[guest post by JVW]
Last week (or was it two weeks ago?) I blogged on excerpts from the newly-published book about the Hillary Clinton campaign fiasco, Shattered by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. Now some of you failed to share my enthusiasm for this amazing read, a wounding barb that I tried not to take too personally. As of this writing I am 140 pages into this surprisingly long 400-page book (I’m reading about two chapters per evening, but I didn’t get any reading done on Friday or Saturday nights), but some of the nuggets contained within are just so good that I have to share them now, anticipating that it will take me probably through this coming weekend to finish the book.
As for general observations, my suspicions about the authors are mostly true. They appear for all purposes to be progressive Democrats who came into this project with a genuine admiration for Her Clintonic Majesty, the Once, Current, and Future Inevitable Next President of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton, firstname.lastname@example.org — jeeze, where was I? oh yeah — having covered her previously and written the book HRC on her political “rebirth” while serving as Secretary of State. They also thus far don’t make much of an attempt to hide their disdain for the current White House occupant. That said, the first third of the book makes it clear that Allen and Parnes came to question many of the assumptions they previously had made about Hillary’s competence, likability, and honesty.
Like any “behind the scenes” look, much of the juicy material in Shattered is based upon off-the-record conversations, though some key characters do go on the record to air grievances and settle scores. One general assumption that can be made about these books are that the characters who are most cooperative with the authors — and by cooperative I mean willing to really dish the dirt — are the ones who come in for the most gentle treatment. So with that in mind, here are some fun tidbits as told by Allen and Parnes:
1) A former Howard Dean follower who worked on Clinton’s 2008 campaign, Robby Mook became Hillary’s campaign manager for 2016. He comes across, at least in the first 140 pages, as the most disliked character of all. In the campaign’s first moments, Mook immediately gets into a territorial war with Hillary’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri, who was part of the Clinton inner-circle through her connection with John Podesta. Mook was also apparently distrusted by Bill Clinton, who chafed at Mook’s heavy reliance upon data when the Big Sleaze wanted more gut-level decision making. The Clinton insiders also criticized Mook for being parsimonious with funds, which is an astonishing thing to hear regarding a progressive. Clearly the John Podesta crowd ganged up on Mook when talking to the authors.
2) Virtually everyone in the Clinton Crime Family, from Palmieri to Podesta to Neera Tanden (who succeeded Podesta as president of the Center for American Progress) to unnamed major campaign donors to Bill Clinton himself, pretty much begged Hillary to come clean about her use of a private email server and to give a forthright and sincere apology for having used it. It was Hillary’s own arrogance and persecution complex that compelled her to hold out for months before finally issuing her rather dismissive apology which managed to be both incomplete and insincere at the same time. By the time the apology had come, the Hillary crew had been lying about the particulars of the imbroglio for months, and the impressive approval ratings she enjoyed when she left the State Department were irrevocably gone. Diehard Clinton loyalists still believe that an early sincere apology would have put the issue to rest immediately.
3) Joe Biden comes off looking dignified and classy in this telling. Allen and Parnes portray him as really not having the desire needed to run for President, but they relate the oft-told story of how Biden’s late son Beau implored his father from his deathbed to make one last attempt. In one of the most interesting anecdotes, the authors discuss a meeting of Biden’s very small campaign staff (Hillary had already locked up most of the establishment Democrat campaign operatives) in which a promotional video produced by Biden allies was screened. The film centered around the other great tragedy in the Vice-President’s life, the 1972 car crash that took the life of his first wife and his daughter, and used it as a backdrop to tout Biden’s resiliency and his dedication to public service (cough, cough). A number of Biden’s political allies from his generation — Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry to name but a few — would have loved the ad; Biden was appropriately horrified by it, and made it clear that this sort of melodrama would not be placed front and center of his potential campaign. Three cheers to him.
4) Unsurprisingly, the popularity of Bernard Sanders flummoxed the Clinton folks, especially the First Lady/Senator/Secretary. She had wanted to position her candidacy as a continuation of the Obama agenda, but with a very subtle promise that she would be even more progressive than he had turned out to be. Sanders blew up those plans with his “democratic socialism for all” schtick. Hillary quickly realized that no matter what she promised — free college, an increased minimum wage, the public execution of bankers — Sanders would simply promise even more. According to the authors, Hillary came to hold a great deal of disdain for her rival, believing that he was was a big-time grandstander who had absolutely no chance of implementing his bold agenda in a closely-divided Congress. I look forward to reading more about the two of them as the primary season drags on.
5) The cloyingly earnest progressive Martin O’Malley is such a nonentity that he rates only five mentions in the book’s index pages (in a 400-page book). The mismatched Jim Webb and the hapless Lincoln Chaffee rate only one, both on the same page. By contrast, Jimmy Buffett is cited twice (I know he’s a lefty, but is there any more unlikely Parrothead than Hillary Rodham Clinton?).
6) And one final observation to leave you with as I go back and read more of the book. I think I like this anecdote best of all. It’s so good, in fact, that I’ll let Allen and Parnes relay it in their own words (bolded emphasis added by me):
Because Hillary’s opponent was targeting the party’s progressive base, Bill had to suppress his instinct to hit back to avoid sparking a pro-Bernie backlash among ultra-sensitive modern Democrats. It was frustrating.
He was also learning that the laws of political thermodynamics had changed since he’d last campaigned for Hillary. Maybe it was an anomalous year, or maybe he just hadn’t kept up with the times, but Bill has surprised to hear how little voters wanted to hear a politicians’s response to attack lines. In the old days, he’d get a chance to make his case. He understood that millennials blamed his 1994 crime bill for the mass incarceration that Hillary said she would put an end to, but he struggled to accept younger voters’ reluctance to learn about the history of the law. . . .
We feel your pain, Bubba. We feel your pain.
Part II of this review will come down the road.
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)