Candor, criticism and courage: Thoughts on ‘What Happened’ by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Photo Courtesy of ||  Hillary Clinton’s newest book on last year’s election is the most honest and vulnerable the public has ever seen her, Briana Brady ’21 writes. 

Photo Courtesy of || Hillary Clinton’s newest book on last year’s election is the most honest and vulnerable the public has ever seen her, Briana Brady ’21 writes. 

Briana Brady ‘21
Contributing Writer

On a particularly memorable Tuesday evening in early November of 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) had just settled into her hotel room at the Peninsula Hotel in New York City to watch the results of the 2016 presidential election. She was surrounded by her family and her senior staffers, and at this point, all she could do was wait. 

Upon arriving at her hotel, her staffers told her that the initial returns were looking good and rather than dwell upon what she could not change, Clinton immediately dove into editing the drafts of her victory speech that she was planning to deliver later that night. 

A little later, she checked in with the television and her staffers, and the warning signs began to come in. To shake it off, she took a nap. Yes, you read that correctly, she took a nap. At the beginning of the day almost every single poll appeared to be in her favor, but when she woke up from her nap, it was almost as if she was waking up to a real-life nightmare. You know the rest.

Her entire “Election Night” narrative is documented in a single chapter of HRC’s newest book, “What Happened.” Almost 500 pages long, the book details not only the highlights and failings of her campaign, but also discusses outside influences of the election as well as more personal family matters. 

Undeniably, “What Happened” offers a rawer portrayal of Clinton than the public has ever had access to before, and she deserves commendation for her vulnerability and insight. 

While Clinton ultimately takes full responsibility for her loss, she, along with many other political experts including FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, attribute much of her loss to former FBI Director James Comey’s controversial decision to reopen an investigation into her emails a mere ten days before the election. 

She also contemplates the magnitude of Russia’s interference and its effects on the outcome of the election. 

Yet, the work also reveals some of its author’s lack of insight on the effects of her past decisions, such as her private paid speeches, her vote for the Iraq War and her partial responsibility in the Benghazi attack, on undecided voters. All in all, she spends over 100 pages questioning and discussing the “Why” of the result of the election, yet still ends the section seeking more information, just like the rest of us.    

Two of my favorite chapters of the book include “On Being a Woman in Politics,” and “Love and Kindness.” 

In the former, Clinton narrates a lifetime of experiences as a woman in the political