Bill Kerwin's Reviews > What Happened

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
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bookshelves: 20th-c-amer, memoir, politics


This most personal and self-reflective of all Hillary Clinton’s books may not have taken a village to rear, but it did take half a squad: two speech writers (Dan Schwerin expository specialist, Megan Rooney narrative specialist), one researcher (Tony Carrk), and—of course—Hillary Clinton herself. But—wait a minute!—in the "Acknowledgments," right after Schwerin, Rooney, and Caark, comes a list of seven trusted advisers followed by another list of approximately ten dozen names of other people who also contributed their advice and insights. So I guess it did take a small village after all.

That’s Hillary for you. Scrupulous and precise (no anonymous ghost writers for her!), generous in her praise and acknowledgment, but so conscientious and exhaustive about every facet of her life and campaign that, after awhile, the eyes of even the most sympathetic acolyte must glaze over, the head of the most attentive reader begin to nod.

Yes, What Happened is quintessential Hillary. Which is why this “personal, self-reflective memoir” is 469 pages long (that is, if you don’t include the twenty page index).

Okay, just to let you know where I’m coming from: I voted for Bernie in the Ohio primary (as a DSA member for twenty years, I figured I owed him that much), but as soon as the last primary was over, I took off my very cool Shepard Fairey “Bernie” tee and exchanged it for a not-as-cool “Hillary” shirt. You see, I’ve always had a soft spot for Hillary. As a democratic socialist, I was of course frustrated with the way Bill and Hill moved the Dems to the right, but, since I’m almost as old as they are, I can remember how disheartening it was to be “clean for Gene” (McCarthy) and “on board for George” (McGovern), and then watch the Republicans win five out of six of the next presidential races. Sure, the Clintons' program was too centrist, detailed, and super-wonky for my taste, but at least they figured out how to win an election. Later, I sensed that, underneath the plate armor she donned against the attacks of the (very real) “vast right wing conspiracy” there was a woman who genuinely loved her husband and who cared for America’s least fortunate citizens, particularly its women and children. And when, in October of 2015, I watched all eleven hours of the Benghazi hearings (I’m retired now) and saw how seriously she kicked herself some Freedom Caucus butt, I began to look forward to the idea of President Hillary.

But back to the book. I’m sure it was a chore to write, and it is often a chore to read, what with the exhaustive lists of the people—the famous of course but also the humble (but exemplary)—she encountered on the campaign trail, her typical domestic routines (far too much information), and her extraordinarily specific plans for how President Hillary intended to make America better (I’m sorry, but you lost, and the detailed aspirations of a presidency which will never happen are best left to the specialists now). Moreover, even when the information Hillary and Co. gives us is worthwhile, it is often overly specific. For example, I was interested to learn that, in the wake of her loss, Hillary embraced the yogic practice of alternate nostril breathing; I did not, however, need to have this practice described to me in a paragraph of 150 words.

I have heard some say that Hillary is bitter and hateful in this book, but I did not find this to be true. She does have a few harsh words for Bernie (as well as some kind words too), but I think she is fair to him: his Santa-of-the-left routine did make her sound like a “spoilsport schoolmarm” and his attacks on her as the Candidate from Wall Street may well have hurt her in the general election. Her harshest comments, however, are reserved for the two people she sees—understandably—as most responsible for costing her the election (Comey and Putin), and for one other target, of which I heartily approve: Matt Lauer, the disgraced moderator of what was supposed to be a “Commander-in-Chief Forum,” who made it all about “but her emails!” once again. Trump? I detect no malice here: She treats him as a natural disaster, a four-year tornado that must be guarded against.

What are the best parts of the book? It is good on her emails, Russian involvement in the election, and the role of women in public life and politics, but it is even better when it tells a personal story or expresses a private sentiment about a particular event or person: the Commander-in-Chief Forum, the Final Debate Where Trump Looms, election night, Marian Wright Edelman, Dorothy Rodham, Bill Clinton.

My advice? Don’t read it if you’re a Hillary hater. But even if you’re not a hater, I’d advise you to skip a little, skim a lot. Life is too short for you to do as I did and read the whole darn thing through. But by all means dip into it, spend a little time with it, and you may find much here to interest you, more than a few things to anger you, and one or two things to make you cry.

