t wasn’t just Hillary Clinton who failed to secure a job on November 8, 2016. It was also her traveling press corps, a gang of reporters and journalists from myriad outlets assigned to cover the presumptive president’s every movement. Its members wouldn’t be going to the White House, either.
Among them was Amy Chozick, the New York Times’s beat reporter, who covered Clinton for a decade and had in mind a Georgetown fixer-upper to share with her habitually neglected husband, Bobby, after the Clinton win. From that failure and disappointment comes Chozick’s debut book, Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling, an intimate journal that tracks the author’s rise from “fifth- generation Texan Jew” to her time at the Gray Lady, where she remains.
Chozick intertwines her own story with Clinton’s. Her childhood memories are meeting Hillary (“She seemed nice”), loving Bill (the then-president), and seeing herself in Chelsea (both braces-wearing, curly-haired Southerners of similar age). Her adult views are not too dissimilar.
It’s not only that she’s obsessed with her subject, though of course she is. Chozick is controlled by her. She recounts a gynecological visit she had three and a half years before the bitter Election Day loss. Heels resting in “cold metal stirrups,” she realizes her desire to bear children will have to wait. “It was Hillary Clinton vs. my ovaries.” Guess who won.
But while the Democratic presidential candidate controlled her reproductive life—and repeatedly caused her to stand up her husband—Chozick’s mental state throughout the campaign is in The Guys’ hands. That’s the author’s shorthand for Hillary’s male campaign handlers, who are manipulative, duplicitous, and misogynistic. Cumulatively, they are the abusive spouses Chozick cannot escape. They are effective. Just as Clinton wanted. The Guys feed Chozick (turning her into a self-proclaimed “puppet”), starve her (depriving her of access and interviews for months and years at a time), and strong-arm her.
“You’ve got a target on your back,” The Guys repeatedly told her, apparently referring to some laughable conspiracy wherein the New York Times is determined to destroy Clinton. All are hampered by paranoia—the campaign and the reporters covering it. “They’d gotten in my head, and I let them,” Chozick concedes. “I believed The Guys when they’d warn me that more assertive (male) colleagues would boot me off the beat and tramp over my bloodied corpse.”
They also make references to getting into Chozick’s body. “I didn’t know I had to say it was off the record when I was inside you,” she quotes one of The Guys telling her amid an argument over whether a detail can be used in a story. One of Clinton’s aides—though not one of The Guys—comes on to her over drinks at a Des Moines restaurant, when he creepily rubs the author up and down. Despite the aide’s reputation as a sexual harasser, Chozick exposed him (Clinton’s spiritual adviser Burns Strider) only earlier this year, even with literal firsthand knowledge.
Chasing Hillary is perhaps the most personally revealing memoir of the journalist-chasing-the-big-story-even-if-it-ruins-her-life genre—with references to the author’s youthful drug use (pot and mushrooms), ex-boyfriends (none apparently worthy of brags), job firing (stealing office supplies), and, of course, gynecological visits. Chozick’s criticisms of her profession are searing. Because in the end, the very exercise—the chase—is futile and self-indulgent.
“Traveling with the campaign meant I knew far less about what was happening inside the campaign than if I’d been back in New York working the phones or meeting sources in Brooklyn,” she writes, admitting to being a “captive stenographer” and that sometimes “the K-9 crew that sniffed our luggage logged a more productive day’s work.”
And yet Chozick is determined to be on the road and complains when her editors sideline her. “We were so fat and happy on the plane,” she writes, retelling the chartered flight’s lunch menu and what campaign reporters would order. “Quinoa Salad with Chicken (or Turkey)” for her, please. That seems to suit Chozick’s reporting-style. “Scoops are not my forte,” she admits. “I prefer lunch-based reporting.”
The most attention-grabbing chapter is titled “How I Became an Unwitting Agent of Russian Intelligence,” in which the author excoriates other reporters but mostly herself for writing about the hacked emails of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, first published by WikiLeaks. Chozick says the six stories she wrote using the emails (out of 1,285 Clinton-related pieces) “tainted my entire body of work.”
Which might ring sincere if it were not for the fact that even now, a year and a half after the election, Chozick is still relying on those very emails. Indeed, she quotes from Podesta’s trove of emails frequently throughout her own book to add what would appear to be inside dope. Remarkably, in Chasing Hillary, she never attributes the stolen materials.
For instance, one of the major revelations in Podesta’s emails were paid speeches to Wall Street banks delivered by Hillary Clinton after she left the State Department but before she became a presidential candidate.
Chozick offers this paragraph:
Perusing Hillary’s paid speeches to Wall Street banks, Mandy Grunwald expressed her biggest concern. “The remarks below make it sound like HRC DOESNT think the game is rigged—only that she recognizes that the public thinks so,” she said. “They are angry. She isn’t.”
There is no reference, attribution, or footnote explaining the origin of Grunwald’s quotation in the WikiLeaks trove.
All of which makes Chasing Hillary feel like an opportunistic consolation prize for a reporter who must have set out to write a very different book—one that chronicled the election of the First Woman President.
There are two ways for a political reporter to find immediate success. The first is to expose, undermine, or bring down the politician to whom the reporter is assigned. The second, and more common, method is to ride the coattails of whomever you are assigned.
Chozick, by her own telling, is squarely in the second camp. “For three years, I’d been fighting with The Guys. I’d let my hero of a husband down. I’d put off having a baby. I’d thrown punches in the Steel Cage Match and gained at least twelve pounds. I’d even become an unwitting agent of Russian intelligence,” she writes.
“In the end, we all lost. I was done.”