Hillary Clinton sat down with CNN’s Anderson Cooper Wednesday night for an interview to talk about her new book – “What Happened” – and her life during and after the 2016 election. I went through the transcript and picked out 36 lines from Clinton that I found telling. They’re below.
1. “For so much of my time in public life, I felt like I was on this high wire with no net.”
Clinton is talking here – I think – about how many different priorities she was always juggling. But, it’s also a revealing quote about Clinton’s time in public life: How she struggled with how to best present herself to voters, how much of her personality to let out, how much to give and how much to hold back. That high wire act is incredibly grueling – particularly when you believe you have literally no margin for error.
2. “The rhetoric was hot. I call it a cry from the white nationalist gut.”
Clinton, sitting on the dais for the inauguration, expressed her shock and amazement about the sort of speech President Donald Trump decided to give. And there’s little question that it was far darker – in tone – than most modern inaugural speeches. (I described it as a “missile aimed directly at Washington.”)
3. “Anywhere else. Bali, maybe. You know, anywhere else.”
A rare look into Clinton the person regarding where she would have rather been on Inauguration Day. We all can identify with not wanting to stand by while the person who beat you is sworn in as president. Also, Bali sounds wonderful.
4. “I am afflicted with the responsibility gene.”
In a way, this is the story of the campaign – and Clinton’s life. She has always been the star pupil, the person who learned the rules better than anyone. But then she faced Trump, the least orthodox or traditional candidate possible. And one not terribly burdened with the “responsibility gene.”
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5. “George W. Bush reportedly said after – after the – inauguration, ‘That was some weird s***.’”
OK, this is a quote from Anderson (and George W.), not Clinton. But, it’s too good not to include. It’s also, perhaps, the perfect George W. Bush quote.
6. “I did everything that you’re supposed to do. I went to the lunch.”
The “lunch” in question is the ceremonial congressional lunch after the inauguration. But the broader point is Clinton emphasizing “I did everything that you’re supposed to do.” That she did.
7. “You know, I could hear some, ‘Lock her up’ chant – in the distance.”
8. “I thought he was Reince Priebus.”
Clinton on former Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz is ice cold. “They thought I was Reince Priebus …” is an amazing political obituary for Chaffetz.
9. “I am a huge Les Miz fan. Who isn’t?”
No one. Or at least no one who matters.
10. “I said, ‘Well, you know, congressman – I’m not the Antichrist.’”
Glad we cleared that up! And Clinton makes clear in “What Happened” that the congressman in question is Ryan Zinke, who is now the secretary of the interior.
11. “This hyper partisanship and this negativity that I think has been really inflamed by the Internet – I’ve given a lot of thought to it over the last month.”
12. “So no absolution.”
Clinton won’t forgive people who were for her and didn’t vote. That she is willing to acknowledge that fact – not exactly the most magnanimous reaction but a totally understandable one – speaks to how deep the loss cut her.
13. “I don’t wanna shut your – shut my eyes on – on, you know, on national television.”
14. “You do hold and you breathe through one and you hold it. And then you exhale through the other.”
Things just got weird. Clinton is talking about alternate nostril breathing. Which is apparently a thing.
15. “That was the determinative day because it stopped my momentum.”
Clinton is talking about October 28 – the day FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to congressional leaders informing them he had reopened the investigation into her email server.
16. “Whoever runs again, probably starting in 2018, will face Russian interference, may face coordination between opposition campaign and Russians.”
Clinton is not alone in this sentiment. Comey has said the same. As has former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. And lots and lots of other people – including virtually every Republican official in a position to know.
17. “He’s never been clear about his motivation.”
This is Clinton on why Comey re-opened the investigation – only to conclude 72 hours before the election that there was nothing new there. Comey’s response – as he has explained to Congress – was that he felt as though he was in a no-win situation. If he kept the emails found on Anthony Weiner’s computer quiet, people would say he was putting a thumb on the scale for Clinton. If he revealed the investigation – as he did – he would be blamed for trying to submarine Clinton.
