What if someone you admired greatly was treated unjustly? And not just a little unjustly—the kind of relentless unfairness that makes you want to scream into a pillow. What if the attacks on this person got so ridiculous, so ubiquitous, so manifestly obvious in their bad faith, that it would almost be laughable if it weren’t also so infuriating.
Such is the case with Hillary Clinton.
Just for clarity’s sake, here’s how I see Hillary Clinton:
To me, she’s an uncommonly smart and hard working public servant; a little wonky; progressive but not an ideologue, with a particular affinity for causes that help women and children. She believes in getting things done, even if that means reaching across the aisle and, yes, compromising a bit for the greater good. She’s been in politics her entire adult life—and is one of the most famous women in the world—so she’s a little more connected than the average politician, has more potential conflicts of interest—more opportunities for paid speaking gigs; more meetings with powerful world leaders—which she has mostly navigated with a good amount of common sense and integrity. And again, she’s been in the public eye so long, she’s also made her fair share of mistakes—almost all of which she’s owned up to and learned from.
She’s not the warmest person, maybe even a bit prickly at times, but I personally find her funny and engaging and kind, especially when she’s around children. I think the fact that she’s a little stiff on TV is touching—she’d much rather be writing and enacting policy than talking about herself or performing a skit on SNL. Her evident brilliance—her command of facts, her knowledge of history, her grasp of international politics—is nearly unparalleled.
Importantly, I think she’s no more “corrupt” than any other longtime politician who knows how to work within a system to get things done—and that includes Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, John McCain, Nancy Pelosi, et al. What’s more, I think she’s smarter, more truly caring, and harder working than most.
That’s it. That’s how I see her.
Here’s what the Hillary Clinton haters see:
To them, she’s some sort of combination of Lady Macbeth, Medusa, and Claire Underwood—a power-hungry, greedy woman who will say or do anything to get elected; a woman without a sincere bone in her body who fakes everything—her religious devotion; her love for her family; her good health; her commitment to liberal-leaning policies; hell, even her love of hot sauce—just to win votes. In some of the crazier corners of the internet—alas, on both the far left and right—they see her as a murderer or someone capable of running a child pornography ring. There is no bridge too far when it comes to hating Hillary Clinton. In their eyes, she might as well be stroking a cat and plotting to blow up Gotham City. (This comic book reference is not incidental—her haters have dehumanized her; they hate her as much as they might hate a cartoon villain.)
It’s hard to reconcile those two things, isn’t it? The woman I see: Brilliant, wonky, and wholly committed to public service vs. the cold, calculating villainess seen by others. But let’s just assume for a second that I’m right. That Hillary is quite simply the woman I—and her legion of admirers—see her to be. Certainly there’s more actual evidence on my side than theirs. Can you see how monstrously, maddeningly unfair the last several years have been? How the injustice of it all could actually drive a person a little nuts?
Because Hillary Clinton has had to put up with shit that not a single politician in the history of this country has had to put up with.
Hating Hillary Clinton—in a vicious, visceral way—has become a national sport. The lusty chants of “lock her up” and “hang the bitch” that followed her everywhere she went; the unprecedented and politically motivated investigations into her private email server and the Benghazi attacks (FYI: there were 20 deadly attacks on U.S. embassies under George W. Bush, none of which were investigated); the reckless and mean-spirited speculation about her health; the characterization of her, by her both her Republican and Democratic opponents, as the very embodiment of political corruption and avarice, and on and on…
There were times when the whole thing seemed surreal: The so-called left-leaning media endlessly haranguing her for not being sufficiently likeable or inspirational; that infamous Matt Lauer interview, where the first (pre-selected) audience question began with the provocation: “If I had done what you did, I’d be in jail”; Bernie Sanders making that same joke, again and again, about his lack of paid of speeches (while knowing full well that U.S. Senators are not allowed to give paid speeches); the chants, led from the stage by Mike Flynn, of “Lock her up!” at the Republican National Convention; the Bernie supporters throwing dollar bills at her motorcade; Donald Trump, cracking mid-debate, that if he were president she’d be in jail.
The hatred was such that at times I feared for her life and wondered why she didn’t just quit—could it really all be worth it?—but she weathered it all with equanimity and a stiff upper lip. As she said in What Happened, she ran for president because she thought she was the best person for the job. She wasn’t going to let the haters keep her down.
When she, arguably the most qualified person to run for president in my lifetime, lost to Trump—a man who, among other unsavory personality traits has been accused of sexual misconduct by 19 women—it was crushing. It felt like a rebuke, not just of Hillary Clinton, but of women in general. It felt personal.
But it least it was over, I thought. At least they wouldn’t have Hillary Clinton as their punching bag anymore.
Oh, how wrong I was.
After the election, Hillary could do nothing right. She was chided for not giving her concession speech quickly enough. (Wisely—and very much true to form—she got a few hours of much-needed sleep and wrote an eloquent, gracious, and forward-thinking speech encouraging more young women to believe in themselves and run for office.) She was criticized for being too quiet—mocked for taking walks in the woods and going to Broadway shows. She was criticized for being too loud—having the temerity to write a book about her experience as the first female presidential candidate of a major party. She was told to go away, to shut up, to take up knitting, to never, ever, ever run for president again (when she had already made it abundantly clear that she has no intention of running.) (Also, newsflash: HILLARY CLINTON CAN DO ANY DAMN THING SHE WANTS.) Many male politicians—Bernie, of course, but even Joe Biden, Martin O’Malley, and (sigh) Barack Obama, stepped forward and said they could’ve won the election, that it was some sort of inherent character flaw that kept her from beating Trump—and not the result of a smear campaign led by Trump, Bernie, the media, and Russian social media bots and bolstered by a last minute assist from James “November Surprise” Comey.
Meanwhile, over on FoxNews, they covered Hillary as though she were president. It turned out that, on top of serving to distract from the many crimes that Trump and his administration are being investigated for, attacking Hillary Clinton was good for ratings. Again, the hatred for her was a kind of national pastime, on both the right and far left. A phony Uranium One scandal was cooked up. It was hinted that the Steele dossier proved she had been colluding with the Russians. There was no scandal they couldn’t blame on her—if only tangentially. Somehow, even the Harvey Weinstein debacle was made partly her fault. It was so funny, I forgot to laugh.
And now that the walls are closing in on Trump and his team, he’s using the justice department as his own personal attack dogs and opening up investigations into the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s private email server—again.
It’s ridiculous. Unfair. Sickening.
So no, I’ll never get over Hillary Clinton and how horribly she was—and continues to be—treated. Excuse me while I go scream into a pillow.