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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Saturday, 10 February 2018

"What Happened" by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Clinton is the wife of Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, who went on to become a Senator for New York, US Secretary of State under Barack Obama, and Democrat candidate for US President in 2016 in a race in which she gained more votes than her rival Donald Trump but lost to him because of the archaic US Electoral College rules. This book tries to explain how her campaign, which everyone (including herself and, it appears, Mr Trump) thoughtshe would win, failed so spectacularly.

It is written in a very straightforward style. As is typical of US books it is obsessed with facts, in particular poll ratings, the names of people, and what she eats. She would appear to read a lot of inspirational books especially those written by religious people.  I found that these details tended to get in the way of the narrative.

It's not a rant. There is a lot of careful policy. Clinton comes over as extremely thoughtful, searingly honest, and very caring, although it is interesting that the norms she accepts (such as self-help, reducing taxes, being the world's policeman) are really rather right wing in the context of European politics.

Some interesting comments:

  • "To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis on which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle." (p 9; quoting Timothy Snyder)
  • Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism.” (p 9)
  • It wasn't all yoga and breathing: I also drink my share of chardonnay.” (p 27)
  • There is an opioid epidemic in the US. In 2015 over 33,000 people overdosed and died. “A woman in treatment [for opioid addiction] told me, ‘We're not bad people trying to get good. we're sick people trying to get well’.” (p 62)
  • Gun violence ... is the leading cause of death for young black men [in the US], outstripping the next nine causes of death combined.” (p 178)
  • Change might be the most powerful word in American politics. It's also one of the hardest to define.” (p 197)
  • “Service is the rent we pay for living.” (p 215; quoting Marian Wright Edelman)
  • President Obama once compared Vladimir Putin to a ‘bored kid at the back of the classroom. ... he's got that kind of slouch’.” (p 327)
  • De Tocqueville ... wrote that revolts tend to start not in places where conditions are worst, but in places where expectations are most unmet.” (p 442)

February 2018; 464 pages

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