Clinton has good words for Sanders

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The biggest surprise in Hillary Rodham Clinton's new book "What Happened" isn't the leaked criticism toward her Democratic presidential primary challenger, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Instead, it's the yet-to-be-reported compliments.

"Nothing in my experience in American politics suggested that a socialist from Vermont could mount a credible campaign for the White House," she writes in a memoir released Tuesday. "But Bernie proved to be a disciplined and effective politician."

"He was right that Democrats needed to strengthen our focus on working families and that there's always a danger of spending too much time courting donors because of our insane campaign finance system," she continues. "He also engaged a lot of young people in the political process for the first time, which is extremely important."

Leaked pages of Clinton's book — which publisher Simon & Schuster has tried to embargo from public sales and press scrutiny until this week — have featured the author questioning if Sanders unwittingly helped lead to the election of Republican President Donald Trump.

"His attacks caused lasting damage," she writes on page 229, "making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump's 'Crooked Hillary' campaign."

Such quotes have sparked headlines ranging from the Washington Post's "Hillary Clinton's subtly savage takedown of Bernie Sanders" to Reason.com's "Hillary: I Lost Because Bernie Promised Everyone a Pony" to New York magazine's "Hillary Clinton Compares Bernie Sanders to That Entrepreneurial Murdering Hitchhiker From 'There's Something About Mary.'"

But a full read of the 512-page hardcover shows Clinton also has plenty of good words for Sanders.

"Bernie deserves credit for understanding the political power of big, bold ideas," she writes on page 231. "His call for single-payer health care, free college, and aggressive Wall Street reform inspired millions of Americans."

Clinton singles out Sanders for summing up extensive media coverage of her use of a private email server as former secretary of state with the televised debate line, "the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails."

"I couldn't have said it better myself," she writes on page 309. "I remain grateful for Bernie's wise comment."

Clinton also thanks Sanders for capping the 2016 Democratic National Convention by standing with the Vermont delegation and speaking up for her nomination.

"I know it couldn't have been easy for him to make that statement on the floor," she writes on page 250, "and I appreciated it."

"Bernie Sanders and I wrote the 2016 platform together, and he called it the most progressive one in history," she continues on page 422. "We share many of the same values and most of our differences over policy are relatively minor compared to the stark divide between the two parties."

Then again, catch many of Clinton's book bouquets and you may feel a few barbs.

"Bernie was outraged about everything — he thundered on at every event about the sins of 'the millionaires and billionaires,'" she writes on page 211. "I was more focused on offering practical solutions that would address real problems and make life better for people."

"Even though I understood that a lot of Democratic primary voters were looking for a left-wing alternative, I admit I didn't expect Bernie to catch on as much as he did," she notes on page 226. "Bernie and I had a spirited contest of ideas, which was invigorating, but I nonetheless found campaigning against him to be profoundly frustrating. He didn't seem to mind if his math didn't add up or if his plans had no prayer of passing Congress and becoming law."

"For Bernie, policy was about inspiring a mass movement and forcing a conversation about the Democratic Party's values and priorities — by that standard, I would say he succeeded," she continues. "But it worried me. I've always believed that it's dangerous to make big promises if you have no idea how you're going to keep them. When you don't deliver, it will make people even more cynical about government."

"He certainly shared my horror at the thought of Donald Trump becoming president, and I appreciated that he campaigned for me in the general election," she concludes on page 229. "But he isn't a Democrat — that's not a smear, that's what he says. He didn't get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party."

In the end, Sanders also nabbed 37 pages of Clinton's book — five times as many as her Vermont-native campaign manager Robby Mook, who is cited on just seven.

"Highly disciplined and levelheaded," Clinton writes of Mook, who was born in Sharon and raised in Norwich, "with a passion for data and a talent for organizing."

And perhaps a bit too much frugality, the author adds.

"The campaign staff will attest that Robby Mook in particular was downright stingy about travel expenses and office supplies," she notes on page 97. "Snack budget? Absolutely not. Buy your own chips. Your own hotel room? Not a chance. Find a roommate. And while you're at it, take the bus instead of the train. We were all in this together."

Kevin O'Connor is a Reformer contributor and VTDigger.org correspondent who can be contacted at kevinoconnorvt@gmail.com.

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