Those who are still stunned that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the intensely bizarre run for the White House in 2016 should dive into Amy Chozick‚Äôs amusing but also unsettling memoir¬† ‚ÄúChasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns and One Intact Glass Ceiling.‚ÄĚ
Chozick covered both of Clinton‚Äôs campaigns for the White House: first for the Wall Street Journal in 2008 when Clinton ran against Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination; and for The New York Times when an overly confident Clinton took on Trump. Most of ‚ÄúChasing Hillary‚ÄĚ revolves around the 2016 marathon, and the author eschews any high-toned deep political analysis of that race.
Instead, Chozick assesses Hillary‚Äôs handling of Trump in the debates, and neatly sums up Trump‚Äôs win in language any political novice could understand: ‚ÄúI won‚Äôt bore you with the details because in the end the debates didn‚Äôt matter. Our rituals, the Times‚Äô and Hillary‚Äôs, our antiquated notions that voters would assess the candidates as we did, failed us. Competence, preparedness, policy. These are the words the privileged used. Turned out a lot of people just wanted to blow (expletive) up.‚ÄĚ
Chozick‚Äôs sharp insights are focused on the personalities in the race, the biggest being Hillary. Many conservative commentators have gleefully pointed to Chozick‚Äôs admiration for Clinton as proof the mainstream media was in the bag for her. Indeed, Chozick tells of being dragged to a book signing by Hillary Clinton as a young girl in her native San Antonio in the early 1990s and becoming instantly besotted.
She admired Clinton‚Äôs toughness, sharp mind and determination to stare down the sexist double-standards she faced down nearly every day of her public life. Even as a supposed clear-eyed, impartial reporter for the Journal, Chozick‚Äôs warmth toward Clinton betrayed her when she actually stood up and applauded Clinton during a town hall meeting in 2007.
But those same ‚ÄúI told you sos‚ÄĚ miss the whole point of Chozick‚Äôs book. We see Chozick quickly come to the realization during the 2016 campaign that Clinton was grossly out of touch with the voting public. She considered campaigning a horrible, painful slog. ‚ÄúIf there was a single unifying force behind her candidacy, it was her obvious desire to get the whole thing over with,‚ÄĚ Chozick wrote.
Clinton also cut herself off from the media, whom she deeply mistrusted. She was convinced The New York Times hated her and the rest of the media simply followed suit. To build a bigger bridge between Clinton and all of the reporters covering her campaign, Clinton‚Äôs team kept the media on a separate bus and then on a separate plane, often without a campaign flak on board.
Clinton‚Äôs handlers denied nearly all of Chozick‚Äôs interview requests (47 in all), even for positive stories like when Clinton went undercover in the early 1970s to expose school segregation in the South. The campaign refused to confirm the most minor of details, including whether Clinton ate a chicken wing at a county fair.
Chozick spent most of the campaign dueling with a group of press aides she describes as ‚ÄúThe Guys‚ÄĚ who took turns undermining her credibility, playing on her insecurities as a female reporter, and at times intimidating her. ‚ÄúYou‚Äôve got a target on your back,‚ÄĚ one of The Guys told her.
Trump, on the other hand, was gregarious even though he was constantly yammering about the ‚Äúfake news‚ÄĚ media. Chozick relates how Trump called her to talk about an article she wrote. Chozick, so surprised that an actual presidential candidate was talking to her, related to Trump how Clinton had not had a press conference in months. To Chozick‚Äôs embarrassment, Trump used that conversation to blast Clinton for trying to dodge the media.
Chozick does regret making the email controversy a dominate story toward the end of the campaign, essentially playing into Russian‚Äôs designs to allegedly turn the race toward Trump.
Her regrets aside, Chorzick‚Äôs breakdown of the 2016 campaign offers a unique glimpse into one of the most bizarre episodes in U.S. political history and one of its most intriguing players.