Shortly after Emmanuel Macron won a landslide victory in the French presidential elections on Sunday, ostensibly staving off the onslaught of a far-right pandemic across Europe, at least for the moment, Hillary Clinton decided to share her relief on what may now be the most presidential platform of all: Twitter. “Victory for Macron, for France, the EU, & the world,” she wrote. “Defeat to those interfering w/democracy. (But the media says I can’t talk about that).”
Clinton’s remark, however cheeky, appeared to be an extension of what has seemed like an escalating flirtation with a re-emergence into public life. After her surprising and devastating defeat to Donald Trump in November, Clinton was initially reticent. She solemnly attended Trump’s Jacksonian inauguration, and appeared in photographs only during the occasional walk in the woods or lunch out. But then, signs of restlessness inevitably began to return: rumors of a run for mayor, for instance, or suggestions that she was pondering another gasp at the presidency in 2020. More recently, Clinton appeared onstage in a conversation with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof for Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit, and offered a slight tease to her most fervent supporters. “As a person,” she told Kristof, “I’m O.K. As an American, I’m pretty worried.”
From there, the whisper campaign and intrigue took an interesting turn. Last week, Clinton appeared onstage with Christiane Amanpour as part of the Women to Women International event, during which she simultaneously took the blame for her electoral college loss while also implicating James Comey, the Russians, and the general prevalence of misogyny. Days later, Axios reported that Clinton had been working for months on a political action committee that would focus on helping Democratic candidates during the midterms, and would not serve as a 2020 war chest for herself. By the time that the French results poured in, Clinton seemed more like a political kingmaker than one in retirement.
Clinton, indeed, appears to be out of the woods, and what happens next is already a cause for concern within the concentric circles of Clintonworld advisers, well-wishers, hangers-on, and true believers. As one person close to the Clintons told me last month, “She’s trying to navigate what’s appropriate. Does it look like sour grapes? Does it look like she’s positioning for something?” This person continued: “She can’t look like a politician or someone who’s trying to position herself. Those days are over. I think they’re very mindful of not looking like she’s looking for a comeback. She’s trying to resurrect her image, as well as resurrect her name.”
Many in Clintonworld steadfastly stand by the boss regarding however she assigns blame or whatever comes next. “You can never define a presidential campaign by a single moment or, for that matter, a single mistake. There was a confluence of events, nobody denies it,” Robert Zimmerman, a longtime member of the Democratic National Committee and the co-founder of an eponymous public-relations firm, told me. “If you think misogyny is not an issue in America, where the hell have you been living for the past couple of centuries? If you think the Russian hacking was not a factor, look at the way the media fixated on it, which was exactly Russia’s strategy.” Zimmerman said he “finds it astounding” that even after Clinton took responsibility for her “mistakes” during the campaign and then took further responsibility for them afterwards, that “the media is still obsessing about the Clintons while giving Trump a pass.” He said that Clinton is “going to stay a force on the national scene [since] she has a constituency and a following that gave her a victory in the popular vote.”
But others I spoke with are more than a little concerned about how far the Clintons intend to take the Hillary resurrection tour. (My colleague T.A. Frank recently essayed on the perils of Chelsea Clinton’s apparent ambitions.) Someone close to the Clintons, for instance, told me that while they were pleased that the candidate had waited a while before speaking out, this person wished that Clinton had accepted more of the blame, herself. This person also suggested that Clinton, who has lost two presidential campaigns, should consider reverting to the notion that her strength lies in thoughtful policymaking rather than retail politics. This person also cautioned that Clinton needs to maintain her message discipline now more than ever: she needs to speak out on issues that matter to her rather than engage in general Trump-bashing or, say, trolling the media after a national election. (A spokesman for Clinton declined to comment for this story.)
More pressing within Clintonworld, of course, is the notion that Clinton might soon be launching a new political action committee to help fund groups and candidates that are forming in opposition to Trump. This, in some ways, would appear to cement the family’s role as grandees and party patriarchs-forces above the fray, but very much involved in organizing it. “This is about political power,” one person close to the Clintons affirmed. “They want to retain influence. They want to build and expand their network. . . . They want to retain political influence in the process and that’s where it gets dicey. They want to retain influence because that’s what they do. That’s why scorpions sting. People underestimate this.”
The Clintons, after all, spent much of the Obama era arguably “freezing the field” for other candidates to insure that she was best positioned to win the 2016 Democratic nomination. “She held on to the reins of the party’s political power,” this person continued, “even when Barack Obama was president.” They pulled this nifty trick off by having Bill Clinton out on the campaign trail stumping for those candidates who supported Hillary in her campaign against Obama. “The message across the board was, ‘We remember our friends,’ ” this person said.
The 2020 election is a long way off. And the consensus among the political class is that nothing anyone says now matters a whit until after the midterms. After that, new Democratic Party candidates will emerge. Whether it will be someone like Chris Murphy, the Connecticut senator; or Andrew Cuomo, the New York governor; or John Hickenlooper, the Colorado governor; or Kamala Harris, the new California senator; or Cory Booker, the New Jersey senator; or even someone such as Van Jones, the CNN commentator and political activist, remains to be seen. The looming question, though, is whether the Clintons will once again try to bigfoot the selection process at a time when if the Democratic Party needs anything, it needs a new voice to lead it out of the wilderness
Source: The Hive