The other main books I looked at or read recently were Shattered - a story of Clinton's campaign built from interviews with anonymous staffers on her campaign, and Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution, a book just released by Bernie Sanders I think I would most accurately describe as a 200-page "Sanders Manifesto" of sorts. For breadth, I wanted to also take a look at a Trump book, and Crippled America was my choice. However, I ended up not reading it, for the simple reason that I have little respect for ghostwriting, and Trump is well known for his tendencies to ghostwrite all his books. Besides, the style is fairly reminiscent of his rallies, and I've seen plenty of those.
The brief summary of the book is that it focuses in on the aspects of the campaign that Hillary found most important - the events leading up to running, major landmarks across the campaign (places visited, debates, winning the nomination, losing to Trump, conceding, all that jazz), thoughts on the other candidates in the race, discussions of emails, Russia, and Comey, blurbs on sexism and its effect on the race, and a spattering of other related topics. While reading it through, I did have a few thoughts that I jotted down in my notebook. I wanted to share those here - in no particular order.
The first point in the book that really struck me was the following quote:
Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism ... this is what happens in George Orwell's classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered. The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust towards exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves.
Well, nothing to say but that it's a complete and utter head-scratcher. Though I have not all that much fondness for the book (it's a pretty weak narrative with a farce for a moral), it is pretty damn clear that that wasn't what the story was about. It wasn't about how people are turned against their leaders (Big Brother) and press (Ministry of Truth) in the slightest and I have no idea how Clinton got that.
In general, though, I noticed that she has a tendency to be extremely bland and boring in her selection of books and narratives to reference. Beyond generally giving only a very surface-level interpretation of any given book (e.g. the above or using the term "brave new world" in a manner that has little to no relevance to the book of the same name it is referencing), it almost seems that her entire library of literary/historical works is basically that of an AP Literature and AP US History class. Nothing unique or special about the choice, and while I could sympathize with the idea of having an "all American" choice of literature, there is absolutely nothing un-American about having a diverse reading choice. It strikes me as just a reflection of her overall blandness.
Tying into that, she spends a lot of time talking about her life and her campaign - in a way that is clearly meant to build sympathy and show her as an everyman (everywoman), but that really just makes her boring as hell. What it most reminds me of is when I was reading a (ghosted) Jack Welch autobiography and he spent entire chapters talking about all the golf rounds he had with a lot of people, pretty much the tell-tale sign of being a boring and unimpressive individual on a personal level.
Another tidbit that struck me is her tendency to throw around blame and to villainize pretty much everyone. Trump, Bernie Sanders, Putin, James Comey, hell even CNN, all of them were part of her thrashing, petty piss fight. Her willingness to blame herself was always modest compared to her ability to try to find a way to hate everyone who she perceived as not being fair to her, and the book often read like a gigantic grudge-airing. Most notable is how whenever faced with a tough crowd of potential voters, her response reeked of a "well fuck you anyways" line of thought, which might explain why all across the country, she got clobbered outside of the large, concentrated population centers. It paints her as horribly, egotistically out of touch with reality - and rightfully so.
In a shift of tone, I actually thought her bits talking about the debates were fairly interesting and sympathetic - and the reality was that at the actual debate she did well. Against Trump and against Sanders she generally came out on top. Though I was disappointed with both of them for being sort of mediocre at debates, Hillary definitely shined in that one arena. Her problems with convincing voters aside, she debated well.
Her shapeshifting, mechanical attitude was also on full display. She had a brief blurb about how Chelsea taught her that she should be friendlier to LGBT rights, she talked about how she didn't expect that speeches for finance would be bad because "plenty of former officials do that" so it shouldn't be different, she described herself as a "progressive who gets things done" with Bernie only to change her positions by convenience in the future, and so on. Following along from the other book, Shattered, we see a large emphasis on loyalty and data, with little on big ideas and appealing to individual voters. She often claims that she doesn't get why people think her a liar, but given how much contrived BS she lies through over the length of the book it should be clear to anyone why they think her a liar.
