I'm paraphrasing, presumably, as I haven't read the book. I have, however, read the New York Times' review, penned by Michiko Kakutani, which is headlined: "'Shattered' Charts Hillary Clinton's Course Into the Iceberg." Cool.
In fact, the portrait of the Clinton campaign that emerges from these pages is that of a Titanic-like disaster: an epic fail made up of a series of perverse and often avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate and her strife-ridden staff that turned "a winnable race" into "another iceberg-seeking campaign ship."It is not until the sixth paragraph that Kakutani acknowledges maybe it wasn't entirely Team Clinton's fault, before immediately pivoting back to blaming Clinton:
There was a perfect storm of other factors, of course, that contributed to Clinton's loss, including Russian meddling in the election to help elect Trump; the controversial decision by the F.B.I. director, James Comey, to send a letter to Congress about Clinton's emails less than two weeks before Election Day; and the global wave of populist discontent with the status quo (signaled earlier in the year by the British "Brexit" vote) that helped fuel the rise of both Trump and Bernie Sanders. In a recent interview, Clinton added that she believed "misogyny played a role" in her loss.Note that Kakutani's perfunctory list of "other factors" does not include a political press that was unrelentingly unfair and often straight-up cruel to her, a dynamic in which the Times was a repeat offender, reaching their nadir in August with a 900+ word piece engaging body language experts to declare Clinton inauthentic because of a hand gesture people quickly noted she'd been using for decades.
The authors of "Shattered," however, write that even some of her close friends and advisers think that Clinton "bears the blame for her defeat"...
It wasn't just that the Times engaged in the ubiquitous over-coverage of Clinton's emails—although they certainly did that, too—but that they published numerous articles making unjustifiable personal attacks on Clinton. And now, in reviewing a book about her "doomed campaign," their reviewer does not see fit to reflect on how their indefensible coverage may have played a part.
Not just during this campaign, but for years.
As my pal Jamison Foser noted on Twitter, the Washington Post's review of Shattered, by Steven Ginsberg, strikes a different tone. Ginsberg wonders: "In Wisconsin, she didn't show up enough. In Michigan, local organizers thought it was best that she stayed away. In Pennsylvania, she campaigned as aggressively as anywhere in the nation. In all three, she lost by less than 1 percent of the vote. So what should she have done?"
He also observes: "Does it really matter who was pissy at whom in Brooklyn when we still don't know what role the Russians played in the election or why FBI Director James Comey publicly announced a reopening of the email investigation in late October? Those questions are largely left unexplored here, other than as targets of Clinton's post-election ire."
So, Ginsberg certainly does a better job, but even he fails to raise the specter of what role the media played in "dooming" Clinton's presidential bid.
The Clinton campaign surely made mistakes, as every campaign does. Had she won the Electoral College and thus the presidency, we wouldn't be talking about them. We would be talking about the many things they did right—which are still commendable despite the fact that she lost.
And, yes, it's important to reflect on what could have been done differently. Although, as Ginsberg noted, that's no easy question to answer, given the narrow margin of losses in states across which a singular strategy wasn't employed.
But ultimately, resting the blame fully at Clinton's feet, even with some begrudging caveats about Russia and Comey, leaves out the most important factor: The tens of millions of people who voted for Donald Trump, despite his being a historically unfit candidate and a terrible wreck of a human being.
And the millions more who did not vote for Trump, but couldn't bring themselves to vote for Clinton, mostly for reasons based on demonstrable lies about her or owing to some vague unease, just "something about her" on which they couldn't quite put their fingers.
Or, as many people are eager to share, because she's a fucking bitch.
If you're going to blame Hillary Clinton primarily for her defeat, you'd better have a good suggestion for what she was supposed to do about that. And it sure as hell has to be better than: "In a recent interview, Clinton added that she believed 'misogyny played a role' in her loss."
The New York Times (among other outlets, none of which are "the paper of record") suggests that Clinton is to blame, while failing utterly to explore what it was motivated so many people to hate her with a viciousness we rarely see directed at candidates who are simultaneously accused of failing to be sufficiently radical.
To the absolute contrary, the Times only engages with Trump voters in order to keep doing garbage profiles of them, valorizing them even after they've won, while Clinton supporters were disappeared during the election beneath a metric fuckton of mendacity about the "low enthusiasm" which allegedly plagued her campaign. (Nope.)
Even now, the same disparities as seen in the campaign coverage persist. And how the media treats people who supported Clinton vs. how they treat people who did not is another major factor that same media curiously (ahem) refuses to explore.
There is ever only so much in any one candidate's control. That is true for every candidate. But the proportion of things outwith Hillary Clinton's control was significantly larger than for the average candidate. That's what made the difference.
And anyone writing a postmortem who doesn't reckon with that fact isn't writing something worth reading.