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If I had a dollar for every complaint I’ve seen floating around lately about Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, I’d be able to buy this bag I’ve had my eye on. And also these shoes. And perhaps this coat, too. Yes, my wish list is really long right now, but hopefully you get the point. It’s a lot.
It seems to me that much of the criticism Clinton is currently up against stems from one issue: her refusal to disappear into the abyss. Just one glance at the explosive excerpts from What Happened make it abundantly clear that Clinton has no intentions of fading out of the political arena quietly, despite repeated calls from both sides of the aisle to do so. While Clinton does explicitly take responsibility for her own mistakes during the campaign in the book, she also doesn’t shy away from laying out exactly who else she believes contributed to her defeat. From former FBI Director James Comey to primary opponent Bernie Sanders, the account seems to be in line with exactly what I expected from one of the toughest figures in modern political history: a painfully honest, no-holds-barred account of the most bizarre political saga in recent history.
The political machine isn’t happy with What Happened, that much we can say for sure. It is obvious that most were not anticipating such blunt rhetoric from her camp so soon. Take Sanders, for example. The book makes explicit mention of the “lasting damage” she believes he did to her campaign. His response? He finds it to be “a little bit silly to keep talking about 2016,” which is ironic, considering Sanders made that statement while out promoting his own book on the very same subject. Or Republican Senator John McCain, who explained to Politico that “with these kind of things that happen in life, you’ve got to move on. You’ve got to quickly move on,” which seems like a thinly veiled euphemism for “stop talking indefinitely.” Or even a former Clinton surrogate who just came right out and said what the others were thinking, telling The Hill that “the best thing she could do is disappear.”
So the first woman in American history to secure the presidential nomination of a major political party should just go away because you said so? I think the hell not.
Whether you adore Clinton or count yourself among those who won’t be satisfied until she moves into an underground bunker, she doesn’t need anyone’s permission to put her version of events down on paper.
Personally, I find that all of these critiques support the same unfortunate idea: that Clinton shouldn’t get to tell her side of the election story until the rest of us decide we’re ready to hear it. Perhaps people will be more open to rehashing the details when the Democratic party is more united, or when Donald Trump is out of office, or when world peace is restored. But it doesn’t matter. So much of the behind-the-scenes story of the 2016 election is Clinton’s alone to tell — and whether we like it or not, that means it’s up to her to decide when she’s ready to tell it.
The bottom line is that whether you adore Clinton or count yourself among those who won’t be satisfied until she moves into an underground bunker, she doesn’t need anyone’s permission to put her version of events down on paper. And she certainly doesn’t need anyone’s permission to decide when she, or the world, is ready to have that story told. The masses can hate her — she’s used to it, I suspect — or despise the book and take issue with the entirety of its contents; all of those reactions are perfectly acceptable. But at the very least, she deserves the opportunity to share her side of the story — preferably without a chorus of men telling her to shut up already. Maybe just this once, we can keep our mediocre Clinton-only-visits-Wisconsin-when-she’s-on-a-book-tour jokes to ourselves, and let a woman who just experienced the political equivalent of hell have the moment (that she most definitely earned) to speak her mind.
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