“I am done with being a candidate,” Hillary Clinton told CBS “Sunday Morning” anchor Jane Pauley in an interview aired on September 10. “But I am not done with politics because I literally believe that our country’s future is at stake,” she added.
The unequivocal statement is welcome, even though I don’t know any admirer of Clinton who thought she was planning another presidential bid.
Clinton’s latest comments won’t satisfy those who wish she would never speak in public again or condemn her for writing What Happened, a memoir about the campaign. (Not all losing candidates are scolded for publishing books or going on a speaking tour.)
But there’s no escaping the fact that Clinton has become an even more divisive figure among Democrats since losing to the most unpopular major-party nominee in modern history. Although she won the popular vote, she would not be a viable candidate for a repeat bid against Donald Trump. Some of her detractors have been searching for any signal the woman they love to hate is scheming to run again, so it’s better for her to rule out that path.
Senator Bernie Sanders would do well to confirm sooner rather than later whether he is seriously thinking about another presidential campaign. I think the Democratic Party would benefit from a younger standard-bearer (Sanders just turned 76) who built a political career within the party. But Sanders would start with a large base of activist support and remains popular among the general public, never having faced the Republican case against him or a sustained attack by the press corps. If he has privately ruled out running again, letting the public know would encourage his most zealous fans to start looking for alternatives and pushing likely 2020 contenders to adopt more progressive positions, instead of attacking every Democrat who could become their hero’s competition.
I enclose below some other highlights from Clinton’s CBS interview and a few excerpts from her book. Any thoughts about the 2016 or 2020 presidential campaigns are welcome in this thread.
Speaking to Pauley, Clinton confirmed she hadn’t drafted a concession speech before election night, and had to write one in a hurry the following morning. After she realized she wasn’t going to win, she called Trump to concede after midnight, then phoned President Barack Obama. Why did she call the White House? “I felt like I had let everybody down.”
Hillary-haters went into a frenzy over two paragraphs from her book, which pointed out that Sanders “isn’t a Democrat” and asserted that his attacks “caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.” Chris Hayes, whose show on MSNBC was generally sympathetic to the Sanders perspective, described What Happened as “Compelling and candid and written with a pretty remarkable intimacy,” and not a “score-settling rant.”
She admits in the book, “I couldn’t get the job done, and I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life.” She told Pauley, “The most important of the mistakes I made was using personal email […] I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, that was my responsibility […] It was presented in such a negative way, and I never could get out from under it. And it never stopped.”
Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg discussed another book passage, in which Clinton acknowledged she should not have given high-priced speeches.
“Just because many former government officials have been paid large fees to give speeches, I shouldn’t have assumed it would be okay for me to do it,” Clinton wrote. “Especially after the financial crisis of 2008-2009, I should have realized it would be bad ‘optics’ and stayed away from anything having to do with Wall Street. I didn’t. That’s on me.”
I was fascinated by Clinton’s thoughts about whether she should have responded differently to Trump’s physically intimidating behavior during the second debate.
“After we heard him admitting and laughing about sexually assaulting women and being able to get away with it because if you’re a star, you can do anything. So in my debate prep, we practiced this,” she said. “The young man playing Trump would stalk me. And I practiced keeping my composure. I practiced not getting rattled. Well, it’s one thing to practice it. It’s another thing to be in front of, you know, 50 million, 60 million, 70 million people and having him scowling and leering and moving up on me. And– it– it was so discombobulating.
“And so while I’m answering questions, my mind is going, ‘Okay, do I keep my composure? Do I act like a president?’ Or do I wheel around and say, ‘Get outta my space. Back up, you creep’? Well, you know, I didn’t do the latter. But I think in this time we’re in, particularly in this campaign, you know, maybe I missed a few chances.”
Vogue magazine published a passage from the memoir dealing with the Clinton marriage, a subject of endless speculation and often cited as proof of Hillary’s insincerity–as if hundreds of other politicians haven’t remained married despite known infidelities. Go read the whole thing, but here’s a taste:
We’ve been married since 1975. We’ve had many, many more happy days than sad or angry ones. I know some people wonder why we’re still together. I heard it again in the 2016 campaign: that “we must have an arrangement” (we do; it’s called a marriage); that I helped him become president and then stayed so he could help me become president (no); that we lead completely separate lives, and it’s just a marriage on paper now […].
I don’t believe our marriage is anyone’s business. Public people should be allowed to have private lives, too. But I know that a lot of people are genuinely interested. Maybe you’re flat-out perplexed. Maybe you want to know how this works because you are married and would like it to last 40 years or longer, and you’re looking for perspective. I certainly can’t fault you on that.
I don’t want to delve into all the details, because I really do want to hold on to what’s left of my privacy as much as I can. But I will say this: Bill has been an extraordinary father to our beloved daughter and an exuberant, hands-on grandfather to our two grandchildren. I look at Chelsea and Charlotte and Aidan and I think, We did this. That’s a big deal.
He has been my partner in life and my greatest champion. He never once asked me to put my career on hold for his. He never once suggested that maybe I shouldn’t compete for anything—in work or politics—because it would interfere with his life or ambitions. There were stretches of time in which my husband’s job was unquestionably more important than mine, and he still didn’t play that card. I have never felt like anything but an equal. Bill is completely unbothered by having an ambitious, opinionated, occasionally pushy wife. In fact, he loves me for it.
Long before I thought of running for public office, he was saying, “You should do it. You’d be great at it. I’d love to vote for you.” He helped me believe in this bigger version of myself. […]
We’ve certainly had dark days in our marriage. You know all about them—and please consider for a moment what it would be like for the whole world to know about the worst moments in your relationship. There were times that I was deeply unsure about whether our marriage could or should survive. But on those days, I asked myself the questions that mattered most to me: Do I still love him? And can I still be in this marriage without becoming unrecognizable to myself— twisted by anger, resentment, or remoteness? The answers were always yes. So I kept going.
Top image: Screen shot from Hillary Clinton’s interview with CBS “Sunday Morning,” aired on September 10.