Written by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, the book has caused quite a stir since it was published last week. It portrays the Clinton campaign as a Balkanized group of rival factions fighting behind the scenes, and is littered with damning quotes like, “Our failure to reach out to white voters, like literally from the New Hampshire primary on, it never changed.” It also, at times, reads like a series of second-rate Veep jokes. Clinton’s famously testy interview with CNN’s Brianna Keilar resulted from an aide hearing “Brianna” when Clinton said “Bianna”—meaning Yahoo anchor Bianna Golodryga, who is married to a former Hillary aide. Robby Mook declined to purchase poll data three weeks before the election. And one problem seemed to follow Clinton wherever she went: She just didn’t know why she was running for president.
Juicy anecdotes like these have appeared throughout the week in Politico’s Playbook and Axios Presented By News Corp. But these excerpts and early reviews have overlooked the most damning anecdote in the book, which appears on page 88 in a chapter about the campaign’s early struggles with Bernie-mania:
Raising the minimum wage and college-tuition assistance were prime examples of Sanders’s digging in at an outpost on the left and making Hillary look cautious, conservative, and very much a creature of the establishment. Every time she said she wanted to increase the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour—the main proposal from Senate Democrats—Bernie said he’d settle for no less than “fifteen bucks.” When she said she wanted students to emerge from college without debt, Bernie reminded voters that his plan would let them attend for free. Hillary’s advisers thought it was reminiscent of the scene from There’s Something About Mary in which a crazed hitchhiker tells Ben Stiller’s character that he can make a fortune by turning “eight-minute abs” into “seven-minute abs.”
The Clinton campaign’s struggles with millennials in one sentence! There’s Something About Mary came out in 1998 and, as far as I can tell, hasn’t been watched since. That this was the first pop culture reference on hand for (apparently) multiple advisers is incredibly troubling.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the Something About Mary reference may not even have been original. It was used as the lede of an October 3, 2015, New York Times piece by Josh Barro, who seems to be a fan:
In the 1998 film “There’s Something About Mary,” there is a scene where Ben Stiller’s character picks up a hitchhiking drifter. The drifter explains that he’s really a businessman, and he has an idea that will someday make him a fortune: Seven-Minute Abs, a home exercise video that will produce the same great results as Eight-Minute Abs, but in one minute less.
Mr. Stiller’s character responds that it sounds like a great idea, unless someone comes out with Six-Minute Abs. The drifter, played by Harland Williams, gets angry. “Nobody’s coming up with six! Who works out in six minutes? You won’t even get your heart going!”
With my apologies in advance for comparing him to an unhinged drifter, this is roughly what happened to Jeb Bush in September.
The timing of this roughly tracks with the timing of the Shattered anecdote. I’m not sure what’s worse—that members of the Clinton campaign independently used a Something About Mary reference, or that members of the Clinton campaign stole a Something About Mary reference from Josh Barro.