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From the Jaws of Victory

We’ve read Chasing Hillary so you didn’t have to. The Clinton campaign was even worse than we thought.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton smiles at the crowd at the start of her remarks during a primary night rally at the Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, June 7, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Drew Angerer / Getty

After a decade of covering Hillary Clinton, New York Times reporter Amy Chozick recently compiled her copious notes and produced the book Chasing Hillary, yet another firsthand account of the campaign and election that produced President Donald Trump. While sympathetic to Clinton — an affection that was, amusingly, not reciprocated by the secretive candidate and her campaign — the book contains its fair share of less-than-sympathetic takeaways, along with other interesting tidbits. We’ve collected ten for your reading pleasure.

1

Joe Biden’s Fear

After flirting with running in 2016, former vice-president Joe Biden ultimately declined to jump in due to what many believed was grief over his son’s death. Yet Chozick argues he was nervous about the prospect of crossing the Clintons to begin with. “You guys don’t understand these people,” Biden had allegedly told the White House press corps off the record one day. “The Clintons will try to destroy me.”

2

Just One of “the Guys”

For all the complaints of misogyny from the Sanders camp, Clinton’s wasn’t immune. There was of course the creepy faith adviser whom she declined to fire, first reported back in January this year. But Chozick also describes an environment of casual, sometimes sexist bullying from “The Guys,” an ever-changing cast of male press aides who served as Clinton’s enforcers in the media world. “I didn’t know I had to say it was off the record when I was inside you,” one of them — now identified as Philippe Reines — told her at one point. “It wasn’t that she didn’t know how The Guys acted,” Chozick writes of Clinton. “It was that she liked them that way.

3

“Do You Understand My Politics?”

When Bernie Sanders tapped Pete D’Alessandro to run his campaign in Iowa, he didn’t prod him with logistical and strategic inquiries. Instead, says Chozick, he had one question: “Do you understand my politics?” It provides something of an insight to both Sanders’s aims early in his campaign, and what was most important to him. Chozick notes that she couldn’t have imagined Clinton asking the same question, nor the response.

4

Hamptons Testing

Big-money fundraisers not only let Clinton shakedown donors for much-needed cash, but, as environments in which she felt relaxed, at home, and free to be herself, they served as an important breeding grounds for future campaign rhetoric. It was in the company of friends and acquaintances paying mountains of cash that Clinton came up with “Friends don’t let friends vote for Trump,” “I stand between you and the apocalypse,” and the notorious “deplorables” line. It “always got a laugh,” writes Chozick, “over living-room chats in the Hamptons, at dinner parties under the stars on Martha’s Vineyard, over passed hors d’oeuvres in Beverly Hills, and during sunset cocktails in Silicon Valley.”

5

Bernie Supporters = Unshaven “White Supremacists”

In the public’s mind, Clinton’s “deplorables” quip is remembered as evidence of her disdain for much of Trump’s fan base. But there was one other group Clinton had a similar dislike of: Bernie Sanders supporters. As one person who had talked to Clinton about the difference between Trump and Sanders crowds recounted, her feeling was that “at least white supremacists shaved.”

6

All the News…

By the end of February, the Times had produced a deep dive into Clinton’s disastrous role in Libya and its aftermath. But instead of publishing it upon its completion, the paper waited. Why? “The Times, afraid the story could affect the race, decided not to publish it until after the polls closed in South Carolina,” writes Chozick. She’s almost certainly right that its publication would have done little to sway voters in the contest. Yet the question remains: isn’t the point of journalism to inform the public before they vote?

7

Signs

The Clinton campaign was desperate to attract and showcase popular enthusiasm, but only on its own terms. “Brooklyn thought it best that the Everydays” — the campaign’s charming term for ordinary, non-elite voters — “hold professionally produced signs that displayed the message du jour rather than something made with love and some finger paint and magic marker.” According to Chozick, this went as far as snatching away one little girl’s crayon-produced “I ♥ Hillary” sign and replacing it with an official, campaign-branded one.

8

“Not an Issue That We’re Seeing”

After Clinton’s shock loss in Michigan, the campaign didn’t want to hear about trade deals, reacting testily to a postmortem filed by Chozick that blamed the loss partly on its voters’ trauma over NAFTA. “It’s just not an issue that we’re seeing,” said chief strategist Joel Benenson, who insisted the data wasn’t motivating suburban women or minority voters. “NAFTA, Amy, really?” said director of communications Jennifer Palmieri.

9

Bill vs. BLM

Bill Clinton’s April 2016 outburst at a group of Black Lives Matters protesters was viewed as a major gaffe, given both his wife’s reliance on the African American vote and his own year-old contrition over his crime bill. But Bill’s defense of both that particular law and Hillary’s heavily criticized use of the term “superpredators” during the election was calculated, says Chozick. “The people who knew Clinton best said he was looking ahead to the fall, and especially the white working-class voters who put him in office in the first place,” she writes. “He figured that, for the most part, those voters would’ve agreed with him.”

10

What’s It All For?

If nothing else, Chozick’s book — topped with evocations of the tedium and pointlessness of being part of the traveling press corp on a campaign — is a reminder of the grossly disproportionate journalistic over-resourcing for election campaigns, particularly presidential ones. Chozick herself seems to acknowledge this, recounting how she began to think of herself as a secretary, typing out uninspiring copy day after day in a semiconscious state. “Back in the newsroom, my Times colleagues made calls, pored over documents, and even got Trump’s taxes in the mail,” she writes. “But the Travelers, well, we were the yeomen of political journalists, shuttling between states to hear the same speech over and over.”