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Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 18, 2017
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A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2017
“[A] compelling new book... It’s the story of a wildly dysfunctional and ‘spirit-crushing’ campaign that embraced a flawed strategy (based on flawed data) that failed, repeatedly, to correct course... The blow-by-blow details in Shattered are nothing less than devastating... In fact, the portrait of the Clinton campaign that emerges from these pages is that of a Titanic-like disaster: an epic fail made up of a series of perverse and often avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate and her strife-ridden staff.”
—New York Times
“How did she lose? Providing that answer is the mission accepted by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes in Shattered… They saw and heard far more than most of us, exploring deep inside ‘Clintonworld’ in search of the real story. And in these pages, they share enough of what they witnessed to enable us to reach our own conclusions… Allen and Parnes offer a first bridge beyond the journalism of the campaign year to the scholarship of the historians and other scholars who will process all this material for generations to come.”
“Told largely through background interviews with campaign staff and a tangle [of] Clinton insiders, the book is a comprehensive chronicle of how her quest for the White House lurched and sputtered toward ignominious defeat… [Shattered is] richly reported.”
"What Allen and Parnes captured in Shattered was a far more revealing portrait of the Democratic Party intelligentsia than, say, the WikiLeaks dumps. And while the book is profoundly unflattering to Hillary Clinton, the problem it describes really has nothing to do with Secretary Clinton. The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway... If the ending to this story were anything other than Donald Trump being elected president, Shattered would be an awesome comedy, like a Kafka novel—a lunatic bureaucracy devouring itself. But since the ending is the opposite of funny, it will likely be consumed as a cautionary tale."
—Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
“Just like Game Change and Double Down, Shattered comes filled with plenty of juicy behind-the-scenes stories about the 2016 election… Compiled from anonymous interviews with more than 100 sources 'up and down the ranks of the campaign,' Shattered provides a detailed timeline of how a 'winnable race' was lost.”
“For those who like political autopsies, I recommend the new book by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, Shattered.”
—Niall Ferguson, The Boston Globe
“This highly entertaining and fast-moving book provides an extensive analysis of what caused the failure of Hillary Clinton’s unwieldy and hugely expensive campaign to carry its highly favored candidate across the finish line.”
—The Washington Times
"This withering account of Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign... yields a great deal of backroom color... the Clinton campaign never had a clear picture of its own candidate or of what was coming."
—The New Yorker
“Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes' exegesis of how Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 US Presidential Election to—do I even have to say his name?—is a thorough and, at points, dishy behind-the-scenes look at what went so horribly wrong in a campaign that clearly thought they had it right.”
“A riveting account of the final, dreadful hours of Clinton’s long pursuit of the presidency… Thanks to Allen and Parnes, we now know how Clinton reacted, at the moment she was supposed to become the first female president.”
“[Shattered] sheds particular light on the painful turn of events on election night, as Clinton watched the returns deviate dramatically from the path her campaign had so confidently predicted… As the first take on Clinton’s doomed campaign, [Allen and Parnes] offer a behind-the-scenes view of the obstacles in her way—some familiar and others a consequence of the shifting American electorate.”
“Hillary Clinton’s loss at the hands of Donald Trump last November is the single biggest upset in modern presidential politics. I’ve spent the intervening months trying to understand what Clinton’s defeat said about the electorate, about Clinton and about the campaign she ran. Now, there’s a book that does all of that for me!”
—Chris Cillizza, CNN
“In the last weeks before the election, the Hillary Clinton campaign did no polling… This is one of the thousand revelations in Shattered, the new book by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes that, for political junkies, redefines the word ‘juicy’ for our time… Allen and Parnes pile up headshaking detail after headshaking detail from the very beginning of her campaign to its end.”
—New York Post
“We’ve waited five months but we finally have the first thorough dissection of the mangled road kill that is the Hillary for president campaign. It’s called Shattered… It’s full of revelations about Clinton’s failed campaign.”
—Tucker Carlson, host of Fox’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight”
—ABC’s “Good Morning America”
“Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, the new book by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, is absolutely gripping reading, chock full of juicy reporting about the Democratic nominee’s campaign that you really wish you had read during the actual campaign.”
—The National Review
“Writing in a lively and fast-paced narrative, Allen and Parnes use their unparalleled access… to richly document what it felt like to be aboard the Clinton Hindenburg…”
“Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign should be required reading for anyone planning to run a political campaign.”
"[Allen and Parnes] have written the best making of the president book since the genre was created by Theodore H. White in 1960."
“An in-depth dissection of Hillary Clinton's second campaign for the presidency, a failure on many counts… this readable, endlessly fascinating autopsy by Roll Call columnist Allen and The Hill White House correspondent Parnes, who co-authored HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton (2014)… A top-notch campaign examination. If, like so many others, you wonder what on earth happened in November 2016, this is all the explanation you need.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Shattered provides a sharp behind-the-news and behind-the-scenes palette of details for a campaign that, in retrospect, seemed preordained to fail, and fail miserably.”
—The Globe and Mail
About the Author
JONATHAN ALLEN is a national political reporter with NBC News. A winner of the Dirksen and Hume awards for his reporting on Congress, he was previously the Washington bureau chief for Bloomberg and the White House bureau chief for Politico.
AMIE PARNES is the senior political correspondent for The Hill newspaper in Washington and a CNN political analyst. She covered Hillary Clinton during the campaign and covers the Trump administration.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
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Robbie Mook is made the villian and scapegoat in the book. On page after page, he is blamed for almost everything that goes wrong and everything that goes less than well. I personally don't have a high opinion of Mook or his methods, but the book is really unfair to him. The book wants to claim that Mook was both all-powerful within the campaign and powerless. One minute its telling us how he isn't in charge of anything that a normal campaign manager would control, then its telling us that he is making all these (bad) decisions. And while everyone (including the authors) are unloading on him, they tend to go very light on most everyone else (with some exceptions). The book repeatedly uses the word "cult" to describe anyone around him, hired by him or just about anyone who didn't hate him.
The book really fails to explain how the campaign was run. The book constantly shows the Clinton campaign acting as if it were broke and running out of money when it consistently enjoyed a massive advantage in fundraising and cash-on-hand. The campaign is presenting as lacking the money necessary for the "basics" of a presidential campaign but it is NEVER said where the hundreds of millions of dollars that were raised and spent went instead. Toward the end of the book, its claimed that they lacked the money to even do traditional polling in a key state like Florida. If a campaign lacks money for polling, tv ads and a ground game, where is all that money going? A campaign that also spent most of the election cycle leading and with every advantage is constantly portrayed as being on the edge of failure The campaign is portrayed as being full of people who think that winning easy is normal and that any setback is equal to them not being "allowed to have nice things".
One major problem in the book is that every critic inside the campaign seems to be able to accurately predict the future. They are aware not only of every setback and bad decision before it is made, they seem to know the long-term consequences of every bad decision. There is way too much framing of criticism during the campaign with full knowledge of events up to the end of the campaign. There are points like where an unidentified person (chapter 13) claims in June that Trump could win and that polling would underestimate his support. There is the point where they anticipate all sorts of Russian interference in the future. BIll Clinton seems to always be predicting exactly what will happen.
There are points when the authors start spinning their own stories. Stories that somewhat draw on their previous books on Hillary Clinton. They describe the Clinton-Obama relationship as a "partnership for the ages". They describe her decision to be secretary of state to have been driven by patriotism and a call to duty by Obama. We are told, incredibly, that she didn't want to run for President and did so only after having concluded that no other democrat could possibly win. All these things ring false and self-serving. The authors also play favorites. They apparently had lots of friends at "#Ready for Hillary" and take up a cause concerning them in the book that few would care about.
There are also points of selective presentation, selective withholding of information and questionable interpretation of events. The worst being the book's coverage of the resignation of Debbie Wasserman-Shultz at the democratic convention. Its presented as a crisis handled well rather than a series of self-inflicted wounds. Blame is thrown at the supporters of Bernie Sanders and almost nothing is said about what the leaks that brought her down revealed. The whole question of fairness toward the Bernie Sanders campaign by the democratic party during the primaries is *off limits* just like Hillary Clinton's bad relationship with journalists is almost completely off limits. The treatment of the meeting between Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch is to suggest that it looked bad and to (somehow) blame it for the FBI taking the lead in dealing with the emails in public. There is also the claim that the campaign saw the "Russian" story as bigger than the access hollywood tapes scandal and that Trump's sexism actually distracted from the "Russian" story the Clinton campaign wanted to talk about. I don't know how to take some of these things seriously.
The part of the book I was anticipating most was the coverage of election night. But the book adds almost nothing to the story that wasn't already known. The moment at which the Clinton campaign stopped talked to the press and went radio silent for hours was not even mentioned. The whole account of election night seems to have been done after the fact at a distance or been greatly simplified.
The worst moment in the book is early on. After the initial problems with the Clinton emails, BIll and Hillary call in to their campaign headquarters and jointly attack their own staff. They need to "do your damn jobs!" (Bill) and "you heard him, get it straight" (Hillary). There are multiple problems with that. The first being the distance between the Clintons and the campaign....that they didnt even bother to go in person. The second is Hillary being on the phone with *bill* to confront her own staff. The whole incident kind of characterizes the problem of distance between the candidate and her campaign along her with questionable leadership skills.
Over and over again, the book points out the basic problem that Clinton could not explain why she wanted to be president That she kept expecting her campaign to create a personality and a message *for her*. Her inner circle kept demanding that speechwriters and campaign workers who barely knew her (or interacted with her much) would capture the "foulmouthed and fun" Hillary they knew.
In spite of itself, the book does point toward the problems of the Clinton campaign and more generally the democratic party. It rightfully points out that different parts of the party base have very different agendas based on race. That messages about the fight for economic progress are in conflict with messages about "social justice". That an appeal made on one of those issues will invariably alienate those voters concerned with the other issues. And that these issues break on racial lines in unfortunate ways. The future problem of the democratic party being how to create a unified message that works with african-americans, latinos and working-class whites without alienating any of them.
The book keeps complaining about how places like Michigan and Iowa are "unfriendly" to the Clintons. But it never quite follows through on the implication of that. If the states that have voted democrats into the white house since 1992 have become hostile places for a national candidate, how are democrats to win? The book points out the sad truth that the places where Hillary often had the most support were in states like South Carolina which were so republican-dominated that they were meaningless in the general election. The greater implication is that the math required these days to win the democratic party nomination is at odds with the math needed to win a general election.
The attacks on Mook and data analysis in the book are simply not fair. Mook was certainly to one extreme on the issue, but traditional polling failed to predict Trump's election in the same way that Mook's data analysis did.
Another good (ironic) point made by the book is that the campaign was simply one small part of the greater Clinton-Industrial Complex. Nobody on the campaign had any insight into the Clinton Foundation, Bill Clinton's personal office staff, the various donors/consultants/others who had access to the Clintons, the tight circle around Hillary, the Clinton Global Initiative or the team of lawyers dealing with the Clinton's legal issues. The campaign could not control strategy for dealing with the emails because of legal issues around the emails that were only understood by the private lawyers of the Clintons. The Clintons prioritized a CGI event with Melinda Gates over the needs of the campaign. The problem for the authors is that great access to the highest levels of the campaign only showed them *part* of the story of the election and part of the decision-making process.
The writing style used in the book isn't all that great. As in prior works by the authors, its all kind of scattershot and disorganized. Like a long diary of a campaign rather than a book about the campaign. Certain sections are too long (Hillary's debate prep, Hillary's major speeches). Others are too short. They often fail to construct a narrative and degenerate into finger-pointing and catty gossip about the campaign.
One of the most interesting part of the book are the sections that claim to know what Hillary Clinton herself is thinking. Its often difficult to figure out in certain parts if the authors are (a) getting her direct opinion, (b) presenting what has been said secondhand by her friends or (c) just making it up based on multiple sources.
The ultimate weakness of the book is that it brings very little new to the table. I didn't really learn much of anything from it. Its useful perhaps in that it points in the right directions as to what the problems are, but it never quite gets to the answer most of the time. The subject of the book, the candidate herself, remains as much of a cipher after reading as before.
Authors Johnathan Allen and Amie Parnes promise --- and deliver --- an objective evaluation of Ms. Clinton’s campaign:
In that final hurrah, Hillary broke one glass ceiling— becoming the first female nominee of a major political party…In the end, though, this was a winnable race for Hillary. Her own missteps— from setting up a controversial private e-mail server and giving speeches to Goldman Sachs to failing to convince voters that she was with them and turning her eyes away from working-class whites— gave Donald Trump the opportunity he needed to win. This is the story of how it all unraveled again for Hillary. We expect that it will generate a feeling of righteousness, and perhaps a touch of sympathy, in those of you who don’t like her. For many of Hillary’s millions of supporters, we know that it will leave you feeling shattered all over again.
I’m one of those “don’t like her” people. It’s nothing to do with her being a Democrat. Although I am a registered, card-carrying, dues-paying member of Republican state and national parties, I voted for Obama in 2012, blogged for him, and received “thank you” notes from the White House for writing encouraging letters of support for his administration. I rate Obama an “A-“ President, higher than the “B+” he modestly graded himself.
So, like many in the Industrial Midwest, and the other “swing states” to the south and west, I voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016. We did not like our Republican Party Establishment leaders, and were open-minded to voting Democratic, even for such a Socialist-minded candidate like Bernie Sanders. But we could not vote for Ms. Clinton. She seemed to be in the same crew as her Republican counterparts Mitt Romney, Jeb! Bush, and John Kasich --- washed up old fogeys from the Old Century with no conception of how life was evolving in the New Century.
I wrote Vice President Joe Biden in 2014, urging him to run, because as a Republican I could not stand my own party’s Establishment candidates, or Ms. Clinton. (I only mention this up because there is a chapter about “The Biden threat.”) Alas, Biden’s personal tragedy of losing his son to cancer, derailed any possibility that he might challenge Ms. Clinton.
In the end, after considerable reluctance, voters like me came down for Donald Trump. As one of those “swing state” voters in 2012 and 2016, this book resonated with me. An interesting passage struck me at the beginning.
The key passage of [Ms. Clinton’s kickoff] speech was an explanation of why she was running for president: “to make our economy work for you and for every American.”
Hillary wanted to connect herself and her campaign to Franklin Roosevelt, the president who defined the aspirations of the Democratic Party and much of the nation for generations. “Here on Roosevelt Island [she said privately to her speech writer] I believe we have a continuing rendezvous with destiny.”
The book makes it clear that this would have been exactly the right message the public, including me, wanted to hear!
The public’s anger with Washington had built steadily over the intervening years, but it was divided: Conservatives believed the government had grown too powerful and redistributed too much money from taxpayers. On the left, voters often viewed the existing government as an impediment to greater redistribution of wealth and more benefits for the middle and lower classes. However, these two sets of populists did overlap in a few essential areas. They were mad about corporate subsidies, trade agreements, and American military intervention overseas. They scapegoated different segments of society— immigrants on the right and bankers on the left, for example— but agreed that the Washington establishment, in which Hillary and many of the seventeen Republican presidential candidates were major players, wasn’t serving the country well.
Ironically, that’s the one message I never heard her say in public. On the campaign trail she became a “social justice warrior” who talked about championing issues for women, minorities, and gays/transgenders. The She seemed to disdain the people who were most distressed by the under-performing economy --- folks with industrial traditions in the thousand-mile “Rustbelt” from the Delaware River in Pennsylvania to the Des Moines River in Iowa. The loss of these 60 “heartland” electoral votes, that Obama and Bill Clinton won, doomed her.
The other big revelation I gleaned from the book that Ms. Clinton was perhaps doomed by her own humongous footprint in the Democratic Party. She was so well connected that everybody wanted to manage her campaign. She ended up with an amorphous, conflicted, ossified, bureaucratic team that diluted her message, dispersed her efforts, and puffed up her ego with flattery to the point where she became lazy with the seeming certainty of winning. Donald Trump, on the other hand, ran his own quirky campaign by himself. Ms. Clinton was the Chairman of the Board. Trump was the Entrepreneur. The Entrepreneur prevailed.
The book makes clear that if there were many defects in herself and her staff. If there was any one single blow that crystallized the various disaffections and broke her “glass jaw” it was her frank stupidity in transferring classified State Department documents to an unauthorized (and illegal?) private server. I am sure others suspected, as I did, that she purloined those documents in order to sell classified information to foreign governments and business interests. Perhaps that is too malicious an interpretation of her motives, but there is no doubt that she scoffed at the government policies protecting this information that she had sworn to uphold. Revelations of the private email server destroyed her credibility on all other issues:
When voters were asked to describe her with a single word, “liar” was the one most frequently used. A lot of that came from Republicans, but it had a psychic effect on Democrats who had looked at her as the party’s likely nominee.
What I enjoyed most about the book is its telling of the gossip inside Ms. Clinton’s campaign. The stories are told colorfully from the viewpoints of the many boisterous personalities who managed campaigns of Ms. Clinton and the other candidates.
The criticism of books like these is the inverse of their strength: They are encyclopedic. If you have a lot of time you’ll enjoy savoring this book page-by-page. This is the perfect book to read on a plane or sitting by the beach. You can enjoy it, and learn from it, without having to put your mind too deeply in gear. If you’re pressed for time, you’ll want to do some skimming. I’m reading the Kindle Edition, which is ideal for skimming, and then re-reading in detail.
I haven’t found anything to object to about the substance of the book. It is neither an indictment or an apology for Ms. Clinton. Johnathan Allen and Amie Parnes present a well-scoped universe of facts about Ms. Clinton and her entourage and leave it up to the readers to reach their own conclusions.
To be fair to the authors, they lay the blame for her loss squarely on her. They sort of feel bad about it but their close access makes it obvious to them and they are objective enough to report it. The other main person held responsible is campaign manager Robby Mooks, who is so enamored with 'analytics' that he can't see the forest for the trees. The canary in the coal mine is Bill Clinton, who senses that his wife and her campaign are not connecting with the white working class, but is ignored by the team who consider him washed-up and out of date.
It would have been nice to have a book that also gave the story from the Trump side, but as these reporters didn't have that sort of access there, I am glad that they didn't try to shoehorn it in. That would have to be the subject of a different book.
I do notice a number of one star reviewers who seem to be Trump supporters. I really don't understand why as this book does not present a flattering view of Hillary Clinton at all and Trump himself is only seen through the eyes of the Clinton campaign and of course they don't think highly of him.
Overall, it's a book about entitlement, hubris and ambition for the sake of ambition. I very much enjoyed it.