Poor Hillary. Big, bad Donald Trump got so close to her during the presidential debate last fall, she says, that he “made her skin crawl.”
“Morning Joe” broadcast a recording of Mrs. Clinton reading that revealing snippet aloud yesterday, her plain, hard intonations trying to excite interest in “What Happened?” her new book purporting to explain why she lost the election.
The passage, which recounts her musing about how she should react to his looming presence, evokes several responses.
Number one: if that’s the best tease they could find in this unnecessary oeuvre (don’t we all know why she lost?), I hope Simon & Schuster has a sure-fire way to get their advance back. The company is deep in the hole after publishing her last tome, “Hard Choices,” which sold only some 280,000 copies in its first year. For that one they reportedly ponied up an advance of $14 million; whatever they paid for this one, it was probably too much.
By the way, that sales total for “Hard Choices,” a stunningly dull work, doesn’t come close to the million-plus copies sold of Trump’s “Art of the Deal;” one more round to Trump.
Number two: her recollection may be faulty. Hillary’s memory often plays tricks on her, like when she mistakenly remembered having come under sniper fire in Bosnia, or when she blamed the Benghazi attack on a video, or when she said that all her grandparents had immigrated to the U.S. (Three of four were born in this country.)
The morning after the debate in question, then-candidate Trump, accused of having tried to intimidate her, denied the charge, and claimed that it was Clinton who invaded his space. The video shown on Morning Joe shows Trump standing at some distance from Hillary, not breathing down her neck, contrary to her description of the scene. He patiently waits at his lectern while she speaks. What is the truth?
Number three: in the book, she says that at the time, feeling uncomfortable, she wished she could “hit pause, and say to everyone watching, well, what would you do?” That is so extraordinarily revealing. Hillary Clinton, at that moment, feeling pressured by her rival and uncertain how to respond, actually wants to take a survey. She doesn’t trust her own instincts, so turns to crowd-sourcing for answers.
Maybe this book is more telling than we had imagined because, indeed, that is exactly one of the reasons Clinton lost. Remember early in the campaign when the New York Times wrote an admiring story about Hillary’s intense preparation? How she had consulted no less than 47 experts in preparing her economic agenda? I thought at the time: anyone nearing 70 and readying to run for president must surely know what she believes. But no, she was lost, and still exploring every point of view.
The result was a platform-by-committee, a mishmash of policies directed by pollsters and political apparatchiks. You may not agree with Donald Trump’s views or agenda, but by gosh you know what he stood for. Trump promised to Make America Great Again by bringing back jobs, enforcing the rule of law, protecting our borders, demanding fair trade and turning back the Obama-era regulatory blitz. He vowed to put America First.
Hillary’s campaign themes were buried under a mudslide of political talking points. One of John Podesta’s leaked emails revealed that Clinton's campaign weighed and ultimately rejected 84 potential slogans before choosing "Stronger Together," a catchphrase that never gained traction. 84! Doesn’t that say it all?
Number four: if Hillary is so easily intimidated by powerful men, she really does not belong in the Oval Office. She says in her book that in motoring through that “incredibly difficult moment” she was “aided by a lifetime of dealing with difficult men trying to throw me off.” One wonders, has she always struggled to assert herself with men? Was husband Bill one of those “difficult men?” Maybe her infamous “reset” with Vladimir Putin would have been more successful except that she was cowed by yet another “difficult” man displaying an excess of testosterone.
Maybe Hillary is insecure around men because they are bigger than she is. In the video of the debate, Trump appears to be standing virtually on top of Mrs. Clinton, because he is taller. When the camera backs away, it is clear that there are several feet separating the two figures. President Trump stands 6’2”; that kind of height can be imposing or even intimidating to someone several inches shorter.
Mrs. Clinton may be one of those people. In the 2008 campaign, her office told reporters that she was 5’5”. In the recent campaign, according to a piece in the Washington Post, her staff claimed she stood 5’7”. That’s remarkable, since she is of an age where she almost certainly is losing height, and not gaining it. Why would someone lie about their height? Does pretending to be taller give her extra confidence?
For the record, Maggie Thatcher was 5’5”, as is Angela Merkel. Neither seems to have been intimidated by big, powerful men, including, in the case of Merkel, Donald Trump. Could it be that Hillary simply doesn’t have what it takes to be president? That’s what voters decided. Maybe, at the end, that’s What Happened.