The Ironic Cherry reads...
Hillary Rodham Clinton
A few years ago, as I began to listen to the audiobook of Hillary's years as Secretary of State, Hard Choices, I became aware that I was listening for signs of duplicity. I have been an admirer of Clinton's since It Takes a Village way back in 1996, and actually from the time she became First Lady. But sad as this may be, the doubts creep back whenever I have lost touch with her. As I read, I found not any trace of duplicity. Rather, she spoke as she always does, from her heart, and with a great deal of knowledge. She spoke with self-awareness and even a touch of self-deprecation. Her words were measured and intelligent. She is, was, and will continue to be, a masterful writer, and one with a lot to say.
So I was discouraged, but not entirely surprised, when the reaction I heard to her new book from way too many women was: the election is over, and Hillary should just go away. That is the tragedy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
She has been trashed mercilessly, and quite stupidly, for decades. Politicians and the media were tickled to put her in the headlights over Bill's sexual indiscretions. Men were more than happy to attack her victimhood, and saddest of all, women joined in to critique her behavior during this most personal of difficult times.
And so it goes. We have heard about her hair and her pantsuits ad nauseum. Before she was First Lady, she had had to deal with Bill's inability to get re-elected in Arkansas with a wife who practiced law and went by her given name. And then, when she reached the White House, there was the national incident over her comment that she chose not to stay home and have teas and bake cookies. If you recall, that was such a focus of our attention that she ended up sharing her mother's chocolate chip cookie recipe with the world, to prove she actually could bake.
Then things got serious, as republicans decided that the Clintons were too popular. The road to the Clintons' demise, began with Bill's womanizing; those headlines were such a hit, that the mudslingers at the republican party turned over every damn leaf to find dirt to aim at them. They hit the mother lode with investigations over the business venture Whitewater. Those of you who wheel and deal in business know that there are way too many grey lines in big deals. And even though Bill and Hillary were never found guilty of misconduct, some were, and that, my friend, is all you need to fuel the fires of suspicion.
Headlines. That is all most of us have time for. And when there was no proof, allegations and innuendo were enough. And since Bill and Hillary ended up with a fair amount of wealth, it is even easier to stoke the fires.
Add to that the internet, and we have gone from rumors that Bill had murdered his friend Vince Foster, which keeps popping up like rats in sludge, to the absurd near tragedy of last year's Pizzagate. Fact is, when there are no facts to denigrate Hillary Clinton, a lie will always do.
And add to that the absolute cruelty of those who hate Hillary, armed with Facebook and Twitter. And the sad, sad fact that the news media can NOT turn away from potential scandal, the uglier the better, but if ugly isn't available, stupid will do, as proven by video loops of her falling.
There we were, then, in 2016, with smart women shaking their heads and saying, "I just don't trust her."
Why don't you trust her? Either we don't know enough about her or we know too much about her. She shows too much emotion or not enough.
Fact is, we probably know more about Hillary than we do of any candidate who has ever run for president. We know more personal stuff about her than we have any right to know. We know more about her finances than any other president (I don't even need to mention the secretive crook that is skulking around the White House these days). For all the millions of dollars that have been spent to try to dig up financial irregularities about Hillary and Bill, you might think there would be something to show for it.
The republicans may not be able to get the dollar signs out of their eyes in order to see how their financial fantasies erode our economy, but they do know how to spread contention and distrust. Let us not give Trump all the credit; the republican party spread manure over the soil to make it fertile ground in which to grow all of Trump's hate.
We liberals like to talk with disdain about the uninformed American, but there are levels of being uninformed. As I said earlier, most of us don't have time for more than headlines. Some of us, who work too hard and struggle to raise families, don't even have time for that. But if you are going to make an informed decision about a candidate, you just have to go underneath the headlines. To the source. And the source is out there.
From the time that reality show host rode down the escalator, the media was a captive audience. Every ugly word was captured in prime time, every day.
But Hillary's campaign wasn't about invective. It was about policies. And she had plans, lots of them. That is what Hillary does. She looks at a problem and figures out how to make it better. And she doesn't let anything slip by.
We don't know that because while we were watching the republican car wreck, Hillary was making speeches about the economy and women's rights, education and technology. I watched a couple of her speeches, so few because I had to actually remember to take the time to find them on C-Span or the internet. But let me tell you, they were wonderful. Those of you who think she neglected the middle class, the white middle class, didn't focus enough on jobs, focused too much on "identity politics," you weren't there. You were listening to her campaign through pundits, who were obediently repeating rumors about emails.
And we women, myself very much included, have the quality which makes our daughters strong and smart and determined: we are incredibly hard on women, ourselves, our friends, our daughters. We had criticisms for Hillary that were ridiculous in comparison to all the others who ran for president in 2016. And we also had the cloud that had been polluting her space for thirty years.
As with all things Hillary, in talking about her book pre-publication, the media highlighted two of the most tantalizing tidbits: 1) James Comey's part in her defeat; and 2) Trump stalking her at the town hall debate. Which led us to believe that the book would be an obsessive rant about her defeat.
I would not have blamed her if that was what it had been. After having to take more crap than any other politician ever, she certainly would have been entitled. But that is not at all what this memoir is about.
The content of What Happened is much like the title, which is much like Hillary herself. In the book she explores the state of women in politics, her relationship with Putin as Secretary of State and the involvement of Russia in derailing an already dysfunctional political system, and yes, the email nonsense. She does it in a down-to-earth and objective way, while also honestly acknowledging her feelings and perceptions throughout and since. She also tells us about a day on the trail, because she gets asked about it a lot. She tells us about her grandchildren and her friends, and how they have helped her heal and given her hope.
Except she has always had hope. The thing that I love about Hillary, besides her intelligence and morality, is that she always has hope. She is always going to get up and fight again, and it infuriates her enemies. I believe her willingness to look at herself critically and admit mistakes also drives her enemies crazy, because you have got to be tough to admit to your faults and come away better.
Since publication, Hillary has given some great interviews, the latest with Fareed Zakaria on Sunday.
What Happened provides so much more important and fascinating detail about, yes, what happened. Most important, as Hillary has said in the book and in interviews, we need to truly understand what went on so that it won't happen again. In this book, she talks about it as though she were sitting in the room with us, sharing her ideas and experience.
After all these years, we owe it to ourselves to get to know Hillary Rodham Clinton, who I believe will go down as one of the greatest and most influential women in American history.