Title: What Happened
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Place: United States
Publisher: Simon and Shuster
Pages: 512Price: £8.99 (Hardback-Amazon)
I have to admit, that when I went to purchase this book, I hesitated somewhat. Why was I doing this? I had ordered several books recently, and still had more than half of those to read. All were about politics, so it wasn’t like I was ordering something completely different. I’m not a Democrat; I’m not ‘With Her.’ So why did I want to buy this?
Then I thought, well, it’s a new perspective. Regardless of her politics, she’s definitely an interesting person with an interesting life and career filled with historical events. I’ve read biographies and autobiographies of people I disagree with before- David Cameron and George W. Bush, neither of who I was a political fan of, so why not? Ok, so I was putting money in her pocket but it’s not like me not buying it would make any difference. It’s still Number 1 in the book charts as I write this. So I thought, what the heck, and a couple of days later, the Amazon guy came and delivered it.
Do I regret buying it? Yes, and you will see why.
It’s hard to fault in the way that it is somewhat interesting. It covers everything from Clinton deciding to run to her life after it. We see the campaign trail through the eyes of the person who was almost guaranteed to win the nomination, a woman who is one of the biggest parts of contemporary American politics. From First Lady of Arkansas to Democratic Nominee, she’s lived a life. We discover what makes Hillary Rodham Clinton tick, why she thinks that taxes should be higher on the rich, why she is so proactive on women’s rights, why she wants a fairer immigration system etc etc. In the UK, there was coverage of the campaign trail, but not in the way CBS or the other channels would have done it. We get to see a first-hand account of a historical election.
Of course it’s interesting in that way. Out of political and historical interest, I was quite intrigued about certain decisions and certain meetings. Why did she not travel to the Midwestern states, causing her to lose an election? How does she operate when she’s in a crowd, all of whom are screaming to get a selfie? Those questions are answered.
So why do I regret reading it?
I dislike this woman immensely, and this book has made me dislike her, her policies, and a lot of what she stands for, even more.
I was never on the Clinton bandwagon, ever. Some fellow Conservatives on the Twittersphere, particularly those who are more to the centre, praise her. Twitter bios proclaim ‘I’m With Her’ or ‘I’m Still With Her’ for the diehard fans. Me? I’ve never been a fan.
I wouldn’t have voted for her. That doesn’t mean I would have voted for Trump- he’s protectionist, I don’t think he’s the conservative I’m looking for, and quite honestly, he scares me a bit. I wouldn’t have not voted (I believe strongly in the ballot and would never not vote), so I would have probably gone Libertarian. Basically, the Democrats are left wing (I’m moderate right), protectionist (I believe strongly in free trade), and believe in large government (I want a smaller state). I only agree with them in the sense I am somewhat socially liberal, but even then I’m not hugely so. Why would I vote for them? Honestly, even if Clinton were a Republican, I still wouldn’t have voted for her, before or after reading this book.
These are the points that made me dislike the book:
- As a person- I don’t like her as a person. I never have. I think she’s fake, and cold, and didn’t want to be President to change things- she just wanted to be President. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve never met Hillary Clinton, I’m not a personal friend- she could be sweet as pie. I doubt that, however. She thinks highly of herself, and that shows from the first page. When talking about Trump’s victory, she questions as to why the American people were so wrong. Ok, she doesn’t like Trump, but it comes off as her questioning why they didn’t pick her. In some places, she is incredibly rude. She flings off her victories (first female partner at Rose Law Firm, powerful Secretary of State etc), expecting the reader to think ‘gee, how cool.’ Well, she does the opposite, because I thought she came off as self-important. When I read George W. Bush’s Decision Points, I found myself thinking him as a modest and kind man, even if I think the Iraq War as a disgraceful and awful decision. Clinton? Not so much.
- The Gender Thing- Clinton pushes the woman card so hard it made me, someone who is proud of my gender and steps towards equality, feel sick. Yes, I admire her somewhat because I do actually believe she cares about gender. She expressed pride in seeing young girls excited to see her, and I do think that’s alright, because girls need role models in politics, in science and other important careers. Generally however, she seems to really push her gender. She didn’t lose because she was a woman- she lost because she is an awful candidate. Other women in US politics have got far- Condoleezza Rice, Janet Reno and Elaine Chao all spring to mind- without constantly being like ‘hey, I’m a woman, hear me roar.’
- Obama- Clinton herself acknowledged Trump did well by exciting voters, and that was definitely her problem, except she didn’t admit it. Clinton praises Obama a lot- not surprising, she was his Secretary of State and they are good friends, and the worry that voters had was that she would continue his policy. It’s not surprising really- Obamacare, taxes- it would just be a third Obama term. Plus, I’m not a fan of Obama, especially considering his Brexit intervention.
- Invoking Eleanor Roosevelt- Ok, I admit, Clinton nearly got me here. She loves Eleanor Roosevelt. I LOVE Eleanor Roosevelt. I think she is one of the greatest historical figures, and is a pride of America. My admiration for that woman knows no bounds, and it breaks my heart she never got to see what she achieved. Clinton often visits Val Kil, Eleanor’s home in NY- somewhere I would love to go. She also absolutely adores the Ken Burns documentary ‘The Roosevelts’- my favourite documentary, as I am also a Teddy Roosevelt fan. Clinton, however, at one point compares the two women- ‘sound familiar?’ she asks after a passage about Eleanor. Ok, so you’re both progressive First Ladies married to popular Democratic presidents. Other than that, Clinton is no Eleanor. To quote Lloyd Bentsen in a 1988 VP debate- ‘you, madam, are not Eleanor Roosevelt.’ This part may not upset others as much as it did me, but anyone who knows me knows my love for Eleanor Roosevelt.
- The Apology- It’s rare I get very angry at a book, but this passage angered me. In the passage, Clinton describes an older woman dragging over her adult daughter, making her apologise to Clinton for not voting. The former Secretary of State describes her internal monologue, at which she gets angry at the girl for shirking her responsibility. Of course, I disagree with the poor lady for not voting, but that is up to her and I don’t blame her. Clinton continues, thinking that the woman should not be asking for her forgiveness, for Clinton to ease her mind, because she did not vote at an important time. Clinton finishes that she obviously did not say that, but it was a horrid read. Firstly, the mother should be ashamed at being so childish and treating her daughter like a girl of ten. Secondly, Clinton should not have thought so horribly about a person choosing to make a political statement. The world does not revolve around you, Clinton- I’m on the woman’s side here.
- Brexit- Clinton makes only a few references here and there to the momentous 2016 decision, and whilst she doesn’t bash it, we know she’s not a fan. She criticises Trump for insulting the EU (fair play to him, it’s a terrible institution) and makes comments about Leave. eu. Most notably, she comments that Brexit seemed to come to the UK in the form of Donald Trump’s victories. It’s insulting in tone. Why should she be so condescending? Of course, people make jokes about the Americans voting for Trump, but most didn’t get involved hugely in Transatlantic politics. It was their choice, as Brexit was ours. Clinton was making a statement- it was a decision for the poor, the working-class and the disenchanted to vote against the establishment and their status quo. She, the queen of the status quo, clearly didn’t like that.
- Russia- I’m not going to pretend like Russia didn’t have an interest in this election, and maybe something happened, but Clinton, it wasn’t their fault you lost. Clinton tells us that Putin doesn’t like her, and how Trump is a Kremlin puppet. She talks about Russia a lot in this book, and quite honestly, I really don’t want to go into huge detail. You lost because you’re not a great candidate. End of story.
- Change Matters- Clinton notes that the Americans wanted change, and for all his faults, Trump gave it to them. As discussed above, Clinton is both a continuation of the Obama campaign and a part of the Democratic (and political) elite. She says that she would have changed things, made things better, but reading her policies- you don’t quite believe her.
- Me, Me, Me- See above, she comes off as quite full of herself.
- Nasty about Trump Supporters- Every political party has a small group of voters who are horrible. Hillary had them. The Conservatives do. Labour do. Every party has a group voting for them for the wrong reasons, that’s just humanity. Clinton herself says that most Trump supporters are decent people who are worried about certain things, like immigration and losing their jobs. She still, however, defends the infamous ‘basket of deplorables’ comment. Yes, some Trump supporters are not the nicest, but they aren’t the majority. People didn’t want Clinton, but they were willing to give Trump a chance, and I imagine some didn’t take the decision lightly. You attack your opponent, but I think attacking supporters- unless they have done something awful- is disgraceful, and I think she tarred many with the wrong brush.
- Those Damn E-Mails- She has a chapter devoted to this. Seriously, and that’s the name of it. Clinton justifies this, saying she needs to explain it. What’s there to explain? She made a stupid mistake, and the voters used this as a reason to question her judgement. That’s fair enough; it was a fairly foolish error. Are the Republicans overly obsessed with it? I have to agree with her here (mark it down, you won’t see this a lot here), they are. Is she? Yes, I think she cares more about it than the public do. She has a chapter on it, and that means she cares more than she should.
- Trying to be hip- Oh, I met with Lady Gaga today. Oh, Bruce Springsteen sang at an event with the Obamas. Oh, Jon Bon Jovi joined us at a really great rally. Sigh. We know Hollywood loves you- has anyone seen the Emmys and the Academy Awards- and it’s not really a huge thing. Hollywood is a liberal place, and I can’t really name many conservative/Republicans in there, at least ones who are openly so. Broadway stars such as Audra McDonald and Idina Menzel sung the classic ‘What the World Needs Now’ at an event (I have to admit it sounded pretty). Hundreds of our favourite stars tweeted daily, insulting Trump and urging their followers to vote Clinton. At the event, a group of stars- from Sia to Hunger Games star Elizabeth Banks (she produced the whole thing I believe), along with regular people, sung a version of ‘Fight Song.’ It was cringe worthy beyond belief. Clinton tries to be hip by name dropping singers (she makes a philosophical joke about Kelly Clarkson- yes, that’s possible), talking about SNL, and all the TV she caught up on (she loves Madam Secretary, so I’ll give her a pass because it’s a fantastic programme). Stop it, you’re not hip. It’s like the trainee maths teacher, trying not to be ripped apart by 25 teenagers- just embarrassing.
- Meeting with College Republicans- Towards the end stretch, Clinton tells us about her return to her alma mater, Wellesley College, an exclusive all-women’s college in Massachusetts. It’s a place full of famous women who have shaped the world- Madeleine Albright and Diane Sawyer are alumni of the college. In this chapter, she tells us of her meeting with Lauren, head of the campus Republicans (of which Hillary Clinton was a member). Lauren states it’s not easy being a conservative in that kind of place, but says that her college friends are- rightly- accepting of her beliefs, even if they disagree with her. Lauren did not agree with Trump, so the Wellesley Republicans did not formally endorse him. Clinton agrees that Lauren is right to question this, before stating that it’s the perfect time to quit the Republican Party. Actually, Clinton, you’re wrong. Ok, so Trump isn’t really a Republican in many senses, and most of the party distrust him. You must, however, work from within if you wish to push forward a candidate or an idea. That’s what many in the Democrats did as they encouraged Bernie. In the Conservative party, we have different people pushing for new leaders- look at Moggmentum. Momentum is an example of a successful brand in terms of Labour policy. Instead of quitting and jumping ship to the Democrats (which is Clinton’s aim), the Republicans have a right to be in their party, even if they disagree with current circumstances.
I feel I may be criticised for making this about her, and maybe I should have focused on her policies, but this is a review of the book, not her politics, however stupid that may sound.
Do I recommend this book? Yes and no. Clinton fans will love it. Non-Clinton fans may appreciate it as a piece of political non-fiction.
Should you buy it? I’d wait til it’s cheaper, or maybe get it in a charity shop (it’s a win win, charity shops are great). If a friend has it, perhaps they’ll lend you it. If any of my friends want to borrow it, they are more than welcome.
Will it change your opinion of Hillary Clinton? Maybe it, will, maybe it won’t. Yes, this is a review, but reviews are subjective. Read for yourself, perhaps you’ll see.