Hil­lary Clin­ton:

In a mov­ing and sur­pris­ingly can­did in­ter­view, Hil­lary Clin­ton talks to Nick Bryant about the night­mare of de­feat, the pain af­ter­wards and how her mother’s legacy and won­der­ful fam­ily have made her smile again.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - NEWS -

ral­ly­ing in

the af­ter­math of de­feat

The night be­gan with Hil­lary Clin­ton chas­ing her grand­daugh­ter Char­lotte around a ho­tel suite in Man­hat­tan, the per­fect dis­trac­tion as polling sta­tions across Amer­ica closed and votes started be­ing tal­lied in an elec­tion widely ex­pected to make her the first fe­male Pres­i­dent in US his­tory. Across town, ex­pec­tant sup­port­ers had gath­ered in the atrium of a con­ven­tion cen­tre un­der a gi­ant glass ceil­ing, which, fig­u­ra­tively at least, she would shat­ter.

For her vic­tory rally, she planned to wear a white pantsuit, the colour of the suf­fragettes. Her speech would be more per­sonal than usual and re­count the har­row­ing story of her late mother, Dorothy, who as an eightyear-old had been aban­doned by her par­ents and put on a train with her younger sis­ter for the cross-coun­try jour­ney to Cal­i­for­nia, an ar­du­ous trip even for adults. Hil­lary Clin­ton would imag­ine go­ing back in time to be with young Dorothy in that car­riage. “Look at me. Lis­ten to me,” she would have said to that vul­ner­a­ble young girl. “You will sur­vive. You will have a good fam­ily of your own and three chil­dren. And as hard as it might be to imag­ine, your daugh­ter will grow up and be­come the Pres­i­dent of the United States.”

The night be­fore, at a con­cert out­side Philadel­phia’s In­de­pen­dence Hall with the Oba­mas and Bruce Spring­steen, Amer­ica’s first black Pres­i­dent told her she was on the verge of a vic­tory which, his­tor­i­cally speak­ing, ri­valled his own. “You’ve got this,” Barack Obama whis­pered in her ear, as he hugged her. “I’m so proud of you.” Her chief poll­ster as­sured her, “You’re go­ing to bring this home.”

Yet that evening, in her ho­tel suite just down Fifth Av­enue from Trump Tower, the early signs were not good. She was un­der­per­form­ing in key states, such as Florida. Aides were mak­ing pan­icked phone calls. Bill Clin­ton was get­ting in­creas­ingly ner­vous, gnaw­ing in­ces­santly on an un­lit ci­gar. Some­how, in the midst of this ten­sion, Hil­lary grabbed some much needed sleep.

Yet by the time she woke up,

Don­ald Trump was on the verge of the big­gest up­set in US po­lit­i­cal his­tory.

“It was like all the air in the room had been sucked away,” she writes in her new book. “I could barely breathe.”

Rather than elect­ing the coun­try’s first fe­male Com­man­der in Chief, Amer­i­cans had voted into the White House a man she saw as a vile misog­y­nist, “some­one who ob­jec­ti­fied women and bragged about sex­ual as­sault”. It was small con­so­la­tion that she amassed nearly three mil­lion more votes than Don­ald Trump na­tion­wide.

Un­der the US vot­ing sys­tem, the Elec­toral Col­lege, he won the states that mat­tered and with them the pres­i­dency. “I had been re­jected – but also af­firmed,” Hil­lary re­flects.

“It was sur­real.” Above all, how­ever, it was trau­ma­tis­ing. “In my head, I heard the vi­cious ‘Lock her up!’ chants that had echoed at Trump ral­lies,” she re­mem­bers. “Trump had said that if he won, he’d send me to prison. Now he had won. I had no idea what to ex­pect.”

What went wrong

When we met up re­cently near her coun­try home in Chap­paqua, New York, Hil­lary was in good spir­its with her trade­mark bright-eyed smile as she told me she had, “come back into the light”. Her post-elec­tion re­cu­per­a­tion, though, has been painful. Through it, she has drawn com­fort from the love of friends and fam­ily, her un­shake­able faith in God, the Neapoli­tan nov­els of Elena Fer­rante, the po­etry of Maya Angelou, some binge-watch­ing on the sofa (The Good Wife, Madam Sec­re­tary and, Bill’s pick, NCIS: Los An­ge­les), a form of yo­gic “breath work” (in­hal­ing through one nos­tril and ex­hal­ing out the other) and the ther­a­peu­tic ef­fects of “my share of chardon­nay”.

There are up­sides to los­ing. “On the per­sonal front, it’s a sheer joy to spend time with my grand­chil­dren in a very re­laxed, in­for­mal way,” she says. “They came to our house last week­end and they raced around, and we pushed them on swings.”

