Book Review: The Hillary Effect by Taylor Marsh
When “The Hillary Effect” came out in December you could have bet that it would have been just one more of these quickie political books that seem to be a collection of uninspired recycled reporting notes, or reworded blog posts, except this time it would focus on the ill-fated Presidential nomination campaign of Hillary Clinton, American history’s first Presidential primary winning female candidate. In fact, “The Hillary Effect” proved to be a breath of 21st century new journalism fresh air. In several ways, it’s standing the test of time because Washington analyst Taylor Marsh’s analysis is so perceptive that — no joke — you can’t find a lot of her spot-on observations about politics, politics’ ruthlessness, and sexism in media and in politics anywhere else.
She contends that Hillary Clinton faced a double edged, razor-sharp sword, and fell on it: the news media’s treatment of her was different as First Lady, Senator and as the country’s first viable female Presidential aspirant, not just because she was a woman, but because she was Hillary Clinton. She had some baggage to shed, started effectively shedding it, and Team Obama made it their mission to make sure they loaded her up with more of it.
Today, “The Hillary Effect” is more relevant than ever. There is increased speculation about whether Hillary Clinton will run for President one day. Conservative icon Rush Limbaugh’s near slanderous rants against law student Sandra Fluke? Sexism in the media — even from media types that Marsh would otherwise agree with (no one is spared whether they work at Fox News, Talk Radio or MSNBC like Chris Matthews) — is an underlying theme in “The Hillary Effect.” Mitt Romney’s allegations of “character assassination” by team Obama on the Bain Capital issue and the issue of GOP Super PACS trying to destroy Barack Obama by negatively defining him? A chapter in her book “Eating Your Own” puts the practice into context in factual and analytical detail. A small excerpt:
You certainly won’t get the view I saw of Obama versus Hillary from [Obama campaign manager] David Plouffe’s book….Because I assure you, the story Plouffe tells, while true for him, is only half complete…The Obama campaign was anything but a “new kind of politics,” but most of the media sucked it up like an intoxicating elixir though there were a very few exceptions who saw it…
She notes that Obama “was actually the establishment candidate, the media’s choice as well, with Hillary the outsider…” and later writes:
Barack Obama’s candidacy was obviously historic, but so was Hillary Clinton’s. They were both firsts — equal, except to the media covering the race. As with Plouffe’s rewriting of primary history, the Obama campaign’s negative campaigning got a pass. After all how else could he beat the bitch?
Marsh is also extremely tough on Republicans (which is precisely why on some book selling websites along with real reviews you’ll see some name-calling” reviews” partisans often put on to try and denigrate a book that they clearly have not even READ when written by someone on the other political side). And she’s also tough as nails on on Team Hillary for their catastrophic mistakes of judgment, hubris and campaign implementation which helped produce a President Barack Obama.
But the real meat of “The Hillary Effect” is Marsh’s analysis of the long range impact of what Hillary Clinton tried to do, failed to do due to her campaign’s mistakes and, in the end, actually did.
Marsh convincingly makes the case that The Hillary Effect’s impact was huge on America (much bigger than The O’Reilly Factor’s). Why?
If Hillary Clinton didn’t exactly break “the glass ceiling,” Marsh details how her primary wins broke the chandelier a few feet away from the ceiling — and how the shards of shattered chandelier produced opportunities for GOP conservative women such as the anti-Hillary Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. Marsh takes no prisoners when pointing out the sexist statements, sexist assumptions and behavior of many male political and media figures from both parties.
When you read “The Hillary Effect” you’ll find yourself saying, “Hey! That’s right! I never realized that before” — and you’ll increasingly notice how this pattern of sexist perceptions and sexist throw-away comments persists to this day (a baloney ceiling remains).
Marsh is supremely armed with the qualifications and skills to write this book. By 2008 she had evolved — and not by branding design — into the highest profile, most respected pro-Hillary blogger on the Internet, culminating in a Washington Post profile. Today, she calls herself a “recovering partisan.” What has not changed is her take-no-prisoners style of blunt writing; her interest isn’t in making media or political best buds to advance her career (she certainly won’t with the honestly in this book), but to give readers her best take.
And “The Hillary Effect” is the best take on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, its significance and its impact on what was to follow and is unfolding.
PERSONAL NOTE: I started linking to Taylor Marsh a few years after the December 2003 start up of The Moderate Voice. I didn’t always agree with her, but she always made her case with solid analysis rather than name calling or the kind of lash out posts (lashing out at parties, other blogs and blog writers) that you see on so many weblogs. About a year ago I invited her to cross-post some posts on TMV as a Guest Voice Columnist. I was and remain a fan.
When her book came out, I offered her an ad on TMV for free since we had one more remaining spot that we could give away for free. And then I ordered the book myself to read on my Kindle. She didn’t even know I had it until a few weeks later. A few months later I told her I loved it and had told my sister about it. I asked Taylor if she had an old copy she could mail to my sister to read.
So here is a disclaimer:
NOTE: Taylor Marsh provided a free print copy of her book to my sister and it’s my understanding she extended a free copy to just about anyone in media who would consider reviewing it or mentioning her book in a column.
This review was on my to-review list many months before she sent the book to my sister (FYI, I have 12 more items on my backlogged list for review here on TMV, including Robert Caro’s new LBJ book and the latest Godfather spin off novel).
How much do I like “The Hillary Effect?” This much: I read it once and it’s still on the front page of my Kindle because I’m reading it again so I can soak in the analysis and enjoy the no-nonsense, blunt, yet-supported-by-facts Taylor Marsh style.
So on yours truly there may be: “The Taylor Marsh Effect.”
On a TMV scale of five stars “The Hillary Effect” gets five stars (required reading for political junkies and aspiring and practicing journalists and bloggers).