10 interesting and slightly terrifying things I learned from hillary clinton’s talk at the southbank
At the only UK date of her What Happened book tour, Hillary described the Russian rigging of the US election a “cyber 9/11” and mused on why Trump likes Putin’s bare chest.
There was really only one question after Hillary Rodham Clinton -- probably the most qualified person for the job of President after 35 years in politics and advocacy -- lost out to a multi-bankrupted reality TV "Wotsit Hitler" who is A-OK with the alt-right, and himself admitted to sexually assaulting women: What the hell happened? It's a question that became the title of her memoir (Ok, it's just called What Happened) about the 2016 US Presidential election, a historic loss that Southbank Centre Artistic Director Jude Kelly described as "stranger than fiction" in her introduction to last night's event, the only UK date on Hillary's book tour and part of the London Literature Festival.
Hillary was interviewed by BBC Radio 4's Jim Naughtie (the naughtiest thing he did was constantly jabbing his finger at her face while asking questions). Jim described her election campaign as a "great punch at the glass ceiling that in the end would not crack," before Hillary walked on -- in a bulky grey coat that was probably concealing a bulletproof vest -- before a minute-long standing ovation with cheers coming from the 2,500 strong audience for the sold out event (which included Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam, who were seated next to me, and top feminist bingo spot, Women's Hour's Jenni Murray, who I saw in the press area).
Here are 10 fascinating and terrifying things I learned from the first woman POTUS we never had...
1. What happened?
Hillary probably saw Jim's first question coming. "What happened was a perfect storm," she began, noting that there were some very specific events, like the then Director of the FBI James Comey announcing 10 days before the election that he was re-opening an investigation into her use of a private email server, but choosing to keep quiet about a parallel investigation into Trump's ties with Russia that he later said he didn't think he could reveal so close to an election. She then nailed it down to two broader issues: "Sexism and misogyny, which are endemic in our society and culture" and the "weaponisation of information" by Trump and those pesky Russians.
2. Hillary has "no doubt" that there was a Russian campaign to spread fake news
Hillary was clear that the Russians intervened in the 2016 election, which isn't particularly controversial as the CIA, FBI and NSA concluded the same in a report that was declassified in January. Describing the interference as a new Cold War, Hillary claimed that intelligence veterans had said it amounted to a "cyber 9/11," aimed at "damaging me, and destabilising our country". Basically, they launched a deliberate campaign to spread fake news on Facebook and other social media platforms that the security agencies described as seeking to "denigrate" Hillary Clinton, with "a clear preference for President-elect Trump".
3. What is Putin like?
"He doesn't like women very much," Hillary said, explaining that she primarily worked with him in her role as US Secretary of State, and that she observed his behavior around women and how dismissive he is. As for the "new Cold War" statement, Hillary said "the goal now is very similar to what it was," with Putin viewing "his role as reasserting Russia as a world power". "Putin really did think he was helping Trump, who would be his puppet," she said, adding that "[Trump] likes the whole authoritarian thing, you know, bare chest. I think that's his aspiration". Gross.
4. She thinks "the press has to do better job of calling out the lies"
Joking aside, Hillary called on the press to do better at calling out Trump's lies, being critical of the New York Times in particular "because I think that at very important times they dropped the ball". The NYT did, however, publish this extensive list of all the lies Trump told at the beginning of his presidency.
5. Calling out Trump's sexual abuse allegations
Hillary straight up described the Access Hollywood tape -- where Trump infamously said he didn't wait for permission to kiss women, he just did it, and that as a celebrity he could do anything, including "Grab 'em by the pussy" -- as sexual assault. She also noted that in the wake of the tape a number of women came out to accuse him of sexual harassment or assault. It was just revealed that one of his accusers, Summer Zervos, has subpoenaed Trump for all documents relating to the allegations.
6. People are very worried about Trump having the nuclear codes
Hillary spoke about Senator Bob Corker's description of the White House as an "adult day care centre" for Trump, and his warning that Trump may be setting us "on the path to World War III". "There is such potential for miscalculation," Hillary said, noting that people thought she was just trying to score political points with a campaign video that featured someone previously responsible for launching nuclear missiles (if the order had come through) speaking about his fear of Trump. "A lot of people thought I was probably exaggerating it, but now we are worried, and Congress is worried about whether they can take that power away from Trump so that in a moment of 'pique' he doesn't pick up that phone and call whoever is sitting in the control centre today," she said.
7. Hillary literally wrote the memo on impeachment
Asked "will Trump's presidency survive?" Hillary responded that it depends on the various criminal investigations that are ongoing. As a juicy tidbit, she added that earlier in her career she "actually wrote the memo about what an impeachable offence was, if you can believe that". As Lykke Li once sagely sang, like a shotgun needs an outcome, she's a legal badass and hopefully Trump is going to get some.
8. Hillary says she's a leader of the women's rights movement
And she basically wishes she had made a bit more of that in her election campaign, when she came to be seen as a more-of-the-same policy wonk who didn't have what it took to transform the country. "I was part of the revolution for women's rights in the 60s," she said, adding, "I became a leader of that movement". ""It's the unfinished business of the 21st century: to free women from constraints and strictures that hold them back, squash their dreams; and give every woman, everywhere a chance to live up to her own goddamn potential!"
9. How to get sexism out of politics
Hillary noted the sexist double standard in reporting on women politicians, saying that she had seen countless men get excited at rallies and scream at the crowd, but when she did it, it became front page news. "I believe strongly that the way to get sexism out of politics is to get more women into politics," she said, adding that "voters don't have enough experience to know that women come in different sizes, different hairstyles, different races. There's not enough of us so people can say 'oh there's more than one way to do this'." She also said that she is proud of the increasing diversity of the party, admittedly at lower levels, "Not leaders, but they'll get there."
10. She doesn't feel guilty, and she won't apologise for caring about policy
Noting the criticism that she was a "policy wonk" rather than an exciting, visionary candidate, Hillary accepted it, but added, "I make no apologies for caring about what government does". She noted that the Republicans are quietly dismantling projects like the child health care provision CHIP, which she helped to set up, meaning that 9 million children lose their cheap or free health care. She suggested Trump's wild tweeting was "part of [his] diversionary strategy" to cover up the dismantling of public health, environment, and work policies. In a somewhat strange final question, Jim asked Hillary what her overriding feeling was, asking, "Do you feel guilt?" "No, absolutely not," she responded. "I just wish I had won." Same.