That loyalty emphasis deserves some more thoughts, simply because it ties into a lot of famous criticisms of her opponent Donald Trump. Shattered discusses how a history of loyal service to Hillary, more than anything else, drove the campaign staffing process. The way she brought DWS onto her team, after DWS helped pave the way for her victory by taking care of her competition in the primary, is loyalty over reason on full display. And in a more indirect sense, there are a few definite favorite news sources - CNN, NYT, NPR, and especially WaPo - that she cites and cites and overcites in the same way Trump does the same for Fox and Breitbart. The great irony is that sometimes she gives them thorough, glowing praise, then she turns around and talks about how bad they are when they say something unflattering about her. A definite Trumpian attitude that perhaps shows that preventing a dangerous ego in office was never a possibility.
Next is the way she tries to build a narrative for her campaign. Shattered talks in depth about how ineffective and confused this narrative-building process was behind the scenes, and frankly it was quite visible from the outside too. She didn't make a good case for her life story being interesting (as a standard suburban American with not much of an interesting upbringing) nor did she have any worthy mission to speak of. She tried to use "standing up for women" but damn did she do it badly, what with fantastic prime sound bites such as "how can I, a woman running for president, be part of the establishment?" and Madeleine Albright's "women who don't vote for Hillary Clinton go to hell" subtle insinuation. It felt far less like a genuine mission as much as it felt like entitlement because of "having a narrative." Nor did she build a good economic message, what with a dearth of ideological conviction for her message and a willingness to flip back and forth on issues as important as the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (having a contrived "not the agreement I want for America" copout, which her VP copied, whereas everyone knew she would sign). Perhaps her progressiveness a la Sanders would be more believable if her record weren't one of changing her opinion to stay in line with what is the general pulse of the country; as it stands, it is pure, naked opportunism.
She mentions often about how she "loves to talk policy" by giving a two-page blurb on her thoughts on some issue or other... but she writes a book and runs a campaign primarily focused around grudges and blaming others rather than policy. Contrast with Bernie Sanders' most recent book, in which, despite having ample reason to justifiably complain about how things were rigged against him in this election, simply talks about ideals and policies instead of grudges and evil people. Maybe if Hillary cared about policy she would do the same. With Bernie, she countered ideals with little more than a "it's just not practical" attack on ideas that were indeed idealistic, but not without merit, as a lack of ambition will simply lead nowhere. Perhaps if she understood why people tend to see her as untrustworthy, she would not wonder why she is a liar. Hint: it's not a right-wing conspiracy.
Minor note: her mention of Trayvon in the list of kids killed by senseless violence "because he wanted Skittles" was some shitty narrative crafting. He was shot in self defense when attacking a man who was following him, who perhaps should have been jailed for criminal negligence but in no way attacked him for Skittles.
Next point of interest: Bernie's lack of being a Democrat and her general disdain for people not voting for her. She made a big deal about how Bernie is, self-admitting, not even a Democrat - as if that mattered. He's perfectly Democrat by ideology, he just doesn't attend the right cocktail parties, as if that's a great reason for undermining his run for Democratic nominee. Hell, even the Democratic Party of Vermont chooses him as their nominee; that's about as ideologically Democrat as you can get. He just doesn't call himself one. And that comes with a rightful disdain for certain party apparatuses - she calls him out for criticizing PP for endorsing her, without realizing that organizational endorsements that often conflict with the opinion of the underlings (I heard many stories of union workers voting Bernie because they felt the unions were not representing their interests by endorsing Hillary) is part of the exact reason why Bernie isn't part of the system itself. Same goes for her opinion that activists who "waste votes and tear down allies" - a petty way to whine about how people who won't choose the opponent aren't necessarily just going to come around to her no matter what, nothing more complex here. A hypocritical attitude as its finest.
