Meeting Hillary Clinton in 2017 is a mind-bending experience. You sit across from her and think: I am talking to the president. But, no. You’re not. Just last week, Late Night host Stephen Colbert finished a rollicking interview by saying, plaintively, “I wish you were our president.”
Clinton feels our pain, and our confusion—even the guilt of people who come up and tell her they didn’t vote for her, and they’re so sorry! She may not be our commander in chief (and Donald Trump’s schoolyard taunts with nuclear-armed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un remind us how tragic that is). But as the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee—the woman who won the popular vote by almost 3 million voters—confides during this interview, she’s become our “therapist in chief” on this book tour. It can get a little “draining” sometimes, she says. But after a good night’s sleep, she’s ready to go out and do it again.
Promoting What Happened, Clinton is hitting the big media spots. She did a hugely rated sit-down with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, had a great talk with The New Yorker’s David Remnick, and was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air. But she’s also getting off the beaten track. She’s talking to The Nation, for the first time; to the women who work at the millennial-oriented Mic, and to CNN analyst (and loyal 2016 Clinton surrogate) Bakari Sellars for the debut of his podcast. She actually seems like she’s having fun.
I caught up with Clinton at her midtown office in between book signings. We should get a few disclosures out of the way: My daughter worked for Clinton in five states last year (Clinton greeted me with “How’s Nora?”). I endorsed Clinton in January 2016, in the pages of The Nation, at least partly because of the media’s repeated certainty that nobody, nowhere, actually liked her; that her supporters were all Democratic Party hacks and cat ladies and people who didn’t know better. Over the years, I had come to really like her, actually, and I explained why. She tweeted her thanks to me, and that was the extent of the interaction we had during the long, hard campaign, despite what WikiLeaks seemed to say.
On Wednesday, I asked Clinton why she’s sure the Russians meddled in her campaign and whether the firestorm around her one-time use of the term “super-predator” might have hurt her with black millennials, whose turnout dipped in 2016. I watched her travel the country with the Mothers of the Movement, from Columbia, South Carolina to Brooklyn, New York, but the Young Folks of the Movement were not entirely along for the ride. We talked about the way the Trump campaign, and maybe Russia, made the most of both sides of that issue: playing up her “super-predator” remark, particularly with young black men, while at the same time hyping her support of Mothers of the Movement to white voters in an attempt to drive those voters away.