Book review: The Destruction of Hillary Clinton, by Susan Bordo
Professor, scholar, and Pulitzer Prize-nominee Susan Bordo is, like many others, astounded at the events of the past year that culminated in Donald Trump assuming power in Washington instead of Hillary Clinton. And like many, she’s struggled to make sense of it all: of the complex, obfuscated political and media machinery that contributed so heavily to the various twists and turns of the last election cycle.
And like many of us, she’s sick of the cliches and the same old hammering of points, trying to separate unpopular fact from fiction that spreads like wildfire, but as she points out, with many books already written in the camp of hating Clinton with a passion, a defense is absolutely necessary. She began this book as essays for the Huffington Post, unpacking the truth of the campaign accusations and scandals, exploring the “‘perfect storm’ of sexism, partisan politics, and media madness” that resulted in electing a con man to the nation’s highest office.
I read it to soothe some of my own frustrations and confusion, but with the same bias that most liberals probably bring to the table. I’ve also been desperately trying to better understand the hatred that dogs the Clintons and I hoped it would clear up some of the myths and mysteries. Bordo points out the insanity of this hypocritical, nonsensical rage against every move made by the perceived two-headed Clinton beast hilariously:
She was accused of having extraordinary powers that “enabled” her husband’s infidelity, influenced Wall Street through the spell of a few polite remarks in public speeches, and put an entire nation in danger by “recklessly” handling classified material (that had not, in fact, been marked as classified). Her vote alone, apparently, was responsible for the war in Iraq. She even had her own “familiar” – her husband – with whom she frequently merged, shape-shifting into a slithery, elusive man-woman called “The Clintons.” This mythological creature lived by “rules of its own,” and lines its pockets with the lucre amassed through a supposed “charity” foundation.
The day after the election, a non-American colleague who doesn’t live or work in the States looked at me with unabashed horror – that twisted up, disgusted face – and asked condescendingly, “Reeeeaaallly?” when I said I didn’t hate Hillary. He didn’t offer any explanation for his opinion and I was too broken over the thought of the incoming Orange Menace, so I didn’t ask him to elaborate. But I was thinking, “Even THIS guy hates her? For why?” I need to understand.
She does her research and calls out hypocrisy in the many forms it took in the last year. I was particularly struck by her take on Mitt Romney’s 2012 “binders full of women” comment, a gaffe that may have been the nail in his coffin, and seems so minuscule and innocent faced with Trump: “But 2016? That was the year in which GOP contender Donald Trump could routinely insult women’s bodies, brag about grabbing them by the genitals, have twelve women come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, and have it all evaporate – poof! – by Election Day.”
I’ve followed the same news and researched the issues and topics that took center stage last year, but I wanted to hear more perspective. Unfortunately, this treatise will do little to change anyone’s mind, or even make them consider alternatives, if they weren’t already in Clinton’s or at least the Democratic camp to begin with.
The biggest problem is the unapologetic bias, an almost total unwillingness to accept any alternative to Hillary’s goodness and qualification as a candidate, and a balanced picture is necessary. Bordo, an older white woman of the same statistical group as Clinton, paints millennials, of which I am one, as one of the scapegoat groups responsible for Clinton’s failure.
I resent that. Hillary didn’t speak to me, my feelings or issues as other candidates might have or have in the past, but I’ve never hated her or understood the suspicion around her, and I supported her wholeheartedly once she secured the Democratic nomination. But Bordo paints many people and groups with a broad brush, which seems to me the kind of problem that’s helped lead us to the fractured state we’re in today.
And not only millennials – she has so much ire for Bernie Sanders and his supporters, which frustrated me too. Of course there were many factors in Hillary’s failure to present as a strong candidate, but the anger with which she attacks Sanders was unfounded.
Bordo also points out the strong opinions many have against Clinton that are less founded in solid fact or reasoning and more based on feeling – the “deep story”, as sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild (author of the excellent Strangers in Their Own Land) would call it. Bordo clarifies that many feel unsure or distrustful of Hillary because it’s this bigger, vaguer story of distrust that’s been so widely disseminated.
But when the truth comes out, for example that FBI director James Comey found no evidence to support the theory of Clinton’s misuse of state email, that story and fact are inconvenient, less interesting than the idea that she must’ve done something wrong because where there’s smoke there’s fire.
Unapologetically biased as it may be, Destruction is important considering how many vitriolic anti-Clinton books exist. Clinton Cash is a frequently quoted favorite of Trump’s, and Bordo names it “one of a still-growing number of poorly researched, openly vicious books churned out by the right-wing fantasy factory of Clinton crime exposés, carrying titles like Unlikeable, Crisis of Character, Guilty as Sin, Hillary’s America, and The Clintons’ War on Women. Along with the widespread dissemination of fake news stories published in the National Enquirer (whose CEO is a good friend of Trump’s)…” (That’s reason enough to impeach him, isn’t it? Being friends with the CEO of the National Enquirer? Gross.)
This book balances the scales a tiny bit, at least.
The Destruction of Hillary Clinton
by Susan Bordo
published April 4, 2017 by Melville House Publishing