I’ll end with one of my favorite parts, where Hillary talks about Bill and their marriage:
My marriage to Bill Clinton was the most consequential decision of my life. I said no the first two times he asked me. But the third time, I said yes. And I’d do it again.

I hesitated to say yes because I wasn’t quite prepared for marriage. I hadn’t figured out what I wanted my furture to be yet. And I knew that by marrying Bill, I would be running straight into a future far more momentous than any other I’d likely know. He was the most intense, brilliant, charismatic person I had ever met. He dreamt big. I, on the other hand, was practical and cautious. I knew that marrying him would be like hitching a ride on a comet. It took me a little while to get brave enough to take the leap….

We’ve certainly had dark days in our marriage. You know all about them—and please consider for a moment what it would be like for the whole world to know about the worst moments in your relationship. There were times that I was deeply unsure about whether our marriage could or should survive. But on those days, I asked myself the question that mattered most to me: Do I still love him? And can I still be in this marriage without becoming unrecognizable to myself—twisted by anger, resentment, or remoteness? The answers were always yes. So I kept going.
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Reading Progress

October 9, 2017 – Started Reading
October 9, 2017 – Shelved
October 9, 2017 –
page 57
12.28%
October 9, 2017 –
page 108
23.28%
October 14, 2017 –
page 144
31.03%
October 14, 2017 –
page 195
42.03%
October 20, 2017 –
page 216
46.55%
October 21, 2017 –
page 323
69.61%
October 22, 2017 – Shelved as: 20th-c-amer
October 22, 2017 – Shelved as: memoir
October 22, 2017 – Shelved as: politics
October 22, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-43 of 43 (43 new)

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message 1: by Alan (new) - rated it 1 star

Alan Well said: It was often a chore to read. I found it so, and I found her college graduation speech better written.


message 2: by Bill (last edited Oct 24, 2017 11:05AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bill  Kerwin Alan wrote: "Well said: It was often a chore to read. I found it so, and I found her college graduation speech better written."

I've never read it, but thanks for the tip. I remember she quoted a passage from the speech in this book--something about seeking out a mode of life more "ecstatic" and "penetrating." She belittled the diction, but I found it interesting.


message 3: by Greg (new)

Greg Brozeit Whoda thunk it? An honest, judicious review. My experience and inclinations are just like yours. I won't read it only because I have so many other things on my radar screen and vowed that last political autobiography I read (Ted Kennedy's) would be the last. Agree on everything about Lauer as well. Now there's an empty barrel!


message 4: by Adam (new)

Adam Not sure if you're being sarcastic about ghostwriters. https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Hillary+Cli...
results have a few wrong stuff in it but taking it out doesn't improve it https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Hillary+Cli...'

Oh well. Good review and will probably read it.

I'm of the view it was a power couple marriage and she knew Bill cheated, a lot and didn't really care, as long as she got power.


message 5: by Adam (new)


message 6: by Bill (last edited Jan 22, 2018 07:40AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bill  Kerwin Adam wrote: "Not sure if you're being sarcastic about ghostwriters. https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Hillary+Cli...
results have a few wrong stuff in it but taking it out doesn't improve it https://duckdu..."


Not ironic. I was thinking of a "ghost writer" as someone sworn to anonymity. Hillary not only acknowledged them, but tells us the areas in which they specialized.

Yeah, I know. Your "power couple" interpretation is pretty standard. That's why I ended with the excerpt from the book about Bill, to give Hillary a chance to respond. I believe her, but I'm sure many people won't.


message 7: by Jon (new)

Jon Wow, a card-carrying socialist who's clear-eyed about Bernie! Who'd have thought? Thanks for the typically thorough and fair-minded review. And for reading it so I don't have to. (And by the way, she beat Trump by more than 20 times the votes that Kennedy beat Nixon. But somehow...)


message 8: by Bill (last edited Oct 28, 2017 06:01AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bill  Kerwin Jon wrote: "Wow, a card-carrying socialist who's clear-eyed about Bernie! Who'd have thought? Thanks for the typically thorough and fair-minded review. And for reading it so I don't have to. (And by the way, s..."

