In 2012, I wrote a column titled “Obama unleashed,” which was highlighted in a video Obama’s staff prepared for one of his appearances at a White House Correspondents Dinner. It spoke to what he could then do as he would never run for office again. My regret is Hillary Clinton never had the chance to show us what she could have done as our president. I know it would have been nothing short of amazing.
Being at the Warner Theater on Monday night with a couple of thousand other supporters listening to Hillary speak truth, which clearly some people have a hard time hearing, felt both good and heartbreaking at the same time.
Lisa Muscatine, who interviewed her, led Hillary to sharing her thoughts on the campaign, why she wrote the book, and on the future, both hers and ours. I have always found it compelling to listen to Hillary speak and Monday night the crowd clearly agreed giving her standing ovations.
Hillary spoke of how difficult it can be for a candidate, no less a woman, on the campaign trail. How unacceptable it is for a woman candidate to speak out on issues like sexism and misogyny. Matt Bai wrote in a recent column, “Gender, while always an added challenge, never defined Clinton’s candidacy.” As good a political reporter as he may be he misses the point entirely; anytime a woman runs for office it is about gender because so many people still can’t get beyond that to hear what she is saying.
Having read the book I know there is nothing in it or anything Hillary spoke about Monday night that isn’t the truth. People can interpret truth differently but as Hillary reminded us a number of times we can’t change facts. She also reminded us we have a president and an administration that deal in ‘alternate facts,’ in essence they lie.
She was funny in a way I have only seen her before in smaller groups. Muscatine played a game she called Boxers and Briefs with her. She gave her two words and asked her to respond. First were “bath or shower;” Hillary said it depends on how much time she has. Then “vodka or Chardonnay;” Hillary laughed and said again it depends on how much time she has. Then “Putin or Trump;” Hillary took a moment and then to much laughter said, “That is hard, since I ran against both of them.”
Hillary took the blame for not necessarily reading the mood of the country and being quick enough to realize this wasn’t like any other presidential campaign. But clearly she believes were it not for the ‘perfect storm,’ including Comey and Russia, that despite her errors she would have won. She talked about the importance of getting to the bottom of the Russian interference in our election not for her but for the sake of the future of our Democracy. She talked about ‘pizzagate’ and how Republicans weaponized the emails they stole. Hillary said she doesn’t like the word ‘hacked,’ since it was theft. Muscatine told how Hillary and Bill felt bad for Comet Pizza and quietly ordered a huge number of pizzas donating them to a school in D.C.
Hillary said writing the book was cathartic for her and it rang a bell with the audience when she said she heard from good friends that reading it was cathartic for them. There were some in the audience who had worked for her over the years and many young people who had volunteered in her campaign. She urged them to continue to volunteer and stay involved in politics.
While I am a little old to be a groupie I still left with a good feeling after walking toward the stage at the end of the evening where she was shaking some hands and having her look my way and say, ‘Oh my it’s so good to see you, thanks for coming” and then shaking my hand. This was the Hillary so many of us worked our hearts out for and the country lost out on when it elected Trump. Hillary said she remains positive about the future and said we all should as well. She committed to continue to work on the issues she has all her life and to encourage women and young people to get involved in politics and, above all, to exercise their right to vote.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.