Yet it’s op­pres­sive dark clouds that Hil­lary lives in the shadow of, rather than the faint glow of sil­ver lin­ings. “I’m not go­ing to sit here and pre­tend oth­er­wise,” she re­flects. “I wish I were mak­ing the de­ci­sions in the

Oval Of­fice, in part be­cause I think I would have done a re­ally good job. And also be­cause I dis­agree with what’s go­ing on there.” No­tice­ably, she rarely ut­ters the words “Don­ald Trump” and never “Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump”.

Hil­lary has con­ducted her own post-mortem, pub­lished in her new book, What Hap­pened, which is out now. As the ab­sence of a ques­tion mark shows, she has reached firm con­clu­sions and is no longer cast­ing around for an­swers. Fol­low­ing her de­feat, Hil­lary’s ini­tial re­sponse was to blame her­self. “I’m sorry for let­ting you down,” she said to Barack Obama, shortly af­ter tele­phon­ing Don­ald Trump to con­cede. “My worst fears about my lim­i­ta­tions as a can­di­date had come true.” She also ad­mits to mis­takes of her own mak­ing. “I re­gret hand­ing Trump a po­lit­i­cal gift with my ‘de­plorables’ com­ments,” she writes, speak­ing of the time she openly ma­ligned some of his red-capped sup­port­ers.

As for us­ing a pri­vate server for her emails while US Sec­re­tary of State, rather than a gov­ern­ment ac­count, it was “one bone-headed mis­take”. Yet Hil­lary is an­gry the me­dia el­e­vated this into a car­di­nal sin, es­pe­cially given the trans­gres­sions of her op­po­nent. “It was a dumb mis­take,” she says. “But an even dumber ‘scan­dal’.”

Even though there are more fe­male vot­ers in Amer­ica than male, her gen­der was a vote-loser. “Sex­ism and misog­yny played a role in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion,” she writes. “Ex­hibit A is that a fla­grantly sex­ist can­di­date won.” Harder to ex­plain is why so many women voted for Don­ald Trump. Even af­ter the no­to­ri­ous Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood tape came to light, in which the bil­lion­aire boasted grotesquely about mo­lest­ing women, Trump re­ceived more votes from white women than Hil­lary. “I was told be­fore the cam­paign got started that no woman would have em­pa­thy for me,” she tells me. “I got it. I got it. I thought I’d over­come it and I be­lieved I had. I wasn’t per­fect, but I didn’t know any man that was. I was held to this im­pos­si­ble dou­ble stan­dard.”

Women were tough on her. “The more suc­cess­ful a man is, the more peo­ple like him,” she writes. “With women, it’s the ex­act op­po­site.”

It frus­trates her that an Amer­i­can sis­ter­hood took to the streets in a mas­sive pink pussy-hat­ted protest the day af­ter Trump was in­au­gu­rated as Pres­i­dent rather than be­fore polling day. “What has emerged since the elec­tion is ex­actly the au­di­ence, the en­ergy and ac­tivism that wasn’t there be­fore,” she says, wist­fully.

“I didn’t fully own the rev­o­lu­tion I came of age in and not only par­tic­i­pated in, but helped to lead,” says Hil­lary, who rose to promi­nence in 1969 as a stu­dent leader at Welles­ley Col­lege. “Maybe I didn’t do it be­cause I didn’t be­lieve there was a re­cep­tive au­di­ence. But maybe I should have done more of it and forced a more re­cep­tive au­di­ence to emerge.”

The forces against her

Her strong­est crit­i­cisms are di­rected at four men. First, of course, there’s Don­ald Trump, who was “run­ning a re­al­ity TV show that ex­pertly and re­lent­lessly stoked Amer­i­cans’ anger and re­sent­ment.” Trump she found per­son­ally re­pel­lent (she claims she and Bill at­tended the tycoon’s wed­ding to Me­la­nia in 2005 be­cause they thought it would be a laugh), es­pe­cially dur­ing the de­bates, where they shared the same stage. “He was lit­er­ally breath­ing down

my neck. My skin crawled.” Hil­lary kept her cool, but she re­grets not con­fronting him with the words, “Back up, you creep, get away from me. I know you love to in­tim­i­date women, but you can’t in­tim­i­date me.”

Trump was as­sisted, Hil­lary adamantly be­lieves, by Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, who or­dered Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence to hack into her cam­paign’s com­puter sys­tems and flood Face­book and Twit­ter with fake and neg­a­tive sto­ries about her.

“I knew he had a per­sonal ven­detta against me and deep re­sent­ment to­ward the United States,” she writes. “Yet I never imag­ined he would have the au­dac­ity to launch a mas­sive covert at­tack against our democ­racy, right un­der our noses.”

Ju­lian As­sange, the “odi­ous” founder of Wik­iLeaks, was also com­plicit, she be­lieves. As­sange pub­lished thou­sands of dam­ag­ing emails hacked from the Clin­ton cam­paign, again as part of a per­sonal ven­detta.