Thanks for the "clear-eyed" compliment, but the DSA--Democratic Socialists of America--has always been pretty clear-eyed. Our most prominent member, and the closest thing to a founder we have, was Michael Harrington, the guy who wrote "The Other America" and who was instrumental in inspiring LBJ's war on poverty. Other members of ours: Barbara Ehrenreich, Ed Azner, Dolores Huerta, Manning Marable, Cornel West, and--of course--Bernie. Not a bomb-thrower among them. Our guiding principle--although we occasionally vote independent--has always been the left of what is possible within the Democratic Party.


message 9: by William (new)

William One of the most skilled and experienced politicians in the last 100 years. Defeated by cynicism, greed and Russia. 😢 Thank you for the review!


message 10: by Sara (new) - added it

Sara Wow, Bill, thank you. I agree with most of what you said about Bill and Hillary, I lived through those years too, and I have always seen the good in both of them and was amazed that the Republican propaganda machine was so successful in erasing this. But then we have no national memory, so it must be expected, I guess. Love your phrase "Santa-of-the-left" - totally describes how I feel about Bernie still. God help the left in this country. I've wanted to read this book but hesitated since I bogged down about 2/3 of the way through Hard Choices. Skimming a copy from the library seems the way to go. She will always be one of my heroines, not only for the way she dealt with her marriage but for her dogged persistence in being herself in the face of so much undeserved vilification.


message 11: by Adam (new)

Adam I've met many people that don't like Hillary say that she knew was a womaniser but diregarded it for her personal gain of power etc. So I don't really believe her when she says she loves him. If anything, and I know many have said this too, that Hillary feels she's gained from Bill's infidelity, just look at all the people that sympathise with poor Hillary, cheated on constantly.

It's a good thing she and Bill aren't in the WH now. As bad as Trump is, he's the lesser of two evils.


message 12: by William (last edited Nov 08, 2017 02:10AM) (new)

William Since she was a teenager, there is an extraordinary history of Hillary working again and again charitably and selflessly for others.

Conversely, there is a extensive and shameful history of Trump NEVER working for anyone but himself, and lying, conning and robbing others.


message 13: by Fergus (new)

Fergus Bravo, Bill. What a well-reasoned review.


message 14: by Diana (new)

Diana Great review. Everything you mentioned, plus the quotes at the end re: her marriage, sounds like what I would have expected. Basically, she's a good person who let herself drift too far to the right in service to ambition, which, in my estimation, is what happened.


message 15: by Fergus (new)

Fergus Bill wrote: "Jon wrote: "Wow, a card-carrying socialist who's clear-eyed about Bernie! Who'd have thought? Thanks for the typically thorough and fair-minded review. And for reading it so I don't have to. (And b..."

And what a guiding light the books of Michael Harrington have been for so many. I remember reading his "Socialism" in '68 - back then such books were few and far between.
Btw, I was happy seeing your early support of Bernie, the dark horse who gave it his all, and laid it all on the line for everyone to see - so that even worried Canadians appreciated him.


message 16: by William (last edited Jan 12, 2018 06:49AM) (new)

William Modern capital socialism is nothing like communism. It's been successfully painted as evil by the greedy, super-rich for years. The Super-rich HATE DEMOCRACY.

Only the European capital socialism has been successful in maintaining the balance between citizens and the greed of the super-rich. See chart:

Discussion and source



message 17: by Fergus (new)

Fergus William, thanks for this tell-all chart. Good of you to bring it all into sharp perspective.


message 18: by William (new)

William Fergus wrote: "William, thanks for this tell-all chart. Good of you to bring it all into sharp perspective."

I'm not sure why it's blurry (😊) above. It was very sharp and clear the first time I posted it, then after page-refresh it got blurry. I have not had this trouble with other pics....


message 19: by Fergus (new)

Fergus It's fine on mine - must be your own device! Very clear here, and extremely helpful!


message 20: by William (last edited Jan 12, 2018 06:57AM) (new)

William Comparison of original and GoodReads version for me. The first view of the pic on GoodReads looked very close to my original. After page refresh, it looks blurry like on the right of this:

https://gyazo.com/2222384eba028af6689...

Same blur in Safari and Firefox. Other pics I've posted do not have this problem on GoodReads.

Perhaps GR is just getting cheap and compressing new pictures very hard. Even jpeg quality level 0 from Photoshop (72KB) is much better than the GR version (33KB).

