Either Hillary Clinton has terrible memory or she is a shameless revisionist.
Her latest book, What Happened, which offers her version of the 2016 presidential election, is a jumble of self-congratulatory and self-pitying anecdotes. She goes to great lengths cataloging all of the persons, places and things that allegedly let her down last year. Clinton also dedicates a significant volume of ink to patting herself on the back for supposedly overcoming various oppressive institutional forces.
She boasts often in the book of her steely reserve, and even contrasts herself with her husband, Bill, whom she claims deals poorly with electoral losses — not that he suffered many of them.
"Losing is hard for everyone, but losing a race you thought you would win is devastating," she writes.
She added, "I remember when Bill lost his re-election as governor of Arkansas in 1980. He was so distraught at the outcome that I had to go to the hotel where the election night party was held to speak to his supporters on his behalf."
A fascinating detail, to be sure, but she didn't let it go at that. She got greedy, and added:
For a good while afterward, he was so depressed that he practically couldn't get off the floor. That's not me. I keep going. I also stew and ruminate. I run through the tape over and over, identifying every mistake — especially those made by me. When I feel wronged, I get mad, and then I think about how to fight back.
To put it politely, the former secretary of state is full of bunkum. I was at her election victory party last year in New York City when the world learned she lost to Donald Trump. As far as electoral defeat is concerned, Hillary Clinton has a lot more in common with her husband than she apparently cares to admit.
It was a little after midnight on Nov. 9, 2016, and you couldn't walk two feet without bumping into a crying Clinton supporter. The Democratic nominee's staff had booked the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center for her big victory celebration on account of the arena's massive glass ceiling (get it?). Her team was particularly eager to use the building's appearance (GET IT?) to send a none-too-subtle message about the candidate's impending historical accomplishment.
They thought that they had the election in the bag. Hell, with the exception of a select few, nearly everyone in media and political circles thought Clinton had it in the bag.
I was in New York City on election night because I was covering the Democratic nominee. Clinton was my assignment for most of 2016. Before Nov. 8, I would have told you she had a real problem connecting with voters. I also would have told you she did herself no favors by repeatedly dodging legitimate questions about serious scandals and apparent conflicts of interest. Even with those obvious shortcomings, however, I also would have told you she was probably going to win the White House.
After all, she enjoyed every conceivable advantage. Clinton had more money. She had a deep-rooted network of loyal donors. She had popular support in the U.S. press. She had the backing of a unified political party. She had the enthusiastic support of two popular U.S. presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and she had endorsements from what seemed like every major player in the entertainment industry.
True, Clinton was dogged throughout the election by scandals of her own making, but it was hard to imagine those things would outweigh her opponent's own scandals and unpopularity.
Then came Election Day. I was stashed that evening in the lower level of the Javits Center with other members of the press, many of whom were certain the election would be decided relatively early. They ended up being correct, but not in a way I think they expected.
Even before 10:21 p.m., when Trump was announced the projected winner in Ohio, the numbers looked terrible for Clinton. She wasn't anywhere close to where she needed to be, and the GOP candidate was gaining steam.
I made my way to the upper level of the convention center at around 11:00 p.m. to cover the election night crowd, which was comprised of campaign volunteers, Democratic loyalists and other die-hard supporters. The thing I noticed immediately when I stepped past the security checkpoint was the number of people who were already making for the exits, despite the fact that neither candidate had conceded defeat. It wasn't even midnight yet.
Some supporters remained in the bleachers, which were set up around a stage shaped like the United States, and others milled about in the open areas near the media risers. The Clinton faithful were waiting for some last-minute miracle for the Democratic presidential candidate. Midnight came and went, and the miracle didn't come. It would never come.
The event organizers eventually switched off the convention center's massive monitors, which were broadcasting live coverage of the election results. An image of the Clinton campaign logo soon replaced the spot where an anchor's face used to be. Clinton organizers pumped upbeat pop music into the arena. No one in the thinning crowd of supporters looked upbeat.
The screens were switched off, but we still had cellphone reception. I checked the election results online at around 12:57 a.m. on Nov. 9 and saw that Trump was the projected winner in Pennsylvania. It was over. The real estate mogul was the president-elect.
Others in the Javits Center soon received the same information, which turned the mood in the arena from sad to downright miserable. Though it wasn't yet official, many of those Clinton supporters knew she had lost the 2016 presidential election. They were distraught.
I have never seen so many crying adults in one place, and I've attended many funerals. Some Clinton supporters were weeping. Others were wailing. I saw one lying flat on her back, bawling silently.
After Ohio and Pennsylvania were called for Trump, the only thing left to do was to wait for the Democratic nominee herself to personally deliver her concession speech from the convention center. Word went around soon that she was en route from her election night viewing party, which was hosted at a nearby hotel. Hillary Clinton never showed. She never even left her hotel room.
We were told later that her campaign chairman, John Podesta, was on his way to speak to the remaining stragglers. We weren't sure if he was going to concede on Clinton's behalf.
Nearly one hour later, at around 2:05 a.m., Podesta mounted the stage intended for his boss. He stood there, surrounded by a contingent of teary-eyed Clinton supporters, some of whom were still holding out hope for a miracle, and urged everyone to remain determined.
Podesta told the crowd to keep their chins up, and he vowed that the campaign would continue to fight on, possibly contesting some of the election results. The Clinton campaign ultimately mounted no such counterattack.
At around 2:35 that same morning, approximately 10-15 minutes after Podesta told everyone to go home, Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump to concede the election. She never spoke directly to her supporters. They never got the in-person, pat-on-the-back concession speech thanking them for all their hard work. She snubbed them on the night of her stunning defeat.
There is virtually no daylight between how the Clintons handled their respective defeats, if we're to believe what the former secretary wrote about her husband in What Happened. Both candidates suffered defeat; both abdicated their concession responsibilities to someone else. Yet, only one of them is on a publicity tour right now either misremembering or outright revising the truth of how they comported themselves immediately following electoral loss.
It's worth noting that Hillary Clinton's 37-year-old anecdote about her husband's gubernatorial setback may not be all that accurate. It could be that she's also misremembering that incident. She could also be engaging in a bit of revisionism.
At any rate, neither option reflects well on her, and that's likely the exact opposite of what she set out to accomplish with this 500-plus-page exercise in saving face.