Eleven months on from foisting her second grabby megalomaniac on the United States, Hillary Clinton has resurfaced. Not to apologise for losing the presidency to an angry hairpiece who mimicked the disabled for laughs at campaign rallies — no, Clinton has a book to spruik. What Happened is published by Simon & Schuster and will be on the shelves from Tuesday.
Clinton appeared on CBS Sunday Morning to promote what, if the trails are to be believed, will be a standard Clinton exercise in self-justification and blame-shifting. It takes a village to take the fall. She will blast primary opponent Bernie Sanders for enabling Donald Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ meme and get snippy with Joe Biden over her campaign’s middle-class bona fides. In today’s Democrat Party, attacking Joe Biden is like punching the family dog and no doubt Rover will eventually be fingered as a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy.
In her CBS interview, she took a swipe at former FBI director James Comey for his investigation into her use of a private email server to receive classified communications during her time as Secretary of State. (‘I don’t know quite what audience he was playing to other than some right-wing commentators or right-wing members of Congress.’) She also blamed sexism, saying she had to ‘work extra hard to make women and men feel comfortable with the idea of a woman president. It doesn’t fit into the stereotypes we all carry around in our head. And a lot of the sexism and the misogyny was in service of these attitudes.’
Even where she ventures into self-reproach, such as on the email scandal, it is a very Clintonian admission, triangulating between apology and exculpation. ‘I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, that was my responsibility,’ she told CBS, before adding: ‘It was presented in such a negative way, and I never could get out from under it. And it never stopped.’ Sure, I was speeding, officer, but I can’t believe you’re making such a fuss about it.
What happened last November has evidently left an indelible mark on Hillary Rodham-Again Clinton. In the interview she appeared still to be in shock and delivered her melange of mitigation from behind a fixed glassy countenance. She bought a house outside New York City for use during the transition to her new administration. On election night, a concession speech had to be hastily cobbled together; it hadn’t occurred to her campaign to prepare one. Asked by CBS to reflect on her defeat almost a year later, Clinton says: ‘I am good, but that doesn’t mean I am complacent or resolved about what happened. It still is very painful. It hurts a lot.’ For a woman who exudes insincerity and radiates entitlement, this was the most honest segment of the interview. She is sincerely bewildered, offended even, to have been denied her birthright by rubes in North Carolina.
The stunning absence of reflection isn’t all that stunning with Hillary Clinton. It was James Comey and a basket of deplorables who cost her the election, not her hopeless ground game in Michigan, her lack of a clear economic message, or her seeming obsession with transgender bathroom access in an election hairtriggered by atavistic populism. Polling had long shown Hillary to be one of the most divisive Democrats in public opinion but it was her turn and the country would just have to get used to it. (A July 2017 poll put her favourability on 39 percent, two points lower than Donald Trump. Even out of the spotlight, holed up in Chappaqua, Clinton still manages to piss off most of the country.)
Christopher Hitchens described Hillary as ‘the other half of a buy-one-get-one-free sleazy lawyer couple’ and there is hope that both will now be withdrawn from sale. Hillary swears 2016 was her last election and those who want to see Donald Trump ousted in 2020 should rejoice at the news. Democrat politics has been held captive to the Clinton psychodrama for 25 years now and the record is mixed: An economic boom and Nato air strikes on Slobodan Milošević, a Trump presidency and one dead ambassador.
What happened to Hillary is that she was found out, her shapeless principles ever-shifting to suit the audience and the times. The centrist who strained to ape the progressive rhetoric of Bernie Sanders; the progressive who pocketed a tidy sum giving speeches to Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. The feminist who stood by her man while he was preying on the help and stayed there even when his footsoldiers sought to discredit the women who came forward. The gay icon who backed the Defence of Marriage Act and embraced same-sex weddings four years after Dick Cheney.
Would she have made a better president than Trump? Undoubtedly. Is America long overdue a female leader? Absolutely. But Hillary Clinton’s time has come and gone and for the good of her party and country she should go too and let a new generation of women rise to the top of political life. They can study her and learn the consequences of her approach to politics.