Here's a direct link to the original online picture
http://www.wdonelson.com/inequality-U...


message 21: by Fergus (new)

Fergus Yes, I see what you mean now.


message 22: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg Bill, I agree with everything you say. Great review. And like you, I steered away from the book itself and threw in a couple of my own thoughts, as well as a few facts from other sources. But yes, I did get back to the book. I liked it very much. I thought Clinton was very upfront about how much it hurt. I liked that she practically had to be begged to run. I tried to separate how I feel about the Clintons from the book, and you know what? This is a darn good book with lots of history that needs to be remembered.


message 23: by Sara (new) - added it

Sara Diana wrote: "Great review. Everything you mentioned, plus the quotes at the end re: her marriage, sounds like what I would have expected. Basically, she's a good person who let herself drift too far to the righ..."

Thanks for your perspective, Diana. It's good to hear someone say this.


message 24: by Mira (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mira Love your review - it brings out a lot of my thoughts and feelings when reading this (yes, I read the whole, too). Thanks for putting them into words so astutely!


Bill  Kerwin Mira wrote: "Love your review - it brings out a lot of my thoughts and feelings when reading this (yes, I read the whole, too). Thanks for putting them into words so astutely!"

Thank you! I'm glad yo liked the review..


Elyse Walters Awesome review Bill!!!!!!


Bill  Kerwin Elyse wrote: "Awesome review Bill!!!!!!"

Thanks, Elyse!


message 28: by Colleen (new) - added it

Colleen Browne Thank you for the great review!


message 29: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg Adam wrote: "I've met many people that don't like Hillary say that she knew was a womaniser but diregarded it for her personal gain of power etc. So I don't really believe her when she says she loves him. If an..."

Hi Adam, I've never met Hillary, so I don't know what's in her heart. I'm old-school, though, and I do think there are people who actually honor their wedding vows. I would, personally, never marry as I don't believe in monogamy for myself, and I think that the best thing for human kind is the distribution of genes as much as possible. There is NO Way I would ever want to wake up with the same person every morning, and, lol, likewise, I'm sure there is no one who wants to bother with me everyday!


message 30: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg Bill wrote: "Alan wrote: "Well said: It was often a chore to read. I found it so, and I found her college graduation speech better written."

I've never read it, but thanks for the tip. I remember she quoted a ..."


Hi Bill, I'm reading now the Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt and it's just amazing how alike Eleanor and Hillary are, and how they acted in public. Eleanor would have been trashed as much as Hillary, if there had been a form of social media we have today.


message 31: by Kate (new)

Kate Great review Bill! Thank you for the advice about how to read this. I completely agree with your thoughts on Clinton.


message 32: by Ruth (new)

Ruth E. R. While I disagree with you politically, I can't help liking your review! Your first two paragraphs made me laugh out loud, and read out loud to others!


message 33: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth I'll soon publish my review of Hillary's earlier book, 'Hard Times', on GR but I think I should share here an article I found while I was researching material for my review. For anyone who wants to recover their memory of the Clintons in full historical context (and no ad hominem in sight), here's the link. Reading it will help, in my view, overcome the post -traumatic state in which most of us find ourselves after Trump's election (a state that helps consolidate our socio-historical amnesia and, given Trump's vileness, makes us wallow in fantasies of a wonderful president Hillary).

https://harpers.org/archive/2014/03/n...


message 34: by William (new)

William Thank you for that article, Elizabeth. Very interesting. Shared to my FB.


message 35: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth William wrote: "Thank you for that article, Elizabeth. Very interesting. Shared to my FB."

Most welcome, William. And thank you for sharing. I was not aware of the article at the time of its publication and came across it completely by chance a few weeks ago. It is the most succinct, thorough and articulate statement of our predicament (it applies to us in the UK too, with a different set of actors).


message 36: by William (new)

William The closest thing I've found to universal fault is quite simple, really -

40 years of pumping lead into the atmosphere (gasoline), especially damaging the brains of the young then, and taking brain evolution back 100,000 years.

Stupid and can't help it... Most of the world's troubles...
http://www.motherjones.com/environmen...




message 37: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg William wrote: "Since she was a teenager, there is an extraordinary history of Hillary working again and again charitably and selflessly for others.

