‘Shattered’ Charts Hillary Clinton’s Course Into the Iceberg

Apr 21, 2017, 02:00 PM

Books of The Times By MICHIKO KAKUTANI Donald J. Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in November came as a shock to the world. Polls, news reports and everything the Clinton campaign was hearing in the final days pointed to her becoming the first female president in American history.

In their compelling new book, “Shattered,” the journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes write that Clinton’s loss suddenly made sense of all the reporting they had been doing for a year and a half — reporting that had turned up all sorts of “foreboding signs” that often seemed at odds, in real time, with indications that Clinton was the favorite to win. Although the Clinton campaign was widely covered, and many autopsies have been conducted in the last several months, the blow-by-blow details in “Shattered” — and the observations made here by campaign and Democratic Party insiders — are nothing less than devastating, sure to dismay not just her supporters but also everyone who cares about the outcome and momentous consequences of the election.

In fact, the portrait of the Clinton campaign that emerges from these pages is that of a Titanic-like disaster: an epic fail made up of a series of perverse and often avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate and her strife-ridden staff that turned “a winnable race” into “another iceberg-seeking campaign ship.”

It’s the story of a wildly dysfunctional and “spirit-crushing” campaign that embraced a flawed strategy (based on flawed data) and that failed, repeatedly, to correct course. A passive-aggressive campaign that neglected to act on warning flares sent up by Democratic operatives on the ground in crucial swing states, and that ignored the advice of the candidate’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, and other Democratic Party elders, who argued that the campaign needed to work harder to persuade undecided and ambivalent voters (like working-class whites and millennials), instead of focusing so insistently on turning out core supporters.

“Our failure to reach out to white voters, like literally from the New Hampshire primary on, it never changed,” one campaign official is quoted as saying.

There was a perfect storm of other factors, of course, that contributed to Clinton’s loss, including Russian meddling in the election to help elect Trump; the controversial decision by the F.B.I. director, James Comey, to send a letter to Congress about Clinton’s emails less than two weeks before Election Day; and the global wave of populist discontent with the status quo (signaled earlier in the year by the British “Brexit” vote) that helped fuel the rise of both Trump and Bernie Sanders. In a recent interview, Clinton added that she believed “misogyny played a role” in her loss.

The authors of “Shattered,” however, write that even some of her close friends and advisers think that Clinton “bears the blame for her defeat,” arguing that her actions before the campaign (setting up a private email server, becoming entangled in the Clinton Foundation, giving speeches to Wall Street banks) “hamstrung her own chances so badly that she couldn’t recover,” ensuring that she could not “cast herself as anything but a lifelong insider when so much of the country had lost faith in its institutions.”

Allen and Parnes are the authors of a 2014 book, “H R C,” a largely sympathetic portrait of Clinton’s years as secretary of state, and this book reflects their access to longtime residents of Clinton’s circle. They interviewed more than a hundred sources on background — with the promise that none of the material they gathered would appear before the election — and while it’s clear that some of these people are spinning blame retroactively, many are surprisingly candid about the frustrations they experienced during the campaign.

“Shattered” underscores Clinton’s difficulty in articulating a rationale for her campaign (other than that she was not Donald Trump). And it suggests that a tendency to value loyalty over ...