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7 talking points about Hillary Clinton's new book, 'What Happened'

Hillary Clinton’s book “What Happened” officially hit shelves Tuesday. The book was originally slated to be an essay collection built around her favorite inspirational quotes, but Clinton pivoted while writing it and turned it into her assessment of the 2016 presidential election instead.

Here’s what’s got people talking:

1. Russia

Only seven paragraphs into the book’s introduction, Clinton drops her first mention of Russia’s alleged involvement in the election. “In this book, I write about moments from the campaign that I wish I could go back and do over,” she writes. “If the Russians could hack my subconscious, they’d find a long list.”

Later, she revisits the seriousness of the possible Russian involvement in the election. “The press treated our warnings about Russia like it was spin we’d cooked up to distract from embarrassing revelations — a view actively encouraged by the Trump campaign,” she writes. “As Matt Yglesias of the news site Vox described it later, most journalists thought the argument that Moscow was trying to help Trump was ‘outlandish and borderline absurd,’ and our attempt to raise the alarm ‘was just too aggressive, self-serving, and a little far-fetched.’”

2. Donald Trump

Clinton, of course, spends a lot of time writing about the man she lost the presidential election to, Trump. “Listening to Trump, it almost felt like there was no such thing as truth anymore,” she writes of his campaigning, adding that his tactic was to “appeal to the ugliest impulses of our national character.”

As had previously been reported, she writes about the second presidential debate: “Donald Trump was looming behind me. Two days before, the world heard him brag about groping women. Now we were on a small stage, and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces. It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled.”

About his presidency, she asks, “I sometimes wonder: If you add together his time spent on golf, Twitter, and cable news, what’s left?”

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the second presidential debate, Oct. 19, 2016
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the second presidential debate, Oct. 19, 2016 (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

3. Wall Street: a mistake

Ahead of the 2016 election, Clinton delivered several six-figure speeches before Wall Street crowds. She was assailed relentlessly for those speeches by Bernie Sanders during the primary and Trump during the general election. “I didn’t think many Americans would believe that I’d sell a lifetime of principle and advocacy for any price. When you know why you’re doing something and you know there’s nothing more to it and certainly nothing sinister, it’s easy to assume that others will see it the same way. That was a mistake,” she writes. “I should have realized it would be bad ‘optics’ and stayed away from anything having to do with Wall Street. I didn’t. That’s on me.”

4. Losing

The night of the election, Clinton called Barack Obama. “My throat tightened. The president said everything right. He told me I’d run a strong campaign, that I had done a great deal for our country, that he was proud of me. He told me there was life after losing and that he and Michelle would be there for me. I hung up and sat quietly for a few moments. I was numb. It was all so shocking. At 2:29 A.M., the AP called Wisconsin and the election for Donald Trump. He went on TV not long afterward to declare victory.”

5. Those ‘dumb’ emails

In a chapter titled “Those Damn Emails,” Clinton writes that her “dumb” decision to use a personal email server while secretary of State “got more coverage than any other issue in the whole race. In fact, if you had turned on a network newscast in 2016, you were three times more likely to hear about those emails than about all the real issues combined," she writes, adding, “It was a dumb mistake. But an even dumber ‘scandal.’ It was like quicksand: the more you struggle, the deeper you sink.”

6. James Comey

Clinton’s emails were the subject of an FBI investigation. After the election, she writes, “it wasn’t healthy or productive to dwell on the ways I felt I’d been shivved by then-FBI Director James Comey — three times over the final five months of the campaign.” She adds, “Comey made a choice to excoriate me in public in July and then dramatically reopen the investigation on October 28, all while refusing to say a word about Trump and Russia. If not for those decisions, everything would have been different. Comey himself later said he was ‘mildly nauseous’ at the idea that he influenced the outcome of the election. Hearing that made me sick.”

7. Sexism

“This has to be said,” she writes. “Sexism and misogyny played a role in the 2016 presidential election. Exhibit A is that the flagrantly sexist candidate won. A whole lot of people listened to the tape of him bragging about sexually assaulting women, shrugged, and said, ‘He still gets my vote.’”

Clinton admits that her record with female voters was mixed: she got 94% of the votes of black women, 68% of the votes of Latino women and 54% of women overall — but she failed to win a majority of white female voters. “Women’s advancement has set into motion vast changes that inspire intense feelings of all kinds,” she writes. “Some of us are exhilarated. Others feel a whole lot of rage.”

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carolyn.kellogg@latimes.com

@paperhaus

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