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What Happened: Two Perspectives

A Conversation Between Myself and Don Troll about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Book

If I wrote a review of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened by myself, it would most likely be very biased. You see I think she is amazing and brilliant and accomplished and I cannot believe she is not our president.

So, to write this review I’m going to make up a Devil’s advocate. I’ll even name him. I’ll call him Don Troll.

So, here are some questions about What Happened as answered by Michelle Moody (MM) and Don Troll (DT). Michelle Moody’s answers are of course mine. Don Troll’s answers are heavily based on comments I’ve actually read or heard.

Here goes.

What do you think the purpose is of the memoir?

DT: The book is self-serving. She lost. She should shut up and go away. No one wants to hear from her.

MM: I think there are two purposes. One was to help herself and her readers process what happened. (Hence, the title.) We need to understand what happened so we can move forward. Which leads to the second purpose. Moving forward. None of us want to melt away like snowflakes. This book encourages us to keep going.

Does Hillary accept enough blame for what happened?

DT: Not even close. She blames everyone but herself. The Russians, Comey, misogyny. Misogyny! (smirk) Why didn’t she blame misogyny for her loss in 2008?

MM: She does point out mistakes she made during the campaign, but I’m not sure I understand the purpose of the question. Why should she have to accept blame? There was a perfect storm against her. The Russians, Comey, misogyny. What woman could have won in the face of that storm?

What hit home with me though, is the sense that she really believes that she let people down and that’s what bothers her the most. Imagine. Working so hard and for so long and under constant punishing circumstances that tear away at your energy and confidence and feeling at the end of it that you let someone down. She sounds just like most mothers out there.

What did you like least about the book?

DT: Like I said, she doesn’t take any of the blame. She should have gone to Wisconsin. And that stupid chapter on a day in her life. Who cares? And she is such a nasty woman. (Note from MM: That last sentence might be a quote I recall being uttered before the book was published.)

MM: The constant pit in my stomach at the reminder of what could have been versus what is.

What did you like most about the book?

DT: Nothing! She should be quiet and go away. She is not doing anyone any good. She is harming the Democratic party. She should let younger voices be heard.

MM: Everything! The sense of optimism and resilience. The no-holds-barred honesty. The encouragment to women to run for political office. Even the chapter that talks about a typical day for her. Yes, she has many daily experiences that most of us do not share — traveling by motorcade, being accompanied by secret service, having someone do her hair and makeup and select her outfits. But there is plenty of common ground — racing around to the detriment of sleep, eating right, and exercise; interest in the grandchildren and the home team (in her case, the Cubs); and a resentment at having to deal with hair, makeup, and outfits in the first place. She is us.

I also love the quotes that she has been jotting down for years and that she included in the book. Like this one:

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart, who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience, who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward, who do what has to be done, again and again. — Marge Piercy

You attended her book tour in Boston. What did you think?

DT: I was a little late because I was hanging with the crowd outside the theater chanting “Lock her up!” Once I got inside, I would have thought she had won the election based on the audience’s reaction to her. She might have won if voters last fall had been even half as enthusiastic about her as candidate. But they weren’t, so here we are.

MM: The crowd was so energetic and enthusiastic. It reminded me of the crowds at her campaign events, the online community that I’m still part of, and the students I canvassed with up in New Hampshire. It’s not at all surprising that 3 million more people voted for her than for him. At one point, when tears were prickling my eyes, I wanted to yell out “Hillary, you didn’t let ANYONE down!”

Are there parts of the book that speak to you personally?

DT: Based on my answers above, I believe I’ve demonstrated that the experiences and perspectives of a strong woman elude me.

MM: Well of course the whole section entitled Sisterhood spoke to me. But on an even more personal level? The last few pages where she talks about Wellesley. Because I also went to Wellesley.

I am part of that group she mentioned — Wellesley Women for Hillary —

“a group of thousands of current and former [Wellesley] students who had worked their hearts out during the campaign.”

Yes, we were enthusiastic.

And I watched the Wellesley commencement where she spoke. In those last few pages, she conveys how important those students and that day were to her. Perhaps especially Tala Nashawati, the daughter of Syrian immigrants, who was chosen as the student speaker. Although Hillary thought she had let those students down, she came to the realization that Tala still believed in making the impossible possible. And Tala’s speech hit home with Hillary.

You see, Tala started talking about flaws. She told her fellow students they were all flawed. Incomplete. Scratched up in some places. Jagged around the edges. But “the flaws show authenticity and character.” Hillary was excited because Tala was “reclaiming the word, insisting on the beauty and strength of imperfection.”

Tala closed by telling her audience

“Let yourself be flawed.”

I am so happy that day helped Hillary.

Would you recommend the book?

DT: No. Rather than encourage people to be resolute in taking on change, she should take up knitting as her New Year’s resolution.

MM: Yes. Read it and fight like hell.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these two perspectives of What Happened. Actually, I hope you enjoyed one of the perspectives and want to trash the other. If you read the book — and I hope you do — let me know your perspective!