What Happened: Notes & Review

what happened book cover

What Happened” (2017) is Hillary Clinton’s memoir book on the 2016 campaign elections.
She details the unfolding of the events that led to her stunning loss to conservative candidate Donald Trump, together with all the political manipulation, and the various culprits for the results.

Bullet Summary

  • Russian meddling was a huge factor in the election
  • James Comey was the man who influences the elections the most and gave the presidency to Trump
  • Clinton should have campaigned less on policy and realism and more on “populism” like her opponent did

Full Summary

About The Author: Hillary Clinton is a politician, Bill Clinton’s wife, and a two-time presidential runner-up.

Coping With Grief 

What Happened has some good points on how to cope with a scorching defeat. Here are some key points from What Happened by Hillary Clinton:

  • Stay in touch with a support network of friends and family

It also helped her to hear how motivated people were to get into action.

  • Don’t allow rage to take over

Hillary did fume, but she made sure to use her anger and not let it take over (also read: how to use anger).

  • Talk it over

She talked a lot to her husband Bill during long walks. They also spoke about the campaign to figure out what happened

  • Irish wake

Another great way to combat cynicism is an Irish wake, such as celebrating right after a saddening event. The Irish wake version of Hillary Clinton was hosting a post-election staff party.

  • Take a day off

Clinton took a day to “lay low” and regroup. I believe taking some time to grieve is indeed a great medicine.

  • Back to work

She also soon started taking action again. She says her first task was a thank you letter to the campaign staff and making sure they were getting salary and health insurance coverage until the end of the year.

Why She Wanted The Presidency

What Happened tackles a common critique of Hillary’s campaign: that she was a power-hungry woman who felt the presidency was “hers”.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Clinton wanted to be president because she honestly felt she could be of great service to the Country. She set out to tell her long history of public service but it wasn’t easy with so many painting her as a crooked power-hungry politician.

She says she could have done a better job at highlighting her qualifications, but she’s never been too good at bragging and showcasing and instead prefers talking about policies and strategies.

The Issue of Gender (and Sexism)

Clinton never wanted to make gender a major focus of her campaign, but she says that misogyny is a strong influence in politics and in American life.

Politics is dominated by men and the fact that the American people elected a man who bragged of sexually assaulting women, she says, is the proof.

Clinton Chose Realism, But Bombast Won

Clinton approached politics with the idea of being realistic about policies’ impact and what could be done.

For example, Sanders campaigned for free college for everyone without a realistic plan to make it happen, without considering how much it would cost in raised taxes for everyone.
But she has learned that big lofty goals are more important than carefully analyzed plans (My Note: I think she should have known).

She could have done more there, like, for example, rolling out her idea of “Alaska for America”, such as redistributing to Americans the wealth of future Alaskan raw materials. But she scrapped it because her team could not make out the fine details of the plan.

Email Scandal: A Thorn on Her Side

Every secretary of state had been using a private email account, but for Hillary, it turned out to be a huge problem that she could never clear.

The night television news spent three times as much time talking about the emails than about the policies.

With the email scandal obsession, it was hard for Hillary Clinton to reach people about her real intentions. And it was hard to make the facts speak louder. And the facts are that her email blunder was not a crime nor a security threat.

Coal Miners Blunder

With the media focusing more on email and blunders, Hillary’s mistakes in communication always took full precedence over her policies.

So when she talked about “putting coal minders out of business” she never fully managed to make her real message come across. Such as that she wanted a greener economy and to help those coal miners as well.

Facts and Lies

Trump was a new and different political beast the world had ever seen.
And according to PolitiFact and independent fact-checkers, he was the most dishonest candidate the site had ever measured. And Clinton was the most honest.

Trump never worried himself with reality and facts. He was all bombast

My Note:
That’s true, Trump lied and spoke with slogans, but that doesn’t change the fact that Hillary should have dealt with that more effectively. Hillary talks about “clear debate wins” over Trump, but I beg to differ.
Check here the analysis:

Russian Meddling Helped Trump

Russian hackers hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee and the email account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.

The email had nothing bad in them but were released at key moments during the campaign to distract voters. Such a key moment included the days after Trump’s groping campaign went public.

My Note:
Clinton says the hacking of her email was released at key strategic moments. But so were Trump’s groping comments, so she shouldn’t play the virgin innocent here.

The Russian meddling was even more damaging with a host of Twitter and Facebook profiles and pages releasing a flood of anti-Clinton messages and fake news.

The Nail in The Coffin: James Comey

What Happened gets very interesting here.

Hillary Clinton seems to put most of the blame for her loss on James Comey, the then-director of the FBI.
Both the CIA and FBI were aware of Russian cyberattacks to support Trump at least three months before the election. But while the CIA said so, the FBI never sounded the alarm.

Comey said he didn’t do so because he didn’t want to influence the elections, but that’s exactly what he did on October 28 when he told Congress -and hence the world- that they had discovered new emails from the then closed Hillary Clinton case.
A week later, a few days before the election, he said the emails were not new, the FBI was already aware of them, and that the case remained closed and with no evidence of wrongdoing.

Clinton says that changed the fate of the election.
Nate Silver, one of the most respected statisticians in the US, gave Clinton an 81% chance of victory before Comey’s revelations. After, it dropped to 65%.

Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General of the Justice Department, also condemned Comey’s actions.

what happened book cover

Real-Life Applications

Bombast Helps
Sticking to policies only will lose you some voters. You need some communication punch and passion.

Deal With The World As It Is…
… And not as you wish it would be.
It seems to be sometimes Clinton refused to deal with the world as it is, making voters smarter and more rational than they actually are.


Little Ownership
I didn’t see much ownership or self-analysis of her own mistakes. The power and passion of Sanders and Trump campaigns that she lacked barely gets any credit, but that was in my opinion one of the biggest contributors to the result.
And I believe she fails to see how damaging to her rep the Wall Street speeches were. And that was another huge stain on her image she never managed to clean.
And I see little disclosing of her own camp’s dirty games (ie.: Brazile giving her debate questions).

Look at this video to see that, when you put all the excuses together, it looks quite ridiculous:

Bit Self Promotional
Too Much of What Happened by Hillary Clinton is about her life, achievements, and all the great things she had in mind. We could have done with a little bit less of that.


Fact Backing
I have to admit, I approached the book a bit skeptical, but I actually learned a lot from it. And I really changed my mind about what happened.
And she makes good, statics-backed points about the impact of Comey’s revelations.

Behind The Curtain Peek
For those who are not aware of the working of this world, you get to learn quite a bit of the behind the scene of political campaigning.

Power Moves Awareness
What Happened by Hillary Clinton raises awareness that this is a world where many sharks will do whatever it takes to hobble you, if that serves them.
It’s a powerful reminder and one of the founding principles of this website.


I have to admit, after What Happened, I do believe that without external factors Hillary would have won the elections.
However, I also believe that Clinton would have easily won in spite of the external factors if she had presented herself better. And that’s where What Happened falls short.

Check 4 UN-PC reasons why Clinton lost or watch this video for The Power Moves take on 4 politically incorrect reasons why few people liked Hillary:

But if you’re interested in politics or if you’re interested in understanding what happened, then the book What Happened by Hillary Clinton is a great start.

Read more summaries or get the book on Amazon

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