Much of the book reads like a crim­i­nal in­dict­ment, the one-time at­tor­ney charg­ing mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign, the Krem­lin and As­sange with work­ing in tan­dem to pre­vent her from be­com­ing Pres­i­dent. “It’s like some­thing out of one of the spy nov­els my hus­band stays up all night read­ing,” she writes.

In the year since the elec­tion, Hil­lary has spent a lot of time piec­ing to­gether clues and in­crim­i­nat­ing ev­i­dence.

“At times, I felt like CIA agent Car­rie Mathi­son on the TV show Home­land, des­per­ately try­ing to get her arms around a sin­is­ter con­spir­acy and ap­pear­ing more than a lit­tle fran­tic in the process.”

It en­rages Hil­lary that for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey fiercely crit­i­cised her use of a pri­vate email server, though she hadn’t breached any laws, and then dra­mat­i­cally an­nounced he was re­open­ing the crim­i­nal probe into the scan­dal just days be­fore the elec­tion. “I was win­ning un­til Oc­to­ber 28, when Jim Comey in­jected emails back into the elec­tion,” she reck­ons, a claim backed up by polling ev­i­dence.

Di­rec­tor Comey’s late in­ter­ven­tion, Hil­lary claims, par­tic­u­larly hurt her among fe­male vot­ers. “Women who want to be for you are hold­ing their breath be­cause they have been in­cul­cated with the idea we’re not as good, we’re not as smart, and so I have to be per­fect,” she says. “What if that per­son went to jail or didn’t do well? It would be an iden­tity cri­sis.”

In her retelling, the re-emer­gence of the email scan­dal gave wa­ver­ing women an ex­cuse not to vote for her.

What Hap­pened is an hon­est reck­on­ing, but in it, she in­ad­ver­tently leaves clues that ex­plain her fail­ure to con­nect with vot­ers in the US’ old in­dus­trial heart­land, the famed Rust Belt that pro­pelled Don­ald Trump into the White House.

In parts, the book em­bel­lishes the nar­ra­tive that the Clin­tons have be­come su­per-rich limou­sine lib­er­als – even Lear­jet lib­er­als – and grown out of touch with or­di­nary Amer­i­cans. Her de­ci­sion to run for Pres­i­dent fol­lowed a hol­i­day in the Caribbean home of the fash­ion de­signer Os­car de la Renta. The “glam squad” that helps with hair and make-up – re­mark­ably, this con­sumed 600 hours dur­ing the cam­paign, or 25 days – in­cludes a make-up artist rec­om­mended, she tells us, by Amer­i­can Vogue Edi­tor-in-Chief

Anna Win­tour.

Les­sons from Mum

Now aged 70, Hil­lary will never run for of­fice again, but she in­tends to re­main po­lit­i­cally ac­tive. She has founded a group called On­ward To­gether, which en­cour­ages peo­ple to re­sist, in­sist, per­sist, en­list. “I’m not some­body who spends a lot of time look­ing back,” she tells me. “So I’m very fo­cused on the fu­ture, per­sonal, public and po­lit­i­cal.”

The rest of her life will not be spent, “like Miss Hav­isham from Charles Dick­ens’ Great Ex­pec­ta­tions, rat­tling around my house ob­sess­ing over what might have been.”

Plainly, though, the tor­ment of de­feat still weighs heavy. When I bring up the speech about young Dorothy she never got to de­liver, the an­guish is on her face. “Yeeeeeaaaaaah,” she says, ag­o­nis­ingly, as if gri­mac­ing with pain. “Putting my­self in there,” she says, nod­ding slowly and imag­in­ing that scene in the rail­way car­riage.

Yet the mem­ory of her beloved mother has helped get her through the great­est dis­ap­point­ment of her life. “More than any­body else, she has given me the gift of re­silience, en­durance and the will­ing­ness to go up against a lot of tough odds, which I have done.”

As well as re­silience, one sus­pects she in­her­ited a re­spon­si­bil­ity gene from her mother, es­pe­cially the urge to look af­ter vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren, Hil­lary Clin­ton’s life work.

As our con­ver­sa­tion comes to an end, I men­tion how her can­di­dacy had a politi­cis­ing ef­fect on my young daugh­ter, who wanted to see a girl in the White House. Her face lights up again – she knows she’s put more cracks in that glass ceil­ing.

“I plan to live long enough,” Hil­lary writes, “to see a woman win.”

RIGHT: Hil­lary with her mother, Dorothy (cen­tre), and daugh­ter Chelsea on her wed­ding day in 2010.

FROM FAR LEFT: Hil­lary with hus­band Bill the day af­ter her de­feat; at a cam­paign rally in 2015. BE­LOW: With Don­ald Trump at a de­bate.

ABOVE: First Lady Hil­lary lis­tens to a speech on women’s equal pay in June 1998. LEFT: With Chelsea and baby Ai­dan, her sec­ond grand­child, in June 2016.

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