Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, doesn’t drop until Tuesday, but with some juicy leaked excerpts and an interview with Jane Pauley on CBS Sunday Morning, it’s clear that the Clinton who failed to go hard on primary opponent Bernie Sanders and who tried to put policy at the forefront in the general election against the wildly unpredictable, fallacious Donald Trump is no longer playing the dutiful female candidate.
When a leaked excerpt from the book in which she relates her story about how Sanders handed Trump the “crooked Hillary” playbook and how his supporters bullied her supporters online with misogynist rhetoric, commentators on the far left fell apart in dozens of opinion pieces with dog-whistle language that evoked Freud, stopping just short of calling her “hysterical.” But Clinton proved in her interview with Pauley that she has every intention of owning her victories and every intention of not remaining silent or of playing nice with the right or those on the far left who’ve already begun slamming viable female candidates like Kamala Harris.
“Oh, I don’t agree with that, and the primary was part of what happened. I won a landslide victory in the primary,” Clinton said when Pauley said that writing about Sanders's lackluster support of her in the general election was “opening a barely healed wound in your own party.”
“I know what it’s like to win and I know what it’s like to lose, and when I lost to Barack Obama I immediately turned around. I endorsed him, I worked for him, I convinced my supporters to vote for him,” Clinton said. “I didn’t get the same respect from my primary opponent.”
While Clinton’s relating her side of the story about squaring off with Sanders is a salve to her supporters who faced derision from his supporters, it’s an irritant to the right and the far left, as evidenced by the dozens of opinion pieces, like one from the Los Angeles Times’ Doyle McManus, who called her book an “angry anguished memoir” before delving into the type of book she “should” have written, as he believes that all of her points have been “hashed out” already, except that the parts about Sanders and his followers have resonated deeply with women (especially) who — much like Clinton — were silenced and belittled for supporting her. And those details have never come out before.
A commentary from the Boston Herald’s Howie Carr referred to What Happened as Clinton’s “Woe is me” book before making a Bill Clinton–Monica Lewinsky cigar joke in the middle of the piece, because a woman is nothing if not her husband’s 20-year-old transgressions.
Despite the backlash over the leaked excerpt, Clinton, in her interview with Pauley, was equal parts self-reflective and unapologetic.
“I felt like I had let everybody down,” Clinton said of her loss, before apologizing once again for her use of a the personal email server as secretary of State, an issue that dogged her right up to the final weeks of the election.
While Clinton apologized to the nation in her concession speech on November 9 and has said she was sorry for the email server previously, she spoke candidly with Pauley about a new regret — that she didn’t wear her anger on her sleeve as Trump and Sanders had.
“I understood that there were many Americans, who, because of the financial crash … there was anger and there was a resentment. I knew that,” Clinton said, touching on a conundrum that women in power face daily — whether or not to show emotion. “But I believed that it was my responsibility to try to offer answers to it, not to fan it. I think it was a mistake because a lot of people didn’t want to hear my plans. They wanted me to share their anger, and I should have done a better job of demonstrating ‘I get it.’”
But even at Pauley’s goading, Clinton refused to apologize for calling those Trump supporters who foamed at the mouth for his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, jingoistic, white nationalist campaign speeches “a basket of deplorables.” Clinton dug in with Pauley, highlighting every hateful idea Trump spewed that a certain segment of the population bought into.
And rather than apologize or move on from Sanders as Pauley suggested, Clinton doubled down and validated so much of what her supporters have said since the primaries ended in June of 2016.
“A lot of his supporters continued to harass and really go after my supporters. That feeds in, I think, to the whole sexism and misogyny part of this campaign,” Clinton said. “I had large groups of supporters who had to be private, because if they responded on a YouTube comment chain or on Twitter to something, they were attacked, and the attacks were so sexist. ‘You’re supporting a woman because you’re a woman.’”
But she didn’t stop there. In his piece for the L.A. Times, McManus asked, “Was this book necessary?” and while she wasn’t likely speaking to him, Clinton explained why “what happened” has reverberated beyond her to her supporters and to the next generation of female politicians who could face similar attacks.
When Pauley asked Clinton why she bothers to engage with the “Bernie Bros” rather than just allowing them to move on to Trump, Clinton laid out the problem with remaining silent on Sanders.
“Bernie is not a Democrat. That’s not a slam. That’s what he says himself. I think a lot of what he churned up in the primary campaign was very hurtful in the general election against me,” Clinton said. “And I see him doing the same thing. I see him with his supporters. He doesn’t disown the things they say. Some of my favorite Democrats, people like Kamala Harris, who is out there speaking out and speaking out — she’s being attacked, from the left.”