I was eager to read Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.  There was a lot of buzz about some of the nuggets within it prior to its debut this week.  It is described as a real insider story on Hillary’s defeat in the 2016 Election.  Unfortunately, the teasers for the book that have been appearing in the media were the equivalent of a comedy movie that puts all of the best jokes in the trailer.  You’ve already seen the best reveals if you’ve read any of the articles about it.

I didn’t see many revelations that hadn’t already been known, rumored, or guessed already.  I’ll say up front that if you were expecting a book that would portray Hillary in a bad or embarrassing light, you’ll be disappointed (or not, depending on your views).  In fact, I got the impression that the authors were more sympathetic to her than not, though I stop short of saying that they were obviously biased toward her.

I’m not going to lie.  What I was mostly looking forward to was a vivid description of her rumored Election Night meltdown.  There isn’t one.  In this telling, she was dignified and dutiful to the last.  I don’t personally believe it.  The book mentioned early on about how terrified her staff was at various times of giving her negative feedback or bad news, but we’re supposed to accept that she accepted both Comey re-opening the email investigation 10 days before the election and her surprise defeat with stoic pride.  None of that legendary temper of hers peeped up at the worst of times?  Obama had to call on Election Night to talk her off the ledge but she was perfectly fine?  Okay, whatever, I don’t care.

Much of the book is a slog to read through.  It’s pretty boring.  There were details on strategy, staffing re-assignments, and speech-writing which some political nerds might find enthralling, I suppose. For most readers, I think they’d find it to be mind-numbingly dull.

That said, there were a few things that I found to be interesting.

For one, Hillary did an exceptional job controlling leaks despite an enormous amount of turmoil among the campaign staff.  She did this by relying primarily on people she trusted, compartmentalizing information, and reassigning staffers who screwed up to benign and powerless positions rather than firing them so they wouldn’t blab to the press.

Unfortunately, her control issues caused no small amount of trouble within the campaign.  Particularly with regard to her over-reliance on Huma Abedin (who was a time bomb for the campaign because of her scumbag husband).  The authors could have possibly made the story about how the campaign was doomed because of Hillary’s secretive nature and preference for interacting with an exclusive circle of sycophants who had their own issues, but they didn’t.

Oh, and the authors clarified, in my mind, that Bernie Sanders was committed to winning all the way til the end.  I never thought so, honestly.  It was always my opinion that he was just trying to push Hillary and the party platform as far Left as possible.  I appreciated that the authors explained how Bernie exploited the same white working class grievances that Trump did (more successfully) but couldn’t win because of the Hillary campaign’s control of the party apparatus and superior understanding of the delegate system.  They certainly did a great job of explaining why Bernie’s campaign was doomed, at least.

The inside account of how the campaign lost Michigan during the primary was also intriguing.  There were indeed flaws with the analytical models but is that what doomed her?  The authors might have said that the campaign was doomed because Hillary’s arrogance led her to ignore the results of the primary in Michigan and Wisconsin and that her critical losses in those states during the general election were because of this, but no.

They never seem to want to pin the blame on some flaw in Hillary’s character.  That would have made a compelling story.  It could have been written as a tragedy instead of a dry chronological recitation of somebody’s notes from off-the-record conversations.  It sucks because there’s definitely a dramatic and gripping story to be told.

I have some assorted nitpicks too.

First, the authors repeatedly refer to Robby Mook as a “Millennial”.  He isn’t.  He’s a Nintendo Wave Gen-Xer (b. 1979).  His primary characteristics are independence and pragmatism, as described in the book, and they aren’t Millennial ones.

Next, the authors repeatedly use the “he was thinking this” narrative device far too often and it’s usually cringe-worthy.  They defend it at the end of the book, claiming that they were channeling the supposed thoughts that people had based on statements they made and other attitudes that they seemed to express at other times.  But it comes across as absurd.  Here’s an example:

But comparisons with Bernie irritated Obama no end (sic), and he could be heard grumbling about them in the West Wing.  No serious person would really compare me to Bernie, Obama thought–and hoped.

See what I mean?  Much of the dialogue is equally unconvincing and doesn’t even come across as the way real people speak.

Another nitpick is that they claim Hillary won all three debates.  I disagree with that.  Hillary cleanly won the first and might have edged Trump out in the third.