18. “The American people don’t have the information that there’s a legitimate investigation going on about Trump and Russia before they vote.”
Clinton is right about this. It makes very little sense why Comey never revealed the Russia investigation.
19. “Was (Comey) under pressure from (Rudy) Giuliani and others within the FBI or the broader law enforcement community? I don’t speculate on it.”
Is Clinton engaging in speculation here? I don’t know. I don’t speculate on it.
20. “I didn’t hear about it for days because it was so inconsequential to both of them.”
Hillary Clinton didn’t hear about Bill Clinton getting on then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s plane in Phoenix for days? I find that very hard to believe.
21. “I would’ve had an independent commission, I would’ve done everything I could to get to the bottom of it because it’s not going to stop.”
Clinton’s point on Russian influence in the election is well made. One of the things I have never understood about Trump’s stance toward Russia is why, if he believes he is totally innocent, not be as open as possible with special counsel Robert Mueller and anyone else asking.
22. “I’m convinced that there was something going on.”
In an interview with USA Today earlier this week, Clinton said she was convinced there was collusion. She is backing off from that here.
23. “I think it’s probably – bigger than Watergate because it is about the future.”
Wow. Remember that Watergate led to the resignation of a president.
24. “I think the influence did affect individual voters.”
This is virtually impossible to quantify. What we know is that there is no proof Russians tampered with any actual votes. But, that’s not what Clinton is alleging.
25. “Reopening it, which caused people once again, to be obsessed with emails. And then (campaign chairman John) Podesta’s emails being used to drive all this negative – story about me.”
This is an important point. Clinton’s private email server – no matter what you think of it – had absolutely nothing to do with the WikiLeaks hacking of Podesta’s emails. Nothing. But, because they both dealt with emails, lots and lots of people conflated the two and sort of threw up their hands in frustration with Clinton.
26. “We did wrestle with it because we wanted to let people see it. We didn’t wanna get in the way of people being able to draw their own conclusions.”
This is the traditional political wisdom. Get out of the way when a terrible story for your opponent breaks so that it doesn’t look like you are trying to make it political or take advantage of it.
27. “I prepared for him to try to use his size and his presence to intimidate me.”
Debates – especially at the presidential level with so many eyeballs on them – are so much about theatrics and perception. Clinton, to her credit, understood that and prepared for it.
28. “You’re not gonna intimidate me. Back off, you creep.”
Clinton wonders whether if she said something like this when Trump was standing behind her in the second debate things would have been different. Impossible to know but I guarantee that would be the moment you’d have seen constantly in the analysis of the debate.
29. “I won the debate according to the analysts and all the rest of that.”
Yes, she did.
30. “The director of the FBI said she may go to jail. OK, look, the locker room isn’t as bad as that.”
Clinton is right, I think, about how lots of Trump voters thought about the election. They viewed Trump’s problems as largely personality driven and her problems as far more serious and deeper. That’s also a reminder that you in an election you don’t have to beat the ideal candidate for the other side, you just have to beat the person the other party nominated.
31. “I think there’s not enough expertise and experience yet in the White House right now.”
Every Democrat – and lots of Republicans – will nod their heads at this sentiment. Of course, Trump ran expressly against the “expertise and experience” of Washington and its political class.
32. “It says that an anachronism that was designed for another time no longer works.”
That’s some serious shade on the Electoral College. The problem for Clinton is that no matter the merit of what she says, lots and lots of people will write it off to sour grapes and ignore it.
33. “You can’t predict what he might do. That’s one of the lessons I think we’ve seen so far in this presidency.”
Truer words were never spoken.
34. “I got interested in cleaning my closets, taking long walks in the woods.”
35.” I didn’t get that same, you know, respect and reciprocity from Senator Sanders or from his supporters. They’re still, you know, incredibly divisive.”
Oh man. The Bernie people are NOT going to like this one. Not one bit.
36. “(Sanders) could be helpful, if he so chose.”