By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Yes, I read New York Times reporter Amy Chozick’s Chasing Hillary so you don’t have to, while traveling back to Maine on the train and then the bus. Combining Chasing Hillary with Shattered gives a good parallax view of the omnishambles that was the Clinton campaign. I dog-eared rather a lot of pages for future attention, but I’m only going to call out what I see the high points here. So, this post is not a review, though I have to say that Chasing Hillary is a cracking good read, as they say: It’s a well structured and vivid portrayal of life on the campaign trail, especially life on the trail as experienced by a professional woman. (The press corps trailing Clinton was mostly women, interestingly.) From the Times review, “The Walls That Hillary Clinton Created”:
“Chasing Hillary” is not a mea culpa, for Chozick or for The Times. Instead, it’s a behind-the-scenes director’s cut for readers who closely followed the 2016 political coverage. You may have read articles she wrote on the floor of the Orlando airport, in Las Vegas next to a “Sex and the City” slot machine, on the M42 crosstown bus. Political junkies [like me] will enjoy deciphering her various pseudonyms for Clinton staffers, history junkies [like me] will find a valuable first-person account of an extraordinary campaign, media junkies [like me] will devour the backstage antics of the traveling press corps. (Chozick only names names when she’s complimenting her colleagues; when she complains, she uses pseudonyms.)
From Entertainment Weekly, “Chasing Hillary offers a gripping, incendiary take on our ugly politics“:
Chozick worked the “Hillary beat” for a decade, culminating in her following Clinton’s doomed 2016 campaign for the New York Times. She juxtaposes the job with her own development as a political reporter: her initial struggles upon moving to New York, her ascension at the Wall Street Journal, her decision to freeze her eggs and hit pause on her personal life after learning she’d be chasing Clinton around the country, again. In effect, she reveals how politics becomes personal.
As the slogan goes (and I’ll have something to say about “personal”). So the high points: One is a scoop that nobody seems to have noticed; one is a story that, oddly, was never written; and the third is Chozick’s character as a fully paid-up member of the 10%. (Here are two interviews with Chozick, from Rolling Stone and Cosmopolitan.)
The Scoop: Obama and the Intelligence Community
From Chasing Hillary, page 218. I’m quoting most of it because of the rare opportunity to see Obama schmoozing:
“It didn’t take long before my trail friends gushed over my new radiant-cut diamond that still felt odd on my finger. Obama strolled down the aisle to the back of the plane where we were sitting. We rushed to ready our voice recorders and cameras assuming he’d do an impromptu press conference. Instead, Obama walked right up to me and said “Okay, lemme see the rock.” I stretched my hand out, and he entered Dad mode. “That’s great, so when are you quittin’?” [an odd assumption for a liberal, surely]. He asked how long we’d been dating. (“Okay, three years is a decent stint.”) He said he wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to plan the wedding. (“After the campaign? Okay, well you know these things take time. You’ve gotta pick your dress….”) [on what basis?!].
Bobby and I got married a year later….
This strikes me as quite remarkable, although Chozick simply relates the incident and moves on; she doesn’t even say how she responded to Obama’s offer. First, isn’t it rather remarkable that Obama offered to put the intelligence community at the service of a New York Times reporter? Not for a leak, or a story, or embedding, but a personal service, a background check on a civilian third party, Chozick’s fiancé? Does this happen a lot? Second, if this is the level of detail that Obama is comfortable with in his interactions with the intelligence community, what other out-of-band back-channel favors has Obama asked them for? Eh?
The Missed Story: Alchohol
From Chasing Hillary, page 3, as Chozick describes the preparations for Clinton’s victory coverage:
I had a couple of features in the can, scheduled to run in the Times‘ commemorative women’s section the day after the election. Advertisers had already bought space in the historic special edition. I even had a story ready for the paper’s Sunday Styles section about how Hillary would be .
Beset by stereotypes that she is the hall-monitor type, chuchgoing and dutiful, but not much fun at a keg party, in reality, .
As always with Clinton health stories, I fall back on what’s hiding in plain sight. Clinton takes blood thinning medication: warfarin (Coumadin). This is not mentioned in the book. Do alchohol and warfarin interact? They do. Healthline, “Is It Safe to Mix Warfarin and Alcohol?”
