Hillary Clinton delivers the commencement address at Wellesley College on May 26, 2017.
I don’t want to beat up on Hillary Clinton. She thought she’d win and she lost, embarrassingly, to a man she considered deeply unworthy. At the same time she won the popular vote by 2.9 million. It would take anyone time to absorb these things emotionally and psychologically.
But wow. Her public statements since defeat have been malignant little masterpieces of victimhood-claiming, blame-shifting and unhelpful accusation. They deserve censure.
Last weekend she was the commencement speaker at her alma mater, Wellesley, where she insulted the man who beat her. This Wednesday she was at the 2017 Code Conference, hosted by the Recode website, where she was interviewed by friendly journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. She eagerly offered a comprehensive list of the reasons she lost the 2016 presidential election.
She lost because America is a hopelessly reactionary country in which dark forces fight a constant “rearguard action” to “turn back the clock.” She lost because Republicans are both technologically advanced and underhanded. Democrats, for instance, use data and analytics to target and rouse voters—“better messaging.” Republicans, on the other hand, use “content farms” and make “an enormous investment in falsehoods, fake news, call it what you will.” Democrats “did not engage in false content.” She lost because of the Russians: “Who were they coordinating with, or colluding with?”
She lost because of “voter suppression” and “unaccountable money flowing in against me.” She lost because the Democratic National Committee didn’t help her. “I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party. I mean it was bankrupt. . . . Its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong. I had to inject money into it.”
She lost because FBI Director James Comey told Congress the investigation regarding her email server had been reopened. “So for whatever reason . . . and I can’t look inside the guy’s mind, you know, he dumps that on me on Oct. 28, and I immediately start falling.”
She lost because she was “swimming against a historic tide. It’s very difficult historically to succeed a two-term president of your own party.” She lost because she was “the victim of a very broad assumption that I was going to win.” She lost because the news media ignored her policy positions.
And then there was sexism. “It sort of bleeds into misogyny. And let’s just be honest, you know, people who have . . . a set of expectations about who should be president and what a president looks like, you know, they’re going to be much more skeptical and critical of somebody who doesn’t look like and talk like and sound like everybody else who’s been president. Any you know, President Obama broke that racial barrier, but you know, he’s a very attractive, good-looking man.”
Oh my goodness, how she thinks.
Oddly, she seemed completely sincere, as if she believes her own story. It tells you something about our own power to hypnotize ourselves, to invent reasons that avoid the real reasons. It is a tribute to the power of human denial. And at first you think: I hope it was cathartic. Maybe these are just stories she tells herself to feel better.
But none of this, in truth, is without point. It is purposeful. It is not mere narrative-spinning. It is insisting on alternative facts so that journalists and historians will have to take them into account. It is a monotonous repetition of a certain version of events, which will be amplified, picked up and repeated into the future.
And it’s not true.
The truth is Bernie Sanders destroyed Mrs. Clinton’s chance of winning by almost knocking her off, and in the process revealing her party’s base had changed. Her plodding, charmless, insincere style of campaigning defeated her. Bad decisions in her campaign approach to the battleground states did it; a long history of personal scandals did it; fat Wall Street speeches did it; the Clinton Foundation’s bloat and chicanery did it—and most of all the sense that she ultimately stands for nothing but Hillary did it.
In the campaign book “Shattered,” journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes report they were surprised “when Clintonworld sources started telling us in 2015 that Hillary was still struggling to articulate her motivation for seeking the presidency.” Her campaign was “an unholy mess, fraught with tangled lines of authority . . . distorted priorities, and no sense of greater purpose.” “Hillary didn’t have a vision to articulate. And no one else could give one to her.” “Hillary had been running for president for almost a decade and still didn’t really have a rationale.”
What is true is that throughout her career Mrs. Clinton has shown herself to be largely incapable of honest self-reflection, of pointing the finger, for even a moment, at herself. She is not capable of what in Middle English was called “agenbite of inwit”—remorse of conscience, the self-indictment and implicit growth, that come of taking a serious personal inventory. People are always doing bad things to her, she never does bad things to them. They operate in bad faith, she only in good. They lie and exaggerate, she doesn’t. They are low and partisan, not her. There’s no vast left-wing conspiracy only a right-wing one.
People can see this. It’s part of why she lost.
It is one thing to say, “I take responsibility,” and follow that up with a list of things you believe you got wrong. It’s another thing to say, “I take responsibility,” and then immediately pivot to arguments as to why other people are to blame. “I take responsibility for everything I got wrong, but that’s not why I lost,” is literally what she said Wednesday.
Walt Mossberg asked her about her misjudgments. What about Goldman Sachs ? You were running for president, he said, why did you do those high priced speeches?
“Why do you have Goldman Sachs [at this conference]?” Mrs. Clinton countered.
Mr. Mossberg: “Because they pay us.”
Mrs. Clinton: “They paid me.”
Mr. Mossberg noted they paid her a lot. Hillary replied she speaks to many groups, she had been elected in New York, which includes Wall Street. Then: “Men got paid for the speeches they made. I got paid for the speeches I made.”
The worst part is that she insulted her own country by both stating and implying that America is full of knuckle-dragging, deplorable oafs who are averse to powerful women and would never elect one president. Has she not learned anything? Does she never think Britain had Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Theresa May now, that Germany has had as its leader Angela Merkel since 2005? Is America really more backward, narrow and hate-filled toward women than those countries? Or was Mrs. Clinton simply the wrong woman, and the wrong candidate?
It would have been helpful if she’d spoken at least of those who’d voted for her and supported her and donated to her campaign precisely because she was a woman.
You should never slander a country that rejected you. Maybe it had its reasons. Maybe her most constructive act now would be to quietly reflect on what they might be.