Just in time for the Iowa primaries, Hillary Clinton has abandoned her post-2016 routine of soulful walks in the woods punctuated with conference appearances where she complains about the Russians while dressed in a mumu to attack another favorite bugbear of hers: Bernie Sanders.
In a lengthy interview with the Hollywood Reporter this week, Clinton was asked how she felt about Sanders, and she was evidently not in the mood to promote Democratic party unity. “He was in Congress for years,” she said. “He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It’s just all baloney, and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.”
She went on to indict him for sexism as well. “It’s not only him, it’s the culture around him,” Clinton said. “It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture—not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it.”
It’s an odd charge coming from a woman who, for decades, used her power and connections to defend her own husband’s predatory sexual behavior and attack the women who had accused him of far worse than sexism. But Clinton seems happy to live with such contradictions. Asked by the Hollywood Reporter about the rape and assault charges against Harvey Weinstein, who raised money for Clinton and many other Democrats, Clinton responded, “How could we have known?” Asked if the MeToo movement made her reevaluate her husband’s behavior, Clinton said, “No.”
Clinton has long had a need to be perceived as “likable”—recall the outrage after then-Senator Barack Obama’s offhandedly remarked during the primary debates in 2008 that Clinton was “likable enough”—and the press has no doubt encouraged this tendency by claiming that the issue of “likability” (which is really a stand-in for the public’s perceptions of a candidate’s authenticity) is a form of stealth sexism when raised about any woman running for office.
Clinton is also promoting a new documentary about herself, billed as “a remarkably intimate portrait of a public woman,” that premieres later this week at the Sundance Film Festival. But what she doesn’t seem to realize is that while she’s still understandably fixated on what happened to her in 2016, the public has largely moved on. Does anyone really believe that “everyday” people urge Clinton to run for president again, as she told the Hollywood Reporter? If so, who are these people?
Judging by the reaction to Clinton’s remarks about Bernie Sanders, it’s not people in the Democratic Party. The Hill described Clinton’s remarks as follows: “Hillary Clinton tears open wound with her attack on Bernie Sanders.” One former Democratic presidential campaign staffer told the paper, “You feel like looking Hillary square in the eye and asking, ‘What the hell are you doing?’”
Tulsi Gabbard, who is suing Hillary Clinton for defamation (after Clinton called her a “Russian asset”) was also critical of Clinton, telling a reporter in New Hampshire, “Look, it’s time to grow up. This isn’t high school.” Even the New York Times described Hillary’s remarks as “threatening to reopen the barely healed wounds of the 2016 primary” and quoted Alexandra Rojas of Justice Democrats describing Clinton’s statement as “unacceptable, out of touch and dangerous.”
For his part, Sanders tried to brush off the criticism (as he did earlier with Elizabeth Warren’s attempts to bait him into a fight about his supposed sexism during the last debate) saying, “On a good day, my wife likes me, so let’s clear the air on that one.”
And Clinton surrogates rushed to offer some damage control, portraying her as “busy with a variety of other projects” besides politics, including, according to the Times, “traveling to accept awards and honorary degrees” and going to Broadway shows. She’s even been “spotted at several concerts, including Fleetwood Mac, Earth Wind and Fire, and Billy Joel.”
That’s a good thing, if true, because she could use the distractions. Hillary Clinton seems to have an insatiable need to make the public like her by constantly reminding us of how she has been victimized by all the men in her life: Bill Clinton (implicitly), Bernie Sanders, Russian trolls, and, once again, Bernie Sanders. Alas, this isn’t the most persuasive case for female empowerment, especially from someone who recently “coauthored” a liberal herstory project with her daughter Chelsea called The Book of Gutsy Women.
Rather than lash out at Sanders or complain about sexism or meddle in the Democratic primary, perhaps Hillary should spend more time just being a private (and extremely wealthy) citizen. I have a suggestion for a Fleetwood Mac song she might want to add to her playlist.