HIL­LARY’S UN­PLUGGED BOOK TOUR

Where was this un­var­nished, in-your-face can­di­date when we needed her last year?

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Cheri Ja­cobus

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.

SETH WENIG, AP

For­mer Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton greets peo­ple at her book sign­ing Tues­day in New York.

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