Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign

(Jonathan Allen, Amie Parnes)


“Why aren’t they with me?”



“For both sides, Hillary was the perfect symbol of everything that was wrong with America.  At times, Trump and Sanders would act as the right and left speakers of a stereo blaring a chorus on repeat: Hillary's a corrupt insider who has helped rig the political and economic systems in favour of the powerful.”

-The Authors


There is very little I can say about Shattered that has not been said already (and then repeated, time and time again.)  You would get the high points just by digging through a multitude of online book reviews.  But I digress ...


The book purports to be a detailed study of Hillary Clinton’s ultimately unsuccessful bid to become President in 2016, although - as most of the sources are unnamed - it is difficult to know how seriously to take it.  (Hillary’s supporters have denied many of the suggestions regarding infighting within the campaign.)


Ironically, the book actually goes easier on Hillary (and Huma) than you might expect.  It does make the droll observation that everything changed, between 2008 and 2016, apart from the candidate herself - and that was the problem - but otherwise it is relatively gentle in many parts.  While it pulls no punches about the email issue, it does highlight the simple fact that Hillary never really acknowledged just how serious a problem it was - and while she was never charged with anything, the affair exposed her repeated lies to the press and the public.


Hillary’s core problem, it seems, was that her campaign staff were often hilariously out of touch with modern America.  Their data-driven campaign didn't seem to take into account the simple possibility that the data itself might be flawed, or that ‘ground truth’ was often different from the models.  Hillary, therefore, was blindsided by Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump - she never anticipated having to actually fight for the nomination.  Indeed, the Clintons tried hard to clear house in Washington between 2009 and 2015, pushing other potential candidates out of consideration.  This had the ironic side effect of clearing the way for Sanders, as he was the only Democrat (for a given value of Democrat) who put forward a serious challenge.


Beyond that, Hillary never appointed anyone with significant decision-making power - she preferred to keep her supporters divided.  Worse, she valued loyalty over competence - and refused to allow anyone to speak truth to power.  This ensured that the campaign lurched from side to side, providing moments of unintentional humour - one media interview that should have been a doddle turned into a nightmare because there was a misunderstanding about who should give the interview - and nightmarish errors of judgment.  Hillary simply never came across as likable, nor did she show calculated ruthlessness when necessary.  Although the book doesn't discuss the problems at the DNC - and the charges that Hillary’s supporters rigged the nomination - it does highlight Hillary’s failings in not washing her hands of certain people as quickly as possible.


In the end, the core lesson of Shattered is that many of the problems were with Hillary herself.  Her history was too great an issue to surmount.  Giving speeches for money - speeches that never became public - weighed her down, as did the email server issue.  She simply couldn't connect with the common person - the ‘deplorables’.  And she was never able to escape the shadow of Bill, Chelsea and Huma.


Worse, Hillary was never able to put forward a coherent rationale for her campaign - why was she even running for President?  ‘I’m with Her’ could easily - and did - turn into ‘it’s all about ME.’  For all its flaws, ‘Make America Great Again’ is far more inspiring.  Even that turned against Hillary.  Arguing that ‘America is already great’ fell in deaf ears in places that that were demonstrably suffering economic hardship.


Indeed, Hillary may well have run into the growing cancer within the Democratic Party - factionalism.  The Democrats, as I see them, are a set of constituencies, each of which has its own demands.  Balancing those demands is not easy.  Hillary simply lacked the ability to do it.  Among other things, she needed to paint herself as both Obama’s successor and her own woman.  Trying to plug either one too far would make the other impossible.   


It is difficult to know just how seriously to take Shattered.  The lack of genuine sources makes it hard to know who is speaking - among other things, the authors could not have any access to Hillary’s private thoughts.  And the people speaking to the authors were doing so in hindsight, after losing the election.  But if most of the book is true, one may ask - quite reasonably - how Hillary came so close to winning?  She certainly thought she held all the cards.  But pride normally does go before a fall.


Overall, the book is worth a read.  But - like all such books - it has to be taken carefully.


(On a different note, my copy - and every copy I saw in various shops - looked as though it had been hacked out with a buzz saw.  This seems to be a common problem these days.)