But Trump won the second debate with his “You’d be in jail” bombshell.  It was not only the most memorable line from all three debates, but the applause it garnered foreshadowed how damaging the email scandal ultimately was to Hillary.  It’s not even mentioned in the book.

The authors cited data elsewhere that showed that Comey re-opening the investigation pretty much sunk Hillary in Ohio and there are several other points at which they emphasize how decisive the scandal was from the primary to Election Day.  Really: was the fact Hillary used a private email server the reason she was doomed from the get-go?  If so, why not illustrate how well Trump exploited it in a debate before Comey re-opened the investigation?  Hell, the authors could have gone back to the Hillary’s secret nature thing and showed how it led to setting up the private server and ultimately brought her down.

Last one: the tone is uneven.  90% of it is even-keeled prose, but there are a few occasions in which the authors turn into Tumblr bloggers for no apparent reason and start throwing in color commentary that clashes with the tone of the rest of the book.  Here is one of the out of place excerpts:

She was ripshit over the confluence of calamities in Michigan.  Her senior aides and advisers all got reamed–she even made an example of Sullivan–the day after the Michigan primary

Another:

She was also pissed that the media narrative out of that primary night was about the Michigan loss and all but ignored the fact that she’d beaten the living hell out of Sanders in Mississippi.

Those are both on the same page.  Then it goes back to the normal for a few pages before it pops up again.  It’s almost as if the authors were using raw quotes and not identifying them as quotes.  The book really isn’t terribly well put together.  It’s likely that there were a few areas in which one of the authors just sent a passage about an incident described in his or her notes to the other one and it was just thrown in without any revision.

Where Shattered fails is that it doesn’t explain why Hillary’s campaign was “doomed” at all.

The authors discuss the email scandal early on and how the campaign initially laughed it off because they thought it was clear that Hillary had done nothing illegal, but gradually became horrified at how long it dragged on without her being either up front or apologetic about it until a few months later.

They missed the opportunity to make the case why the campaign was doomed and develop a great morality play out of it.  They do cite staffers who alternately blame Comey, Russia, misogyny, bad analytical models, lack of resources, and numerous other causes for the loss but they never put it all together.  Worse, They don’t seem to even want to entertain the possibility that Hillary herself was the problem.  She had enormous advantages going in and managed to blow it somehow.

Everything should have gone her way.  She had the better organization, a strong resume, more donations, a friendly relationship with the media (which may be an understatement from what Wikileaks taught us), a somewhat popular president campaigning for her, previous experience running for president, a competent campaign team, and on and on and on.  Why did she lose?

They danced around that conclusion at times by noting how the email scandal affected the perception of her and plunged her “trustworthiness” in polls, but never tie it all together in any sort of meaningful conclusion about her.

I’ll tell you why this book was doomed:  I don’t think this is the book the authors intended or even wanted to write when they started it.  The authors declared in the prologue that they had thought when they started interviewing people involved with the campaign that they expected to be documenting the ascension of the first woman president.  Instead, they had to tell the story about how the candidate they admired lost, somehow without blaming her for it.

By making better use of their impressive research and testimonies and weaving it into a relatable story, they could have made this work.  Instead, they rushed this out, seemingly for no other reason than to keep the material from going to waste.  I’m sorry to say that it has.

In conclusion, I recommend that you avoid this book.  It doesn’t provide anything new nor is it a particularly good story.  Further, it is poorly written and badly cobbled together.  It’s a shame they didn’t spend a few more more months on it.

Yeah, I was disappointed.  Don’t spend money on this one, guys.

7 comments

  1. It still boggles my mind just how much of a horrible candidate choice she was to lose to trump. I was listening to sports radio yesterday and the story was about how there were 35 patriots that went to the White House yesterday compared to 50 or more in 2004 with bush in office, and when obama was in office.

    I expected to hear the usual stuff like trump hates minorities, but one player’s answer kind of made me pause because it made me aware of just how desensitized about what a truly disgusting human being Donald trump is: the player said he wasn’t going because he didn’t want his daughter to see him shaking hands with a womanizer, cheater, serial abuser of women after all he’s said and been reported to say about women. Imagine that? I’d expect to hear he hates other races, which I half believe butfull expect. This was new though.

    Hillary, for how innocuous her email story was, could not contain the message of the email scandal, nor could she beat trump after the retarded reporter flub, his taxes, his personal life with women, his philandering, and lastly the bombshell of flubs with the Billy bush pussy grabbing scandal.

    Even though I’d still reluctantly rather have Hillary than trump even now, it still bugs the shit out of me reading the Wikileaks and seeing the Hillary staff playing grab ass, taking personal narrative coaching from corporate elites from google, and ultimately deciding amongst themselves which candidate the democrat party would grace us all with. This time they decided it was time for a woman president after a black president.

    I’m really disappointed with the Democratic Party because I fully expect to see some kind of ridiculous candidate gain traction on a republican ticket. American conservativism is so diluted and obtuse anyone can run on the ticket and call their platform “republican.” Hell, the book rightly said bernie’s campaign and trump’s campaign differed very little. What I expect from the democrats is at least some moderate, if not milquetoast candidate I can vote for when I’m done with the Gas face on the republican ticket. Hillary walked into this campaign with a trail of scandal following her like a bad fart, and she was just smug about ignoring it like none of it was going to matter in the end.

    Democrats will rule the roost in very short order, but they shouldn’t act like it’s a given.

  2. I’s the entitlement, stupid!

    It’s the same thing that allowed a guy like Trump to win the nomination, and the election. Now Democrats are running protest candidates in red states instead of focusing on their opponents in those races. My advice: Save running against Trump for 2020.

  3. Those players crack me up. I wonder how many players in the NFL do the same shit but even worse to the ladies? Also, I wonder if said player ever listen to music that glorifies the exploitation of women.

    I didn’t like Obama nor Clinton. Hell, I don’t like Trump. But, I’d still go shake their hand due to them being the POTUS. All the crying about his “character” is just a chance to whine. It’s BS. Believe, if it was Bill Clinton he’d be shaking hands until his should fell off, and I don’t think Trump has anything on ol’ Slick Wille when it comes to taking advantage of women.

  4. I mean, I guess that’s a pretty good point. Pot meet kettle when an NFL player discusses the immorality of debauchery for the most part. However, I’d like to go back and get the specific player’s name because I don’t think he was really like that. He seemed to be a stand up guy, but agreed it’s like if he had that standard across the board he’d need to be separated from at least half his teammates. In addition, it’s pretty cringe-worthy to hear a moral lesson from the deflate gate and Hernandez team. The pats and trump are like peanut butter and jelly on the moral spectrum.

  5. You speak the truth Judge. I guess for me it’s convenient for anyone, in this particular time, to hammer Trump (and he gives them ample ammo), but if they really applied this standard we’d all have the flu a lot less as there’d be very little hand shaking going on. But, hey, it gives them street cred of some type I suppose.

    As far as the main focus of this post, Hillary lost because she is Hillary. It took an absolute epically bad candidate to lose to Trump. And they found her. They cheated for her. And they paid for it. She’s had flaws from day one – the rumors of poor staff treatment, the mercurial temper – the typical Clinton sleaziness. And they thought that against Trump that none of that would matter. Maybe if she had a stronger field beyond a socialist to run against there would have been better choices before the main event. But, as you said, they checked the box on a black president and now the ladies should have their turn.

    In California I had many people tell me that America just wasn’t ready for a female president. That’s literally what they took away from all of this. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The Dems chose a truly unelectable female and hoped the Republicans just had a worse candidate. That’s a hell of a plan.

  6. Hillary is quite possibly the wiliest candidate, make or female that could’ve entered the race. It was like the twighlight zone trying to lean moderate to pick up left leaning democrats when she should’ve known they still had a bad taste in their mouth over Clinton. You couple that with her stabbing Bernie in the back AND telling Biden to stand down, then relying on CNN pollsters that probably never ventured out of coastal cities for polls to tell her what she wanted to hear. A whole lot of money went down the toilet for her and the democrats to display such hubris.

    At the core of it all though I think she lost because the mainstream of both parties are so polluted by special interests they can’t both pander to them AND have an agenda that reflects what the people want. If you think about it trump’s campaign wasn’t anything special he just had a few people to rightly advise him to actually reflect the concerns people willingly brought to the table for free. Now that he’s in, the bets have been called and the river’s flopped he will probably never fullfill any of these promises (like any politician) but it shows the American people aren’t that hard to figure out. Just acknowledge them, which is something hillary’s camp just never thought was necessary.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: