First Excerpts of Hillary Clinton’s Memoir What Happened Are Here & They’re Heartbreaking

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Hillary Clinton’s memoir, What Happened, is scheduled to come out on September 12th, but a few excerpts have been released early. In the introduction to the book, Clinton writes, “In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. Now I’m letting my guard down.” So now we finally get to hear Clinton say all the things we knew she was thinking all along, the things we were all shouting at our computers and televisions through the entire election season. Namely, that Donald Trump is a huge creep.

One of these early excerpts describes one of his creepiest moments: the second presidential debate, when Trump followed Clinton around the stage, looming closely behind her and leering at her as she spoke.

In that clip there, you can hear Clinton describe what she was thinking in that moment. (This is presumably a clip from the audio book version, although Audible still has the narrator listed as TBD.) This was just two days after the Access Hollywood tape leaked, in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women, and now this man is clearly trying to intimidate her, stalking her around a small stage.

“It was incredibly uncomfortable,” she says. “He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled. It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching, well, what would you do? Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly, ‘Back up you creep, get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women but you can’t intimidate me, so back up.’”

The excerpt goes on, “I chose option A. I kept my cool, aided by a lifetime of dealing with difficult men trying to throw me off. I did, however, grip the microphone extra hard. I wonder, though, whether I should have chosen option B. It certainly would have been better TV. Maybe I have overlearned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist, smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world.”

It seems important that the book’s title lacks punctuation. It sounds like “what happened” will be a concept, not a question. Because we all have our thoughts on what happened. It could have been divisiveness within the Democratic party, or Russian hacking, or the pervasive sexism that still plagues this country–the same sexism that makes that image of “staying calm” while clenching your fists and smiling so achingly familiar. Hillary Clinton recognizes that she is not is a position to answer the question of what happened. As she writes, “I have too little distance and too great a stake in it.”

There’s no doubt that for Clinton’s supporters, this memoir will be infuriating, and painful. This other excerpt she released makes me think I might only be able to read the book in single paragraph spurts, with long recoveries after each.

“Every day that I was a candidate for president, I knew that millions of people were counting on me and I couldn’t bear the idea of letting them down, but I did. I couldn’t get the job done and I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life. In this book, I write about moments from the campaign that I wish I could go back and do over. If the Russians could hack my subconscious, they’d find a long list.”

Well, that’s heartbreaking. What do you all think? Are you planning to read What Happened?

(via Politico, image: Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.