Critic's Notebook: Hillary Clinton Dishes, Doles Out Blame on 'CBS Sunday Morning'

Hillary Clinton CBS Sunday Morning - H
CBS Sunday Morning

Plugging her new book 'What Happened,' Clinton told Jane Pauley about the outside forces and personal mistakes that cost her the presidency.

For poor Hillary Clinton, some things just never change. Last November, she was blown away by the political hurricane that is Donald Trump. Appearing this weekend on CBS’ Sunday Morning to plug What Happened, her score-settling new book about the election, she got upstaged by Hurricane Irma.

Normally, Clinton’s interview might have been Jane Pauley’s leadoff story. Instead, the segment was relegated to much later in the broadcast, with the show first spotlighting the devastating storm that was already bearing down on Florida. Clinton might have benefited by speaking to Pauley while standing in a pouring rain and wearing a slicker.

Ten months after her historic election defeat, Clinton is clearly ready to cash in. And the interview proved that when it comes to the five stages of grief, she hasn’t gotten past anger. Although she apparently did go through a period of depression.

Discussing her life just after the election, Clinton told a concerned-looking Pauley, “Off I went into a frenzy of closet cleaning. Long walks in the woods. Playing with my dogs. Yoga … alternate nostril breathing, which I recommend. My share of chardonnay…” You could imagine a worried Bill desperately trying not to make any noise while moving about the house and occasionally offering foot massages.

Asked about her current state of mind, Clinton said, “I think I am good, but that doesn’t mean I am complacent or resolved about what happened. It’s still very painful and hurts a lot.” She could well have been speaking for her millions of supporters. She also confessed that she didn’t have a clue that she might lose the election, which illustrated the bubble in which she had been dwelling.

“I felt like I had let everybody down,” Clinton commented before telling Pauley what it was like to attend the inauguration and sit just a few yards away from Trump.

“So, there I was on the platform,” she remembered, not bothering to suppress a laugh. “You know, feeling, like an out-of-body experience. And then his speech, which was a cry from the white nationalist gut!”

Talking about Trump’s victory, Clinton pointed out, “He was quite successful in referencing a nostalgia that would bring hope, comfort and settle grievances for millions of people who were upset about gains made by others.”

“What you’re saying is, millions of white people,” added Pauley, not willing to let her guest slide.

“Yeah, millions of white people,” Clinton agreed.

As has already been made clear, Clinton blames many outside forces for her defeat, including James Comey. She referenced the former FBI director’s condemnation of her behavior even while announcing that no charges would be filed about her personal email server.

“I don’t know quite what audience he was playing to,” she bitterly commented. “Other than maybe right-wing commentators, right-wing members of Congress, whatever.”

But the candidate also took some share of the blame. “I understood that because of the financial crash, there was anger, there was resentment,” she said. “But I believed that it was my responsibility to try to offer answers to it, not to fan it. It was a mistake because a lot of people didn’t want to hear my plans. They wanted me to share their anger. I should have done a better job of demonstrating … I get it.”

Referencing Clinton’s infamous comment referring to Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” Pauley asked, “Why do you think that word ‘deplorables’ had been circulating in your mind?”

Clinton pulled no punches. “I thought Trump was behaving in a deplorable manner,” she replied briskly. “I thought a lot of his appeals to voters were deplorable. I thought his behavior, as we saw in the Access Hollywood tape, was deplorable. And there was a large number of people who didn’t care. It did not matter to them.”

Asked if the controversial remark cost her the election, Clinton dismissed the idea. “They were already energized,” she said about Trump’s supporters. “I don’t buy that. I’m sorry I gave him a political gift of any kind. But I don’t think that was determinative.”

Recalling the debate in which Trump stalked her around the stage, Clinton was at her most animated.

“In my debate prep, we practiced this,” she told Pauley. “The young man playing Trump would stalk me, and I practiced keeping my composure … not getting rattled. But it’s one thing to practice it and another to stand in front of 50, 60, 70 million people and having him scowling, and leering, and moving up on me. It was so discombobulating!” Clinton shuddered with revulsion while relating it.

She added that she might have miscalculated in her reaction.

“Do I keep my composure?” Clinton remembered thinking. “Do I act like a president? Or do I wheel around and say, ‘Get out of my space! Back up, creep!’”

“In my political campaign, maybe I missed a few chances,” she finally admitted. (Gee, d'ya think?)  

“Is your political career over?” Pauley asked.

“Yes, as an active politician, it’s over,” Clinton told her, much to the relief of Democratic party leaders. “I’m done with being a candidate. But I’m not done with politics, because I literally believe that our country’s future is at stake.”

But first, there’s a book tour to conduct. And lots of money to be made, with “VIP” tickets going for thousands of dollars. Yes, with the Clintons, some things just never change.