran, and the deficit.

HRC: “Coverage of my emails crowded out virtually everything else my campaign said or did.”

The first rule of scandal management is to get everything out there--and fast! Again, she was clueless about P.R. She made her bed, and had to lie in it.

"Jill Stein, who she says “wouldn’t be worth mentioning” if Stein with her tens of thousands of votes hadn’t pulled the victory rug out from under the Democratic candidate’s feet in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania."

HRC would have had to have garnered almost 90% of Stein votes in PA, which wasn't going to happen. Nader made a difference in 2000, but not here.

"primaries rival Bernie Sanders (“routinely portrayed me as a corrupt corporatist”)"

Heaven forfend that a politician should speak the truth! HRC has gone down on more banksters than even Madonna had threatened to do! :)

lt's the Clinton/Trump playbook: Blame EVERYONE else!

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Miss Creant
on October 02, 2017 at 16:56:18 pm

The Electoral College criticism is not remotely valid. Completely illconsidered, if not destructive.

This Country was founded because the compromise was made between urban and rural, populous and low populated, States to use the Electoral College to balance between large and small States, just like we have a House by proportion and a Senate by Two's.

This great compromise is the keystone of our Constitution and Republic; we are purposely NOT a Greek -style Democracy with 'one-man, one-vote'.

Hillary needs to read some History Books for an understanding of the Voting and Representation systems the Founding Fathers purposely created.

She should not be criticizing that about which she has not bothered to take the time to gather even a rudimentary understanding of our Constittion.

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detolerable
on October 02, 2017 at 17:23:54 pm

So, WHY does anyone care about this "corrupt-o-crat" anyway.

Guzzle your chardonnay, Hillary and please RAPIDLY nod-off on the back porch!

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gabe
on October 02, 2017 at 20:31:36 pm

"Yeah, give me someone who has actually THOUGHT ABOUT what to do about NoKo, lran, and the deficit"

then again, for many of us, THAT was precisely the problem with Miss Hillary - that she actually thought about (such as her mental delusions may be so characterized. Billy, at least had a functioning brain.

"Heaven forfend that a politician should speak the truth! HRC has gone down on more banksters than even Madonna had threatened to do!"

- Hmmm! Then what explains the Lady in the Blue Dress?

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gabe
on October 02, 2017 at 20:50:30 pm

"The Electoral College criticism is not remotely valid. Completely illconsidered, ... This Country was founded because the compromise was made between urban and rural, populous and low populated, States to use the Electoral College to balance between large and small States"

But did they intend the gross inequities we see today? The evidence points strongly to the obverse. lf we had passed the original First Amendment--we were but one State away from doing so--we would have about 6,000 Congresscritters, and California would have almost 800 Electoral College votes (Wyoming would have 5-6). A Congress that was too small was a major sticking point for Anti-Federalists, and Washington agreed. Professor Amar explains:

"The date was September 17, 1787 − the final day of the convention. Two days earlier the convention had unanimously agreed to a final text and had authorized the engrossment of the parchment for signing. (36) This final version provided that the number of Representatives not exceed “one for every forty thousand.” Moments before the copy was finally voted upon and signed, Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts “said if it was not too late he could wish, for the purpose of lessening objections to the Constitution, that the clause . . . might be yet reconsidered, in order to strike out 40,000 & insert ‘thirty thousand.’” (37) The irregularity of this eleventh hour motion only underscored the importance of the issue. Equally irregular was the response of presiding officer Washington, who had until then officially maintained a scrupulous silence on all substantive issues:

When the President rose, for the purpose of putting the question, he said that although his situation had hitherto restrained him from offering his sentiments on questions depending in the House, and it might be thought, ought now to impose silence on him, yet he could not forbear expressing his wish that the alteration proposed might take place. It was much to be desired that the objections to the plan recommended might be made as few as possible − The smallness of the proportion of Representatives had been considered by many members of the Convention, an insufficient security for the rights & interests of the people. He acknowledged that it had always appeared to himself among the exceptionable parts of the plan; and late as the present moment was for admitting amendments, he thought this of so much consequence that it would give much satisfaction to see it adopted.(38)

Akhil Reed Amar, The Bill Of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction 12-13, Yale Press (1998) (footnotes elided).

lmportantly, it was the ONLY time General Washington offered a suggestion.

l don't think HRC would have won in any event--it would have been pretty close--but there is much to criticize about the status quo. lf the Framers had known that we would see the grotesque inequality between small and large states we see now, it beggars the imagination that they would have agreed to COTUS.

HRC is a Yale-trained lawyer, who probably has some idea as to what she is talking about.

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Anne Bird
on October 03, 2017 at 00:25:51 am

"give me someone who has actually THOUGHT ABOUT what to do about NoKo, lran, and the deficit."

She was SoS for many years, what did she DO about NoKo? Exactly zip dot squat which is why they may now have nukes trained on the US West Coast. To be fair the same could be said about Clinton and Bush. The "smart guys" of the US foreign policy establishment have had nearly TWENTY-FIVE years to take care of this and they all failed big-time. This is one reason Trump was elected, because the so-called "experts" don't know their a** from a hole in the ground.

By the way when did HRC become the next Henry Kissinger? Was it during the ten years she reigned as First Lady of Arkansas?

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FOAF
on October 03, 2017 at 09:26:34 am

" lf the Framers had known that we would see the grotesque inequality between small and large states we see now, it beggars the imagination that they would have agreed to COTUS."

Perhaps, BUT there is this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1790_United_States_Census

View the table and you will find that Virginia had roughly 750,000 inhabitants and Delaware had just under 60,000 and Rhode Island 68,000. Quite the disparity - even for those times.

Then again, are we really prepared to take the final step and *completely* negate the (alleged" Federal structure of COTUS.

Hey, more importantly, are we REALLY prepared for such a rapid population explosion of congressional *critters* (and their accompanying baggage and baggage handlers) as you are (jocularly?) proposing?

Goodness gracious, can you imagine having ten times the fun that we presently enjoy - with many thousands of sycophants seeking "love and affection" of the voters BY PROMISING THEM EVERYTHING in a game of one-upmanship. No, thanks, I'll take Arpege as the old commercial says.

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gabe
on October 03, 2017 at 11:20:09 am

"Remember States’ Rights? Process matters, and the counting of votes was always a matter that was left to the States, even if the outcome was not precise.

But of course, the Right only worships States’ Rights when it precipitates an outcome they want.

lrrespective of who would have won, the process was compromised beyond repair. And that is the lasting stain of Bush v. Gore."
Does anyone remember what happened at the DNC? The extreme left commandeered the party platform to the exclusion of many party faithful in the name of pandering to special interest groups (pro-abortion repeal of federal and STATE laws impeding a woman's access to abortion, anti religious liberty stance on private business activities), not to mention the behind-the-scenes drama with Wasserman Schultz and the derailing of their own candidate. In your summaries of the ballot tabulation methods, the last two stand out for their merit, since they don't rely on intuiting voter intent from impressions in cardstock. One was used by other states, the other leaves no room for interpretation. In both cases, the victory came to Bush, so it would seem that the SCOTUS at least came down on the correct side of the issue. As far as being mavens of mediocrity, in what sense is that true? The SCOTUS has been increasingly activist in nature and had trended towards cases where there is little case law to limit them and where they can hand down decisions based mostly on opinion.

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Herkybird
on October 05, 2017 at 13:35:16 pm

I actually like Hillary, but I voted for the President. Even I think that Hillary's book is a pap. But realistically, it was likely ghosted to get a major advance. It is a virtue signaling product. Once upon time, one would have bought the best velum and parchment Bible, now one put Hillary's book unopened on the book shelf.

As to how we ended up with them as candidates, they were clearly better. Hillary was incomparably better than Bernie, an apologist for a racist war against Native Indian in Nicaragua - a man who honeymooned in the USSR.

President Trump is a billionaire and a star of a prime time program. You may snicker, but I don't think that there is any other candidate who could have pulled 2016 out. I expect the ingratitude of those like Bill Kristol who have no influence, but frankly, we almost lost the country. We were one Supreme Court appointment away from a reversal of most of the conservative work done since the retirement of Earl Warren.

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Peta Johnson
on October 05, 2017 at 13:39:49 pm

But she sure is good at buying at Chipolte!

Seriously, I don't think there is any doubt that the Clintons are very intelligent capable people. I also think that they are grifters. The Left is basically divided between crooks and crazies, with a substantial intersection - e.g. Bernie.

Accordingly, there is nothing odd about this.

Frankly, with the drivel that passes for scholarship on the left, I would prefer that she spends her time reading TMZ.

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Peta Johnson

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