If the time-for-some-traffic-problems Chris Christie bridge fiasco weren’t reminder enough that American politics can be magnificently entertaining — no, no, I mean deplorably shocking — for its periodic spasms of vengeance and retribution, consider a scene that occurs near the beginning of “HRC.” Deeply reported and ably written by journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, the book is a step-by-step recounting of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, but it’s also a revealing window into the le Carré-like layers of intrigue that develop when a celebrity politician who is married to another celebrity politician loses to yet another celebrity politician, and goes on to serve the politician who defeated her.
The scene takes place not long after Clinton’s devastating loss in the 2008 presidential primaries to Barack Obama. In a quiet office in her shuttered campaign headquarters in Arlington, a pair of Clinton loyalists are finishing a detailed Excel spreadsheet listing names and behavioral specifics of friends and betrayers. The gradations of loyalty and disloyalty are ranked at one point on a scale of one to seven, one being assigned to lawmakers who stuck with Hillary through thick and thin, seven going to those showing unforgivable treachery — often Democratic members of Congress who were expected to endorse her but broke for Obama; or, worse, allies for whom the Clintons had raised money or done other favors — like writing letters to get their kids into some fancy school — only to be jilted in the rush to the junior senator from Illinois.
The late Ted Kennedy does not fare well in their accounting, and neither do John Lewis or Chris Dodd or John Kerry. Virginia’s Jim Moran better be glad he has decided to retire from Congress altogether. Claire McCaskill — well, let’s just say that there is a special seat by hell’s fire reserved for the Missouri senator, who broke down in penitential weeping after she commented, on national television, that she would not want her daughter near Bill Clinton. But her greater sin was being the first female senator to endorse Obama. “Hate is too weak a word to describe” how Hillaryites still feel about her. One aide’s observation that the Clintons are “into loyalty” wins the award for epic understatement.
—Liza Mundy. Just what we need; another president with an enemies list.