Hillary Clinton: Five things we learnt from What Happened

Democratic candidate’s election memoir offers an intimate look at battle with Donald Trump

LAS VEGAS, TUESDAY: Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton share a laugh during a debate in Las Vegas
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

What Happened, Hillary Clinton’s much-anticipated new election memoir, includes candid insights into the race, from her primary face-off with Bernie Sanders, to her televised clashes with Trump and her experience on election night, when her Republican rival defied pollsters and pundits to clinch a shock victory.

It is a revealing new entry in an under-appreciated genre , says The New York Times - the memoirs of the defeated politician, which “tell us as much if not more about the mysteries of political character than do the accounts of battles won”.

So what does the book tell us about Clinton, Trump, and just what the heck happened on that world-changing night in November?

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Her concession outfit was chosen with a happier occasion in mind

Clinton had planned to wear an all-white ensemble to give her victory speech on election night, in tribute to the suffragettes who adopted the colour during the fight for women’s suffrage, The New York Times reports.

Instead, she was called upon to make a concession speech. The white suit was laid aside in favour of a dark grey blazer and purple shirt - but that choice too had a sad undertone for the Democratic candidate. The outfit was the “one I had intended to wear on my first trip to Washington as President Elect,” she reveals in the memoir.

Months later, she admits that she is still struggling to process her loss. Sometimes, she writes, “all I want to do is scream into a pillow”.

She attended Trump’s wedding for the “spectacle”

During the election campaign, much was made of the fact that Clinton and her husband had attended Trump’s 2005 wedding to Melania - suggesting that their apparent mutual loathing was a more recent phenomenon than it appeared.

In What Happened, Clinton seeks to clarify the incident: “We weren’t friends, so I assumed he wanted as much star power as he could get,” she says of the invitation. “I thought it would be a fun, gaudy, over-the-top spectacle, and I was right.”

She thinks Sanders entered the race for the wrong reasons

Clinton has some uncompromising words for her Democratic rival for the nomination, Bernie Sanders - a self-declared socialist who has spent the vast majority of his political career as an independent.

Rather than a genuine thirst to lead the country, Sanders was motivated by frustration with the Democratic Party’s doctrine, she writes.

“He didn't get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party,” Clinton writes, adding that Sanders is “fundamentally wrong” to consider the party insufficiently progressive.

However, in other parts of the book she expresses her gratitude to the senator from Vermont for his (belated) support in the later stages of the campaign.

She thinks Julian Assange is Putin’s puppet

Clinton is far less measured when it comes to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, whose network was responsible for disseminating thousands of internal emails that are widely considered a key factor in her defeat.

Assange is a ”hypocrite who deserves to be held accountable for his actions,” she writes, accusing the Australian of being a Putin stooge who deliberately undermined the Democratic campaign to advance Russian interests.

She feared being ‘twisted by anger’ over Bill’s indiscretions

In one of the more personal moments of the memoir, Clinton addresses a subject that has become a central part of the Hillary “story” - her marriage to Bill Clinton, unforgettably strained by a very public affair during his presidency.

At times, she writes, she was “deeply unsure” about the future of the marriage. “I asked myself the questions that mattered to me: Do I still love him? And can I still be in this marriage without becoming unrecognizable to myself — twisted by anger, resentment or remoteness?,” she says. “The answers were always yes. So I kept going.”

Hillary Clinton blames Bernie Sanders for ‘lasting damage’

6 September

According to extracts from her soon-to-be-published book,"What Happened", which have been posted online by a group of Clinton supporters, Hillary Clinton has accused Sanders of paving the way for Donald Trump's "Crooked Hillary" campaign. She says that her rival's attacks during the presidential campaign caused "lasting damage".

Sanders, an independent senator, had challenged Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president. Clinton wrote that her opponent had to resort to "innuendo" and "impugning" her character because they "agreed on so much".

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Clinton also wrote that President Barack Obama advised her to grit her teeth and "lay off Bernie" as much as she could, according to the excerpts. That strategy, Clinton wrote, made her feel she was "in a straitjacket."

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She said that Jake Sullivan, her top policy aide, told her that Sanders's campaign strategy reminded him of a scene from the movie "There's Something About Mary," "where a hitchhiker says he has a plan to roll out seven-minute abs to top the famous eight-minute abs," reports CNN.

In the film, Ben Stiller's character asks: "Why not six-minutes abs?"

Clinton wrote: "That's what it was like in policy debates with Bernie. We would promise a bold infrastructure investment plan or an ambitious new apprenticeship program for young people, and then Bernie would announce basically the same thing, but bigger. On issue after issue, it was like he kept promising four-minute abs, or even no-minutes abs. Magic abs!"

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These arguments about Sanders "may be in tension" says Vox, as Clinton is criticising him "both for advancing an unrealistic policy vision and for leveling personal attacks because there were no meaningful policy differences between them".

While Clinton remains "a powerful force among Democrats – and will be in the coming elections – there are some who have publicly said they would rather the party move on from the 2016 election," says CNN.

There are also competing views as to why Clinton lost the election last November. Progressives ranging from "hardcore Sanders supporters" to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama have blamed Clinton and her team for "failing to offer a compelling economic vision," says Vox.

"Our problem is missing the forest for the trees," Dan Schwerin, Clinton's speechwriter, wrote in an email about the struggles of her first campaign speech. "We've never found a good way (or at least a way she embraces) that sums up her vision for how America would be different."

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