Conversely, there is a extensive and shameful history of Trum..."


Yes, Hillary hit the campaign trail very early in life while most teens had never even thought about politics. I couldn't help comparing Lindsey Graham and Kavanaughs rants and whines compared to Hillary's 11-hour marathon Benghazi hearing, during which she maintained an amazing level of professionalism sadly lacking last Thursday.


message 38: by Wastrel (new)

Wastrel As a non-American, I find it impossible to understand the hatred for Clinton from both left and right - but from the left particularly. It seems emblematic of America's problems - all image, no content, all emotion, no compromise.
Like you, I've always had a soft spot for her - one of the few serious presidential candidates who genuinely wanted the job to implement policy reforms, rather than out of vanity. The socially awkward policy expert - ascerbic, but fair.

America used to have a soft spot for her as well, let's not forget. Shortly before she announced her candidacy for President, she had a national approval rating of over 70%. No wonder she thought it would be easy. And the striking thing is, half the people who approved of her now hate her, and it's hard to identify any specific, notable thing that actually changed. [her emails? Please. Not only did her predecessors do the same thing, but her successor has been doing the same thing too. Nobody cares unless it's her. Benghazi? Only riled up those who hated her - she sailed through the hearings without a dent to her popularity. Wall street after-dinner speeches? What, the same as every other present and former politician has given? The Foundation? Yes, the terrible sin of having her name on one of the world's largest and most effective charities, how awful.] Even two years later, with under 40% popularity, she still won the popular vote. More people voted for Clinton than for any other US politician in history, with the exception of Obama. And yet... now she's persona non grata?

It's baffling on all counts, but particularly coming from the left. This is the candidate who objectively, in policy terms, would have been the most left-wing US President since FDR, if not ever. [She ran considerably to the left of Obama in '08, and ran even further to the left in '16.]

I understand not everyone agreeing with her politics. I understand not everyone liking her personal style (the fact she's unlikeable is one reason I kind of like her). But the vehemence of the abuse she receives - out of all proportion to that aimed at John Kerry or Al Gore - is objectively disturbing, to an outsider.


message 39: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn McBride A great review, thank you. I wondered if it was worth buying, I've long admired her. (I still think she'd make a much better pres than the current occupant of the White House. At the very least, there would be less hate)
Sounds like way too much detail, lol. Alternate nostril breathing? What's that supposed to do?


message 40: by William (last edited Oct 23, 2018 04:18AM) (new)

William Ayn Rand put to the test by Sears chief Eddie Lampert. Here's what happens in modern business.

PBS: Sears goes bankrupt. Ayn Rand policies to blame.


message 41: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg William wrote: "The closest thing I've found to universal fault is quite simple, really -

40 years of pumping lead into the atmosphere (gasoline), especially damaging the brains of the young then, and taking brai..."


SOMETHING is happening. A dozen years ago, no one talked about gluten allergies. And just a small number of people had peanut allergies. YES, something in the air, our food, is changing us.


message 42: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg William wrote: "Ayn Rand put to the test by Sears chief Eddie Lampert. Here's what happens in modern business.

PBS: Sears goes bankrupt. Ayn Rand policies to blame."


William, okay, about Rand and Atlas Shrugged. Remember the first page? A guy on the street, broke, ask for a cigarette or a dime for a cup of coffee, I forget, but my point is that the guy is indeed given the thing he is asked for. Rand put this on the first page of her book intentionally, imo. Be kind, be nice, put others first if you can and you see a need. Then, she takes us deep into corporate America and there isn't much in the vay of kindness. To me, she is saying that in the every day vorld, dealing vith neighbors and the needy, help out if you can. That's a good thing. But she does indict the soul-stealing corporations of the vorld that take advantage of their employees. And even in the syfy fantasy vorld she creates, hidden in Colorado, the point there is to make your vay, but STILL be kind. Dagney is rescued instantly after her plane crashes. She isn't asked for money first, she is taken care of first and foremost. Later, she does say she'll pay her vay, as she learns that's expecrted, but overall Rand is saying that first and foremost, before any judgment is made, be kind, help each other. Those are Rand's policies in the general vorld. About Sears going bankrupt: that's a Val-Mart takes it all issue.


message 43: by William (new)

William So, then, exactly like Republican promises?


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