HILLARY’S UNPLUGGED BOOK TOUR
Where was this unvarnished, in-your-face candidate when we needed her last year?
With approval numbers lower than Donald Trump, the most unpopular president in history at this point in a presidency, Hillary Rodham Clinton has nowhere to go but up. Her new book, What Happened, seems to support precisely that.
The book, the fact of it and the timing are interesting, but her book tour and conversation with America are infinitely more so. A more apt title would be Hillary Clinton, Unplugged.
Direct, unvarnished, gossipy, honest, in your face — she’s the Clinton the Democrats needed in their primary and the country needed when Trump became the GOP nominee, courtesy of the ratings-hungry media. Where was this person in 2016, the one who on Wednesday on NBC’s Today called out Donald Trump Jr. for the “absurd lie” that he met with Russians last year to learn about her “fitness” for office?
It’s as if Clinton’s photo was on a milk carton and someone just found her and brought her home.
EVERY RIGHT TO TALK
For decades, we’ve been told by Clinton’s close friends and associates that if we knew her as they did, we’d love her to the moon and back. While it’s true the establishment Democrats would like her to shut up and exit stage left, this woman who won the popular vote and received more votes than any white man in our nation’s long history of electing white men, with one notable exception, has every right to step up and tell her story.
Wincing Democrats can take some comfort that she is appropriating a bit of their limelight early, well before the 2018 midterms. As well, she’s addressing some tough truths about what happened in her own party. Nothing new is revealed that hasn’t already been hashed over by political analysts, but Democrats seem to take issue with the fact that it’s Clinton joining in the discussion. Taking the medicine is unpleasant and somewhat painful — yet what some might view as self-indulgent naval gazing will ultimately prove valuable to Democrats hoping to take the majority in Congress in 2018 and the White House in 2020, regardless of whether Trump is still president then.
Clinton’s assertion that President Obama should have done more regarding Vladmir Putin’s interference in U.S. elections is on point. So is her assertion that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ vicious attacks on her harmed her with Democrats. She’s also right that then-FBI Director James Comey torpedoed her campaign in its final days by suddenly announcing he was reopening the investigation into her emails and private server, while keeping the far more serious investigation of Trump’s collusion with Russia under wraps.
GREAT NATIONAL SHAME
But it’s her uncharacteristic acceptance of personal blame that catches the eye of longtime Clinton watchers. It’s humanizing. It’s also a bit tardy, sadly, and appears to be something she considers so risky that it can come only after one’s political career is over.
“I felt like I had let everybody down," and “I am done with being a candidate. But I am not done with politics because I literally believe that our country’s future is at stake,” she told Jane Pauley on CBS on Sunday.
Which means, ironically, that though this woman has been in American public life for decades, we are only now getting to see and know the most authentic, human version of this two-time presidential candidate, former secretary of State, former U.S. senator and former first lady.
Or perhaps the elevation of crudeness by Trump has made us all, including Clinton, less reliably pinkies-up when assessing the last presidential election.
Clinton also exposes our great national shame — that Trump picked an old scab and encouraged white supremacists to slither out from under their rocks and grow their ranks, mainstreaming racism and anti-Semitism in the Republican Party. She was broadly maligned during the campaign for referring to them as Trump’s “basket of deplorables” and for what came off as hyperbole in referencing a Holocaust-era image of hauling people off in “boxcars” if Trump became president. Yet her words now seem prescient given Trump’s Muslim ban and reversal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that would, literally, forcibly haul people from the United States who were brought here as children.
In the short term, hearing the former secretary of State dish about how the misogynist Putin’s male bravado remind her of a guy “manspreading” on a crowded subway leaves the reader wondering when Clinton started riding New York subways.
Perhaps her authenticity still needs a bit of tweaking.
Cheri Jacobus, a Republican consultant and commentator, is president of Capitol Strategies PR.
Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greets people at her book signing Tuesday in New York.