Thursday, October 25, 2018

Book 152: Shattered

"It was hard enough to run against Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, the Republican National Committee, the FBI, the House Benghazi Committee, and the national media—plus slippery-lipped Joe Biden on any given day—without her own team screwing things up. The one person with whom she didn't seem particularly upset: herself. No one who drew a salary from the campaign would tell her that. It was a self-signed death warrant to raise a question about Hilary's competence—to her or anyone else—in loyalty-obsessed Clintonworld."

Dates read: June 14-18, 2017

Rating: 7/10

On November 8, 2016, my husband and I had plans to go to an election party with a colleague of ours. He had actually left work a little early to go help set up, and I was supposed to join him after I got out of the office. Being on the West Coast, polls start to close on the other side of the country at 4 PM our time, and so by the time I got home and took the dog for a walk and made myself a little dinner, results were starting to come in. I watched, stunned, as things started to tip away from what had seemed a certain Clinton victory. Our pug is not the cuddliest little guy (he's almost kind of like a cat in that he likes to be near us but not right on top of us), but he got pulled into emergency snuggle duty that night. After he pleaded with me to come out at least for a bit, I dropped by the party, but we didn't linger. Sometime around 11 we just turned it off. We had to go to work the next day, after all.

And so the world went on, and the thinkpieces about how it had happened, how what seemed like a sure shot had gone south, commenced. Journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes had spent several months in close contact with the campaign, intending to write a book about how we got our first female president of the United States. Instead, they wrote Shattered, about what went wrong. There isn't a single, easy answer. There were a lot of things, none of which alone would likely have doomed her, but they didn't happen alone: Hilary's own decision-making pre-campaign regarding paid speeches, leaving her vulnerable to the primary challenge from the left she got from Senator Bernie Sanders, the decision to employ Robby Mook as campaign manager and tilt towards his preferred analytics instead of traditional tools like polls and persuasive field efforts, the bloated bureaucracy of Clintonland and infighting among the inner circle, the server, the emails, James Comey, Anthony Weiner, all of it and more happened in overlapping waves. And so, much like that other unsinkable ship, the S.S. Clinton went under.

Allen and Parnes were able to get deep access because they spoke to most of their sources as background, which means lot of the information isn't tied to a particular person. Since you know you won't be identified, you feel comfortable speaking more freely without fear of recrimination for divulging sensitive details. And the details Allen and Parnes got tell quite the story: what seemed like an unstoppable behemoth from the outside was very messy from the inside. Although no one forgot their main enemy was outside, the warring power centers within found plenty of time and energy to skirmish among themselves. Healthy competition between allies can be productive, but this variety was decidedly not. The Clintons themselves were not a part of the solution...from the perspective in the book, they seem largely at a remove from the campaign and disinclined to help clear lines of authority be drawn. Hillary's unwillingness to force Huma Abedin to take a step back from her established role as gatekeeper and be in more direct contact with her own campaign, her refusal to either place all her faith in either the data-driven Mook or old-school politico John Podesta, created a situation in which no one was really at the helm to navigate through very tricky waters indeed.

This book was an especially interesting read for me personally because I know people who worked at a relatively high level on the campaign (at least one of whom is called out by name). While the book focuses strongly on upper-level turmoil, they largely had positive individual experiences. Which helped me keep some of the "doom and gloom" tone that the book seemed to set around the campaign in perspective. Campaigns are messy and stressful and hard. And the way this one was run didn't help ameliorate that. At the end of the day, this book left me wishing that it could have turned out better, because the candidate would have served the office well. I'd recommend this book highly, I thought it was interesting and informative.

One year ago, I was reading: The Book Thief 

Two years ago, I was reading: The Executioner's Song

Three years ago, I was reading: The Nazi Officer's Wife

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