BY JULIA SIENKIEWICZ ’20
Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The name provokes varied reactions.
Just as it was this time last year it’s difficult to detach opinions on Clinton’s present actions from preformed opinions of her as a person, whether that view be positive, negative or some other combination of feelings. Starting her time in the public eye as a politician’s wife, her projected image has changed so often over the years that it’s easy for many to dismiss her as the embodiment of everything wrong with American politics.
It would be ideal if we could critique this book, the timing, the tour and all the rest, detached from her decades spent under an unrelenting public eye. From jabs at the title — we all know “What Happened,” Secretary — to critiques of the timing — the book could be a distraction from White House turmoil — every element of this book and its accompanying promotion has come under scrutiny.
From Wellesley to FLOTUS to 2016 presidential candidate, the only thing that changed more often than Hillary’s cultivated, carefully measured image of herself was the public’s consensus of what her proper place was. But this is not a Hillary Clinton history lesson. PBS’s “Frontline” already did that concisely.
Once more, the discourse surrounding Clinton turns into a test of bias and (relative) objectivity for anyone discussing her. If you see no problem with the tour, you’re a centrist liberal who voted on gender lines; if you think she should shut up and continue hiking in Chappaqua, you’re a sexist bigot. If you think she should have found some other way to communicate her message, you’re tone policing; if you think she’s not taking up enough space on this tour, you’re a white feminist. The only thing that surpasses criticism of Hillary Clinton, is criticism of criticism of Hillary Clinton. Even just writing that last sentence gave me a headache, so to put it simply: there is no neutral opinion when it comes to Hillary. Instead, let’s try our hardest to imagine she was any other person in examining the reasons behind this book and its promotion.
Her resume includes positions as FLOTUS, U.S. Senator from New York and Secretary of State. Any one of those on its own gives sufficient credentials to write a book. Indeed, Senators Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders all have made the talk show rounds within the last year to discuss their recently published books, yet none of their guest spots have come under as much dismissal, criticism and even anger, in comparison to Tuesday’s New York signing of “What Happened.”
Comments about the popular vote notwithstanding, Hillary Clinton agreed to play by electoral college rules, and lost. Losing a presidential race does not necessitate disappearance from public life, Former VP Al Gore and Sen. John McCain being recent notable examples. The difference between their continuance and Clinton’s is a matter of buyer’s remorse -— the spectacle of 2016 is being rehashed once more, on every media outlet from The Today Show to The Late Late Show.
Instead of addressing the reforms needed in our democracy and the human cost of continued inaction in a stagnant Congress, we feed into media coverage of a sputtering feud between Bernie and Hillary, and continue to be consumers of a sensationalist press.
Instead, let the book and its promotional tour be constructive, a continuance of the conversation of what politics should and shouldn’t be, with the 2016 election hopefully being simply a fascinating case study for future AP U.S. History students.
Books are a means of concise mass communication that have yet to be surpassed. While this may not be a perfect articulation of Clinton’s agenda and recollections, it is a personal means for her to speak as a citizen with a platform, and maybe will help those of us who read it to, as Clinton said, “come to grasps with some of the inarticulate, maybe even inarticulable things that we’re feeling.”
Ultimately, if after attempting to detach yourself you don’t like her or her reasons for writing “What Happened,” my advice to you is simple: don’t buy her book.