There are no specific recommendations against drinking alcohol while you take warfarin, but alcohol can affect how warfarin works. It slows down how quickly your body breaks down warfarin. That means drinking alcohol can lead to a buildup of the drug in your body….
Alcohol can also cause your body to make fewer platelets than normal. Platelets are the cells in your body that start the blood clotting process. Warfarin also interferes with the clotting process, so drinking alcohol while you take warfarin can .
If you do decide to drink while taking warfarin, you should only drink occasionally. That means . You should also limit the amount you drink to .
“One or two servings..” Definitely not “or three.” From WebMD, “Does Alcohol Affect Deep Vein Thrombosis?”
When you drink, you might get tipsy and lose your balance, too. You don’t want to fall and hurt yourself. That could be very dangerous, especially if you hit your head.
Having a drink or two every once in a while is probably fine when you’re on blood thinners — just be sure to talk to your doctor. If you’re a regular drinker, you may need to get your medication levels checked more often.
Now, this is not to say that warfarin and alchohol together cause dizziness; it does say that in a fall, the danger of bleeding and blood clots increases. Yes, Clinton’s medical staff — also not mentioned in the book — could adjust her dosage, but given that coumadin is affected by stress, I would imagine her dosage would need to be constantly monitored and adjusted, especially if Clinton’s alcohol intake increased. I think all of this is a story, and I think it’s odd that neither Chozick nor any of the other (mostly woman) reporters on the Clinton beat see fit to cover it. (I’m reminded of the way that the press corps covered for FDR, never showing him in his wheelchair).
Life in the 10%
Finally, speaking to the idea that “the personal is political,” as Entertainment Weekly has it, I’d say it’s more like “the personal is the political class. Joel Hammer writes in his Amazon Review:
Regarding the bias of reporters. There is no bias. They all supported Hillary. Their support was frank and out in the open. Not a single reporter mentioned in the book was not a Hillary partisan. Her defeat was a shell shock for all the NY Times people. At Hillary’s concession speech, the reporters were careful not to hug one another and cry in public, since that would look bad. Back at the office, Chozik sobbed, and they engaged in self-recrimination for somehow helping Trump to defeat her. What could they have done differently to help elect Hillary? Many concluded they had run too many stories about the e-mail server and such, but they had all assumed Hillary would win and at the time so they were more concerned about scoops and bylines. (In this they were no different from James Comey. Oh, those pollsters!) They blamed the Russians.
All as described in Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal!. How is it possible that the same author who could write this on page 140:
[Clinton] told aides that during these town halls, she could see voters posture change as she explained her practical solutions to help them “get ahead and stay ahead.” Shoulders would relax, arms would unfurl, scowls would soften. She had this.
What she didn’t realize at the time–and what I didn’t grasp either until Bernie beat her in New Hampshire by twenty-two points–was that [A].
could write this on page 198:
“We shared something, an instant that I forgot about entirely until many months later when [B].
(Those wouild be the assholes that the Clinton campaign wrote off, since the campaign decided not to visit Wisconsin and run up the numbers elsewhere.) I would suggest that the seeming contradiction between passages [A] and [B] can be resolved in this way: All that [A] (“nowhere to go”) requires is empathy, which is easy. However, translating the empathy in [A] to [B] (“assholes”) would call into question Chozick’s right, and the right of her class, to rule (“delivered the election to Trump”). That is not easy, but hard.
Chasing Hillary is well worth a read, especially if you’re a political, history, and/or media junkie, as I am. However, what Chozick does not say — or cannot feel — is often more revealing than what she does descibe, entertaining and awful though that is.
 The FBI Criminal Background Check Form “allows an individual to obtain a certificate of their criminal history. This is common for federal jobs, appointments, and for adoption.” So Chozick could file the form herself, but not on behalf of her fiancé. Obama also promises to involve the Secret Service. What I take away from Chozick’s passage is that Obama offered to run the same sort of check on Chozick’s fiancé that the Federal Government would run on administration hire, or somebody who needed a national security clearance. How can he do this for a random private individual?