What Happened—and What Didn’t

When I read Elizabeth Drew’s uncritical endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s claim, in her new book What Happened, that Bernie Sanders’s support was “grudging all the way” throughout the general election [“If Only…,” Nov. 13], I remembered the afternoon of October 4, 2016, when I sat in the upper reaches of the University of Minnesota’s biggest auditorium and heard Sanders give an impassioned speech. He urged his youthful audience not just to vote but “to do everything you can to make sure that Hillary Clinton is the next president.” Later that day, Sanders did the same at the university’s Duluth campus. For her part, Clinton never campaigned in the state after getting the nomination and just barely won here. Minnesota might have been another Wisconsin if Sanders hadn’t invigorated younger voters who were notoriously cool to Clinton. She should have thanked him rather than trashed him.
Greg Gaut

I take issue with the scathing review of What Happened by Elizabeth Drew. I am an avid follower of Hillary Clinton and have admired her work as a public servant for 30-plus years. She had to contend with misogyny as well as a barrage of abuse and accusations when Republicans realized she would be the toughest candidate to beat. I accept most of the analysis in her book. I’m 80 years old, and I probably won’t ever see a woman president—and that upsets me! Stop the autopsy of what she did wrong: Clinton won 3 million more votes than Donald Trump.
Stephanie Bonnivier
waterford, mich.

There was something in this review that I found troubling, but I could not put my finger on it. I’m reading Clinton’s book now, and although I’m reacting to it more positively than Drew, it wasn’t the difference of opinion. Then it came to me: When Al Gore lost in 2000, we didn’t require him to produce a confessional, even though many people found him stiff and artificial. When Jimmy Carter lost in 1980, no one sat in continuing judgment of the fact that he misread the public mood and brought a harsh tone to his governance. But Clinton is somehow different, and if her words don’t send the right message of insight, guilt, and acceptance, we judge her as we always have.

Elizabeth Drew is calm and reasoned (she has always been nothing but). I just continue to be amazed that we feel the need to sit in judgment of Hillary Clinton.

Dan Fishbein
arvada, colo.

The Postmortem Continues…

The “Autopsy” report at the center of William Greider’s “What Killed the Democratic Party?” [Nov. 20/27] seems to leave out a significant piece of the puzzle, which was clearly summarized in Richard Kreitner’s article, “Conventional Wisdom,” in the same issue. Discussing the progress made by the balanced-budget obsessives, Kreitner points to groups like ALEC, the “corporate-financed behemoth that pushes conservative legislation through state legislatures,” and the State Policy Network, “a collection of 64 think tanks.” Where is the Democratic or progressive equivalent to these? Conservatives laid out their strategy in the 1970s, spurred by the Powell memo, and have steadfastly followed that script. It seems that Democrats have always primarily focused on the next election and have not built a similarly long-term strategic effort.
Jeff Baker

Troubling the Water

The November 30 commentary, “Pittsburgh’s Water System Is Why We Shouldn’t Run America Like a Business,” mischaracterized Veolia’s role with the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA) and ignored the numerous benefits to communities that work with private water professionals.

Between 2012–15, PWSA maintained a peer-consulting arrangement with Veolia under which PWSA retained decision-making authority over operations, maintenance, capital spending, and staffing. Yet this piece got so many things wrong about this contractual agreement that involved just a small group of Veolia employees working alongside more than 200 PWSA employees. One, Veolia didn’t assume control over PWSA. Two, Veolia didn’t have oversight over decisions about corrosion-control chemicals. Three, as stated by PWSA Board Chairman Alex Thomson, Veolia’s work didn’t contribute to the city’s long-standing lead issues. Four, Veolia didn’t have the ability to make hiring and firing decisions.

The piece also neglected the many benefits of working with a private water partner, from access to expertise and technology to operational efficiencies and access to capital. For over 200 years, private water companies have served communities across the United States, providing essential water and wastewater services to nearly 73 million Americans. More than 2,000 water and wastewater facilities across the country are operated under public-private partnership arrangements, and these agreements are overwhelmingly renewed within the industry, at a rate of about 97 percent. There is widespread, bipartisan agreement that the public and private sector should work together to address the water challenges facing America’s cities and towns. Yet these are all facts the author conveniently left out.

Michael Deane
Executive director
National Association of Water Companies
asheville, n.c.

The Nation Replies

Michael Deane is rebutting numerous assertions that the article never made: The article does not say Veolia assumed control over PWSA or that it made direct decisions over corrosion-control chemicals or the firing of workers. What it said, rightly, is that Veolia was a consultant tasked with cost-cutting ideas, one of which was shedding labor costs. As for Veolia’s work not contributing to the city’s “long-standing” lead issues (Pittsburgh’s lead levels exceeded federal standards for the first time on record in 2016), that is currently under dispute in court. A state audit released November 1 could not determine whether PWSA or Veolia was at fault. Regardless, Veolia is currently suing PWSA for defamation.