Book Review: Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign
With the news turning again to Hillary Clinton's emails, and the role now-former FBI director James Comey played in the 2016 election, it's valuable to wade past the partisan hysteria and get back to basics. There is no better resource for such an expedition than the engaging new book titled Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign.
This is the kind of book political junkies crave: inside perspective on the mechanics of a presidential campaign, sourced and reported from people who were participants in the events, and witness to the strategies, tactics, egos, and failings of all those involved.
Reporters Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes take us through the entire, uncomfortable Clinton saga, from its early days, when Bernie Sanders was given barely a thought, to its final moments, when Hillary had to make her congratulatory phone call to Donald Trump.
To be inside the Clinton campaign was to be on a funhouse ride to perdition. As the authors note:
Hillary's campaign was so spirit-crushing that her aides eventually shorthanded the feeling of impending doom with a simple mantra: we're not allowed to have nice things.
The "nice things" were constantly being trashed, either by Hillary herself, or Bill, or any of a number of campaign advisors, aides, and staffers who competed with each other for time, attention, and influence with the candidate. Their aim was to win the White House, but all of them saw Clinton as a golden ticket to jobs in her administration, or lucrative careers as campaign gurus. And despite the blunders, failings, and missteps, they thought, right to the end, it would all work out. The end came as a shock not just to Clinton, but to the authors as well:
So it wasn't until the election results came in that all of our reporting finally made sense -- that the foreboding signs along the way had been pointing in the right direction even when they were at odds with the available data.
Even as they documented the campaign's internal struggles, the authors could not believe what they were seeing. The campaign was rife with infighting and distrust. Despite her incredible advantages in name recognition, money, and talent, Clinton still had no idea why she wanted to be president. There was no message, no slogan or bumper sticker, that could overcome the candidate herself.
We are told that Clinton is intensely private, which made her seem wooden on the campaign trail. Those closest to her, who saw her away from the cameras and reporters, spoke of her warmth and humor.
But none of that translated into the campaign.
Not that it would have made much difference. And as a practical matter, the campaign didn't really care. To the pros working on the campaign, all they thought they needed to do was follow the data. The numbers would tell them where to spend money, where she should make appearances, and what she should say to the crowds.
It was that faith in data that ultimately kept Clinton out of key states like Wisconsin, that eventually gave their votes not to her, as they had to previous Democratic nominees, but to Trump.
How could it all go so wrong, when the public presence of the campaign seemed so competent and confident?
In the end, it was the candidate herself. Not all the data, nor all of the messaging, could convince white, working class voters in the Rust Belt that Hillary Clinton would lift a finger to help them. She took them for granted, even though, during the Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders had scored surprising wins in places like Michigan that signaled her growing problems.
To this day, Clinton blames a litany of factors -- Russia, the emails, James Comey, and more -- for her loss. And while she says takes responsibility for the defeat, she still does not grasp the hard truth that people rejected her.
Shattered gives us the look behind the curtain. We see the turmoil. We hear the anger. We witness the fumbling, bumbling, and arrogance that was the Clinton campaign. We also see the entitlement -- the overwhelming sense that the Clinton Machine saw the presidency as its right, rather than the people's gift.
Shattered is strong medicine for the left. And it is a cautionary tale for conservatives. Mr. Trump's victory was as much a personal repudiation of Hillary Clinton as it was a victory for the GOP. Republicans were incredibly fortunate to have Hillary running in 2016. They won't have that same luxury in 2020.