The final quarter of What Happened reads like a spy novel. It spells out Clinton’s version of Russia’s involvement in our election and her staff’s attempts to get the media to turn away from her emails long enough to give it some attention ... 'On Being a Woman in Politics' is a fascinating chapter examining the tightrope Clinton has walked during her life in public service ... The folks who are rolling their eyes, hard, at the notion of Hillary Clinton doing all the good she can, for all the people she can, will likely not read What Happened. That’s a shame. It’s a first-person, front-row account of arguably one of the most pivotal elections in American history. But plenty of others will. And I would urge the pundits and the platform-holders to think twice before adding another voice to the 'Go away, Hillary' choir.
What Happened is not one book, but many. It is a candid and blackly funny account of her mood in the direct aftermath of losing to Donald J. Trump. It is a post-mortem, in which she is both coroner and corpse. It is a feminist manifesto. It is a score-settling jubilee. It is a rant against James B. Comey, Bernie Sanders, the media, James B. Comey, Vladimir Putin and James B. Comey. It is a primer on Russian spying. It is a thumping of Trump. It is worth reading ... Are there moments when What Happened is wearying, canned and disingenuous, spinning events like a top? Yes. Does it offer any new hypotheses about what doomed Clinton’s campaign? No. It merely synthesizes old ones; Clinton’s diagnostics are the least interesting part of the book. Is there a full chapter devoted to her email, clearly intended to make her own closing arguments in this case? Yes. She can’t shake her inner litigator. But this book is not just a perseverative recap of 2016. It is the story of what it was like to run for president of the United States as the female nominee of a major party, a first in American history ... You may have heard that What Happened is angry. It’s true. Or defiant, anyway. Love it or loathe it, chafe at it or cheer it; you will now see, for the first time, what it looks like when Clinton doesn’t spend all of her energy suppressing her irritation.
What Happened suffers from stilted prose and insipid inspirational quotes, but that is par for the course for a political memoir. The real problem with What Happened is that it is not the book it needed to be. It spends more time on descriptions of Clinton’s various post-election coping strategies, which include chardonnay and 'alternative nostril breathing,' than it does on her campaign decisions in the Midwest. It is written for her fans, in other words, and not for those who want real answers about her campaign, and who worry that the Democratic Party is learning the wrong lessons from the 2016 debacle ... In What Happened, good fought evil, and evil won. It is a fairy tale. The great tragedy is that Clinton seems to think it is true ... Hillary Clinton must have her scapegoat. Bernie Sanders did this, Bernie Sanders did that. Above all, Bernie Sanders had the audacity to be mad about American inequality.