The most tone-deaf of her ideas is perhaps that she thinks she is really popular and that the emails are a distraction. Obama apparently thought she would be his best successor (easily the stupidest decision of his entire presidency, which will rightfully lead to the destruction of much of his legacy), and she talks a lot about how Europe gave her warm receptions all the time. She also makes a big deal out of how popular she was retiring from her position as SoS - coming off the high of the Osama bin Laden raid (which I'm surprised she didn't try to take 100% of the credit for) but before her major FP ventures (Russia reset, Syria, Libya, Asia pivot) proved to be pretty thorough failures. No real surprise it went down once people started to think about her. Apparently fake news is responsible for it all, not the fact that there is plenty of genuine reason for people to think she's kind of a shitty leader who should not be in charge. Fake news, and of course James Comey the traitor.
Her ventures with Silicon Valley folk also bothered me a bit. Her biggest contact very much seems to be Eric Schmidt, definitely a dubious figure to praise as much as she did; between a known history of lobbying and his involvement in a massive anticompetitive class-action back in 2010, a rather unfortunate figure. She cites Elon Musk as if he were an expert in AI, rather than just a money man who gives out cash to AI researchers. And she seems utterly blind to the reality of what Silicon Valley is: a financial hub with an emphasis on software, masquerading as some form of "forward thinking innovative culture" that needs to be propped up and supported. That's a shitty Obama mistake that needs to be corrected, not doubled down upon.
Her Russia philosophy seems to be something especially ridiculous. She talks about how much of a grudgemaker Vladimir Putin is, yet he alone is the one who likes to discuss it as some slap-fight (whereas Putin in public does no such thing - perhaps a low bar put one that Hillary herself cannot reach). She creates some weird "are you for Merkel or for Putin" dichotomy, an odd juxtaposition of two figures which really are different people in completely different situations (let alone Merkel's self-manufactured EU refugee crisis) to try to show why Trump is bad for expressing desire to have better relations with Russia. She even manages to blame Russia for Macron's emails being hacked, even though that story has been long since debunked ("was so simple that anyone could have done that hack" according to French intelligence).
That of course pales to her retardedly simplistic, if common, views on how to deal with Russia. Apparently if you wave your dick around enough and show enough force, then Russia will back down. So let's send troops into Syria to bomb Assad, send lethal weapons - or better yet, NATO troops - into Ukraine to aid in the civil war, and in general double down upon every terrible policy ever produced within the US foreign policy branch. There's no way that instead of leading to a withdrawal that that will lead to a brutal, dangerous escalation, no not at all. Because it's impossible that a country with strong foreign interests will refuse to back down when threatened with American force. Bitch please.
And perhaps more hilarious is the attitude towards being hacked as if it's some sort of unprecedented, impossibly vile, destruction of democracy event. If Russia did indeed do all of the things mentioned by the intelligence branch - DNC/Podesta hacks most prominently, along with many instances of collusion and lesser hacks - then perhaps the most unique part of that is that the US is the target rather than the perpetrator. It's almost as if the only reason this is so problematic is because this kind of democracy manipulation isn't supposed to happen in the US, dammit! Every other country is fair game but #USA is off limits to this stuff.
Summing up, though, what struck me about this book is a deep, systematic tendency for Hillary Clinton to be tone-deaf to genuine criticism, to be very fond of echo chambers and dramatizing conspiracies out of well-founded opposition, and the willingness of an entire party to tolerate and encourage behavior that leads to events like this being completely and utterly commonplace. For every terrible decision there was a terrible, yet thoroughly echoed by Hillary and the sympathetic news media, justification for failure. It is utterly incomprehensible to me why Obama wanted her to be his successor, given how completely and utterly unfit she was for the role.
This book is, essentially, a great way to get a nice, thorough view of what exactly Hillary represents, and perhaps a good way to see why it is that she is as unpopular as she is - if that's what you want, I do recommend you read. It's good to know that, for all intents and purposes, none of the voters are buying her narrative anymore. Should she run again, she will almost certainly get the Jeb Bush treatment - no amount of money nor endorsements will get over the fact that the time of the Clintons is over and that people will refuse to have Clinton forced on them. Good riddance.