What Happened

by Hillary Clinton, Simon & Schuster, 512pp, £20

This is an astonishing and disturbing book. Hillary Clinton writes persuasively of seeking “grace” after her defeat, and concluded her speeches throughout the 2016 campaign calling for “love and kindness”; but this book is unrelievedly ungracious.

She describes her opponent as “a clear and present danger to the country … an unqualified bully [whose] towering self-regard blotted out all hope of learning or growing … a charlatan … sexist, misogynist [who] appealed to the ugliest impulses of national character … is on the wrong side of justice, history, and basic human decency … hostile to civil rights and voting rights across the board, is for nuclear proliferation, against NATO, and for torturing prisoners … lacks character, values and experience [and] will be the most reckless president in American history, and put at risk our country’s national security and well-being”.

In sum, she declares Donald Trump to be “the least experienced, least knowledgeable, least competent president our country has ever had … who doesn’t think in terms of morality or human rights, he only thinks in terms of power and dominance. He dreams of Moscow on the Potomac.” She writes that Trump has “an affection for tyrants, hostility toward allies, and alleged financial ties to shady Russian actors”. He has “degraded national life” and “is a tumour on the American soul”.

There is nothing gracious or kind about these remarks. They are extremely nasty even by the knockabout standards of American elections, and the factual assertions are completely and demonstrably false, in poorer taste than Mr Trump at his (appalling) worst. Other narrowly defeated American presidential candidates have written thoughtful and civilised memoirs. Mrs Clinton is relentlessly partisan. Her opponents are always “the extreme right”, though Trump is in fact a centrist on most issues, well to the left of the Ted Cruz Republicans.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection