I’ve suggested that Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, would be more accurately titled Why I Should Have Won. But if you wanted to position it as a sequel to her earlier memoir, Living History, you could title it Rewriting History, because What Happened is a recycling bin full of evasions, misleading statements, and flat-out whoppers.
The biggest lie is the one she has told many times before, on her notorious private email server: “As the FBI had confirmed, none of the emails I sent or received was marked as classified.” She has said this many times before and been called on it many times before. The verdict? “That’s not true,” said then–FBI director James Comey. “False,” said PolitiFact. The Washington Post’s strange fact-checking system initially gave her two Pinocchios, then decided to give her the full four.
On top of the lie, Clinton is being misleading in a familiar Clintonian way, because the law doesn’t distinguish between information that is classified by its nature, despite not being marked as such, and information that is marked classified. “Even if information is not marked ‘classified’ in an email, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it,” Comey said at his July 5, 2016, press conference. This means that Hillary caused classified information to be removed from secure channels more than 100 times. That’s supposed to be a felony if gross negligence is involved, and it certainly appeared to be in her case.
Moreover, Clinton says again that setting up the private email server was a matter of “convenience.” This isn’t exactly a lie; having her emails subjected to Freedom of Information Act scrutiny in the thick of a presidential campaign could indeed have been inconvenient to Clinton’s aspirations. She suggests, without quite saying so (the obvious evasion will fool no one acquainted with the Clintons’ methods), that setting up the private email server enabled her to carry only one device. That’s nonsense. Clinton isn’t a harried soccer mom who has room for only one phone in her jacket pocket. Secretaries of state have staffers to schlep their stuff around for them, and anyway, “she used many devices,” Comey said.
The “convenience” claim, which she has been making for two and a half years, earned a “three Pinocchios” rating from the Washington Post’s fact-check column last year. We all know the real reason Clinton set up the server: She wanted her emails shielded from potential disclosure. She wanted the authority to decide which ones were private, and she wanted the ability to destroy them. This cost her dearly.
Like her husband, Clinton lies about the big things, and she lies about the small things. It’s absolutely shameless for her to claim, after mentioning that Bill Clinton was despondent when he lost the 1980 Arkansas governor’s race and “practically couldn’t get off the floor,” that her own reaction was: “That’s not me. I keep going.” The world knows that when she lost last November, she hid in her hotel all night instead of giving a concession speech to her crying supporters gathered across town at New York City’s Javits Center.
Clinton even dismisses a report by “a newspaper” that she “was having séances in the White House to commune directly with Eleanor [Roosevelt]’s spirit.” She states flatly, “I wasn’t.” But pretty much every newspaper reported this, and the reason they all did so was because it came from the single most revered political reporter alive — Bob Woodward, in his book The Choice. And who did Woodward get it from? The New Age psychologist who conducted the sessions with Hillary. The only way the “séance” story is false is if you insist on a semantic distinction between “having conversations with dead people” and “séances,” or maybe a distinction between “having” séances and simply “participating” in them. It’s not an important matter, but it’s a well-known one, for anyone who remembers the 1990s anyway. Lying is an involuntary reflex for the Clintons, like sneezing.
Clinton makes no mention of her failure to make a single general-election appearance in Wisconsin, which Mike Dukakis and every subsequent Democratic presidential candidate had won.
A chapter that purports to be a nuts-and-bolts explanation for what went wrong in the Rust Belt is misleading by omission. Clinton makes no mention of her failure to make a single general-election appearance in Wisconsin, which Mike Dukakis and every subsequent Democratic presidential candidate had won. She pretends we don’t know the amazing details that appeared in a Politico postmortem on Michigan, a state she lost by three-tenths of 1 percent, or 11,000 votes, and which was to be targeted by a get-out-the-vote operation run by the Service Employees International Union.
“Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU,” wrote Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico. “Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrats’ models projected a 5-point win.” Trump would win Iowa by nine points. She has little to offer about the race in Michigan except the drive-by insult of a suggestion that white Michiganders are so racist that they turned against her for offering support to the mostly black population of Flint during its water crisis.
Clinton also has nothing to say about the hubris of her futile campaigning in Arizona as she dreamed of running up the Electoral College score on Trump. As for her losing Pennsylvania, which no Democrat had managed to do since 1988, Clinton is correct to protest that she spent lots of time and money there. But her cries of racism ring hollow; as Albert Hunt wrote in a Bloomberg column, Clinton probably would have won Pennsylvania if black turnout had even come close to what it was in 2012.
There’s a deeper kind of dishonesty than merely making false claims. Clinton owes it to her supporters to grapple frankly with her character failures in a more reflective way than deploying her oft-repeated gambit of simply saying, “I made a mistake,” followed by an explanation of why the mistake was overhyped, followed by her changing the subject to the New York Times, the Russians, racism, or sexism. Her name came to be closely associated with greed, corruption, and untrustworthiness. Why? She pretends to have no idea. When she defends giving speeches to “bankers,” she doesn’t mention the hated name “Goldman Sachs” or the enormous sum she received from it — $675,000. Retired politicians draw a shrug when they do this sort of thing, but she wasn’t retired. Why, liberals wonder, did she need so much money and why would she accept it from such a distasteful firm, one that would have significant interests before her should she become president? She blithely lists good deeds done by the Clinton Foundation without defending or even mentioning the controversial cases in which she apparently did favors for donors in deals that caused Andrew C. McCarthy to liken her State Department to “a racketeering enterprise.” For Hillary, it’s the equivalent of O. J. Simpson’s protesting that there were lots of days on which he didn’t murder his ex-wife.
The popular verdict of What Happened has already been delivered, and it will stick: It’s the literary equivalent of Jake Blues’s litany of excuses to his ex-girlfriend. Few outside the Peter Daou bubble of self-delusion are buying it: As The Onion put it, “Clinton Already Working on Follow-up Book Casting Blame for Failures of First.”
— Kyle Smith is National Review’s critic-at-large.