The funniest episode in the protective yet revealing new Hillary Clinton profile arrives when we learn that this sad, unemployed, 69-year-old lady is so desperate to keep her self-image alive that she still employs flunkies and retainers to treat her as though she actually were the president, or the secretary of state, or a president in waiting, or at very least the leader of the opposition. Her longtime loyalists are so happy to bustle around her in the service of maintaining the illusion that, after she takes an hour away from it all to exercise, her communications director, Nick Merrill, breathlessly updates her on everything that’s happened in the political world in the last threescore ticks of the minute hand. Her profiler, Rebecca Traister of New York magazine, obviously a great admirer but one who declines to throw herself overboard from reality for the sake of giving Hillary more company bobbing about in the sea of fancy, writes that Clinton “listens to the barrage of updates, nodding like a person whose job requires her to be up-to-date on what’s happening, even though it does not.”
Ouch. Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t merely in a state of denial. She has become Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. Politically speaking, she is dead, but she doesn’t know it. Her staffers are so many Haley Joel Osments — too kind (and too attached to their salaries) to tell her that her career is over. She doesn’t need briefings. She doesn’t need to do interviews. She doesn’t need to write the book she is writing (after so many indigestible volumes, why bother with one more?). She doesn’t need to stake out a politically nuanced position on James Comey’s firing or scramble to get out in front of the Resistance parade. She lost two exceedingly winnable presidential campaigns in Hindenburgian fashion. There is no demand for her to run again and there is nothing left for her except to receive whatever ceremonial honors and sinecures may come her way. She has been handed her political retirement papers by the American people. She’s done.
Clinton tells Traister, vaguely, “Take me out of the equation as a candidate. You know, I’m not running for anything,” and indeed she isn’t, right now, since this isn’t an election year. Yet nothing Clinton does these days makes sense unless you keep in mind that she actually thinks she could run again. Take her Wellesley address on Friday: utterly bonkers for a commencement speech. Newly minted graduates expect to hear something useful or at least funny or informative or, failing all else, sentimental. Clinton did a bit of this, then started lobbing word-mortars far over their heads at Donald Trump, making the kinds of Nixon comparisons that every Democrat, and lots of non-Democrats, have been making for months.
Why bother pursuing such a trite theme? Because Clinton was eager to show the Washington political hacks that she is still a tough operator, a leader of the anti-Trump movement, a player. She was, in other words, campaigning. To all appearances, the game is long over. Yet she is still on the field, because the game isn’t over to her. Hey, there’s another election in three and a half years, folks. And need we remind you who won the popular vote?
Clinton was eager to show the Washington political hacks that she is still a tough operator, a leader of the anti-Trump movement, a player.
In Traister’s profile, Clinton (again) deflects attention from her own self-evident flaws to blame her defeat on others. She again blames James Comey, with zero acknowledgment that her own actions to evade scrutiny of her e-mail were the cause of Comey’s entirely justified and indeed shockingly forgiving criminal investigation. She (again) blames the Russians, even though even she acknowledges that the actual content of the WikiLeaks e-mails from her own fellow Democrats was “inconsequential.” She (again) blames misogyny, a non-falsifiable theory with no evidence behind it except that citizens supposedly came up to her and said things like, “Gosh, I’m not sure we’re ready for a woman president,” with the added fillip that women who voted against her are internalized misogynists. She blames “the suppression of the vote, particularly in Wisconsin,” channeling an investigation from progressive fantasists published in The Nation that is so lacking in credibility that it was debunked by Slate and ignored by most of the Hillary-friendly media.
Clinton does not mention that she made more campaign stops in Arizona than in Wisconsin. She forgets that she ignored the advice of her own husband that it was unwise to write off white working-class voters. She does not allude to her having hidden from the public a bout with pneumonia until she was forced to release information when a random bystander happened to make a video of her collapsing on a mild day in New York City. She doesn’t reflect on her uninspiring speeches or her off-putting personality. Traister doesn’t press her on any of these matters, and the anticipation of that treatment is why Clinton agreed to speak to someone like Traister in the first place.
In lieu of all of this, Clinton seeks to present herself as the most forceful opponent of the Trump administration. Should the president be impeached, she’ll be able to say: Hey, I called it! But she isn’t leading the national conversation, she’s mouthing along with it, like any other retiree talking back to cable news at home. Even if the Trump administration proves to be the catastrophe she foresees, there is no reason the Democrats would turn back to her for a third run. Every time she draws attention to the Trumpian flaws that were conspicuous to all during the campaign, she doesn’t hear the obvious rejoinder echoing in every American’s mind: Then why couldn’t you trounce him?