Saturday, September 23, 2017

Wasn't gonna read it

Adapted from the Twitter feed, Monday evening, September 11, 2017. Posted Wednesday night, September 13.

The New York Times’ Amy Chozik is working on a book about the election. Since she mostly covered Hillary’s campaign, I expect she’ll focus mainly on that. Meanwhile, NBC’s Katy Tur, who covered Trump’s campaign, has a book of her own in the works, focusing on…well, you can guess. Advanced word is Tur’s book is good. Chozik isn’t far enough along for there to be advanced word, but Chozik herself has promised her book will be “nuanced,” unlike her coverage of Clinton. Doesn’t matter. I won’t be reading either. I won’t be reading any books about the campaign. Except one.

Earlier today I tweeted:

Nope. Not gonna. Don't care how good it is, I'm not reading any books about the election, not even Hillary's. I know how it turned out.

But this column in Slate by Christina Cauterucci caused me to change my mind, at least about Hillary’s book:

Early reviews take issue with the book’s right to exist as much as the quality of its contents. “Was this book necessary?” asks Doyle McManus in the lede of his Los Angeles Times review, suggesting that Clinton should have shoved her manuscript into a desk drawer rather than offer it up for public consumption. Doug Schoen, a former Clinton ally, told the failed candidate in a Hill piece that it is “time to exit the stage” and stop doing harm to her political party by simply showing up. “Friends don’t let friends read Hillary Clinton’s new book,” wrote a critic at the Week who refused to even crack it open before making her judgment. “Whatever you want to read this book for, chances are, there’s something else that does it better.”

That decides it. Nobody tells me what I can and can't read, especially not self-important political journalists who to protect their own vanity and ego want the first woman nominated for President by a major party and the winner of the popular vote in one of the most contentious elections in U.S. History to go away and slip quietly into obscurity as if she was Wendell Wilkie or Alf Landon.

I don’t expect much from What Happened as a book. I liked Hillary’s Living History, but it’s not Grant’s Memoirs. Chances are there will be something that "does it better", but it’ll be years before it’s finished and years after it’s published before I can muster the fortitude to read it. As it happens, the only Establishment Journalist-approved book I know of is Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes' Shattered, which I haven't read. But going by on even the most gushing reviews by Allen and Parnes' most friendly colleagues, it sounds likean epic exercise in excuse-making on behalf to the entire political press corps, shifting all the blame onto HRC as if she herself orchestrated the nonstop email “scandal” and forced them into the equally nonstop fawning coverage of Donald Trump. So, you know, I’m not inclined to let them tell me what I should read.

Cover What Happened Hillary ClintonI suspect a lot of journalists, along with Trump-defending Republicans, Jill Stein voters, Berne die-hards, and Bernie himself, are worried that people might accept What Happened as what happened.

Honestly, what does it matter if she wrote a book?

"People might read it!"


"What if they believe her?"

What if they do?

"They might think WE were wrong!"

What if you were?

"Gack sputter spit garble derp!"

Bernie woulda won? He might very well have. But to say he would have as a certainty you need to believe he had no flaws and would have made no mistakes or, at least, none that would have cost him. But then what cost him the nomination? Hillary trounced him. Some of those Democrats who voted for her must have thought he had flaws. Some of those votes he lost because he made mistakes. Some---as in a great many---of those lost votes belonged to African Americans and adult women of all colors who have been pretty clear about how Bernie lost their votes.

I haven’t seen the same pundits and journalists who’ve criticized her campaign for being too overly feminist criticize his for his inherent sexism. I haven’t seen that the same pundits and journalists who think the basket of deplorables remark was damning and self-sabotaging carrying on about Bernie’s more demonstrably damning and self-sabotaging excuse making for his heavy losses in the “Confederacy” on Super Tuesday and the middle of March primaries. Not only did that hurt him tremendously among African American voters in the primary, it’s still hurting him. It will be a big problem for him if he’s vain and foolish enough to run for the nomination in 2020, especially considering that his main competition is likely to include Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. Where’s his apology? Where’s his book where he takes the blame for getting crushed in the primary? Why doesn’t he have to explain over and over again how he lost to a historically unpopular opponent?

A key part of assessing what you did wrong is first looking at the factors you had to deal with and then figuring out what mistakes you made in dealing with them and what you should have done or could have done to avoid them or to make up for the mistakes you made trying to deal with them. For the Clinton campaign, that would include the email “scandal”---to which there seemed to have been nothing she could have done short of buying the New York Times and the publications and TV networks following its lead and ordering a complete blackout of email news---and crafting a whole new personality that journalists would have loved or felt loved by. It would also include the relentlessly negative coverage she received and the irresponsible obsequious coverage the media lavished on him to glom off his celebrity---CNN especially couldn't get enough of him. They covered him like a lost airliner---the Comey letter, Bernie’s mean-spiritedness and the reckless attack mode of his supposedly idealistic campaign, the WikiLeaks factor, the sexism that pervaded everything, and Russian meddling.

As Greg Sargent says, in a column making the same point about it being necessary for her to take a hard look at those factors, a lot depends on what comes after that look and “whether she feints toward blaming her own failings while dodging accountability for herself via an overemphasis on other causes.”

Sargent hasn’t read the book yet, and, of course, neither have I. But based on Living History, I trust her to be honest in her self-criticisms as in her criticisms those she thinks hurt her campaign, although naturally she might be angrier at them than at herself. In Living History, she showed a talent for characterization and the telling anecdote, but more germane to the moment, she also showed a she’s had a life-long habit of self-examination leading to self-correction. It’s a tenet of her religious faith, which by the way she’s been criticized for not making more of in the campaign. She’s a Methodist but there’s a streak of Puritanism in her personal theology. She can be hard in her judgment of others, but she’s also hard on herself.

She ran without their permission. She ran even though they explicitly warned her what they were going to do if she ran anyway. The Clinton Rules would be rigidly and ruthlessly enforced.

You know why they want her to go away, don't you? Because every time she appears in public people say, “Why isn't this woman president?”

And then they look at them.


Yep. I know Bernie wrote a book. Good for him. It’s not about the last campaign though. It’s about the next one. As it should be. He’s still on the field. He’s got an agenda and the base and the stage he needs to advance it. But if he wants to write another book, this one about the campaign, then he has my permission to write whatever he wants. It’ll be his book. He can grovel in penance the way Hillary’s supposed to or he can go on and on about how she done him dirty. And if there’s a publisher willing to publish it and multitudes line up to buy it and it becomes a best seller, good for him again.

Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In by Bernie Sanders is available in hardcover and for kindle at Amazon.


What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton is available in hardcover and for kindle, also from Amazon.


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