Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Book Write-Up: Shattered



Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.  Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.  Crown, 2017.  See here to purchase the book.

As the title indicates, this book is about the 2016 Presidential race, primarily from the perspective of Hillary Clinton and those who were involved in her campaign.  In the notes, the authors say that they drew their conclusions about what the people thought “from interviews in which a source said he or she thought something, those in which sources described what someone else said about his or her thinking, or documents that suggest what a person was thinking.”  Although the book focuses on the perspective of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, it occasionally probes other people’s perspectives, such as that of Joe Biden, when he was deliberating about whether or not to throw his hat into the ring.

The book has a few elliptical sentences and there are occasional incidents of salty language in the narrative, but it is still an enjoyable read.  It goes behind the scenes.  You get to read about who likes whom, who dislikes whom, campaign strategy, and people’s reactions to what was occurring, as opposed to the sunny-side-up demeanor that they try to convey to the public.  Some of what the book says is common sense: I would not be surprised if Barack Obama found Elizabeth Warren a bit annoying, considering that she challenged one of Obama’s nominees and opposed Obama on the TPP.  Some of the books details were new to me: I did not know that many in Hillary’s campaign disliked Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, before she became a politically radioactive figure.

There were characters whom I found endearing.  There was the prominent speechwriter for Obama’s successful presidential campaigns, who had a reason to be arrogant yet was humble and deferential when he served on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  There was the person who played Donald Trump in Hillary’s mock debates; not only did he deliver better lines than the real Donald Trump in the debates, but he also had to struggle to prove himself and to be taken seriously.  According to the book, Hillary wanted to fire him many times, but she kept him on because he was blunt to her.  Of course, I liked Bernie, who entered the race because he had problems with Hillary’s campaign and was the last person one would expect to be politically successful.  And, much to my surprise, I liked Bill Clinton in this book.  Bill still comes across as a know-it-all who likes to say “I told you so” (not an exact quotation), but he encouraged Hillary’s campaign to reach out to working class whites and to put Hillary on the ground meeting voters.  Unfortunately, his advice was largely ignored, and this was because he advocated an old style of politics, whereas much of Hillary’s staff preferred a new style, one that relied on technology and political diagnostics.

The book is slightly contradictory on Hillary Clinton’s expectations.  On the one hand, the book seems to suggest that she was expecting to win and was surprised when she did not.  On the other hand, she appeared to have greater insight than that.  She realized that Bernie could pose a potential threat, before he began drawing massive crowds.  She knew that he was hitting a political nerve and wondered how she could speak to those concerns.  The book also portrays her as one who continually expected the other shoe to drop.  She had a realistic perspective, yet, according to the book, her campaign was divided and lacked access to the candidate, she was unable to come up with an appealing message, and she was distrusted and disliked.

While the book does portray Hillary as a flawed candidate, it still appears to be largely sympathetic towards her, in that it depicts her as well-intentioned: as a person who wanted to help others, but bumbled along her political journey.  Maybe there is something to that.  On the other hand, my impression is that she was not always candid about what she truly believed, particularly about free trade, a policy that many working-class whites concluded was economically deleterious to them.
Donald Trump comes across as smarter in this book than I assumed.  My assumption was that he was surprised that he won and somewhat bumbled his way into the Presidency, but, according to this book, he apparently had political awareness about where the country was and how to formulate his political strategy in light of that: he was deliberately targeting the Rust Belt states and was making a conscious attempt to break through the Blue Wall.

Good book!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Blogging for Books.  My review is honest!

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