Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that she takes “absolute personal responsibility” for her 2016 loss. But she doesn’t, really.
Clinton suggested in an interview at a Women for Women International event in New York that her forthcoming book would include plenty about how misogyny contributed to her loss, adding it to the blame she has assigned to FBI Director James B. Comey and Russian hacking. And by the end of the interview, she also blamed the debate questions she was asked.
The total picture was of a candidate only adding to the things she blames for her loss rather than truly looking inward. She acknowledged her own flaws, yes, but she also seemed to suggest they were rather inconsequential and at one point appeared to sarcastically dismiss the magnitude of them.
Asked whether misogyny played a role, Clinton said with a wry smile: “The book’s coming out in the fall.”
“Yes, I do think it played a role,” she said. “I think other things played a role, too.” She would go on to name Russia and Comey’s letter about discovering more Clinton emails with 11 days left in the campaign. She said she was on her way to winning without them and would have won if the election were held Oct. 27.
She’s offered similar — if less pointed — comments about those things before. She even briefly mentioned misogyny last month at another event last month (our Amber Phillips details research suggesting she's got a point). But she seemed to suggest even more strongly Tuesday that her book would focus plenty on the m-word.
“It is real. It is very much a part of the landscape politically and socially and economically,” she added. “It a role in this election, and I will have a lot to say about it.”
Later in the same conversation, Clinton also suggested that debate questions were to blame, saying moderators didn't ask about how the candidates planned to created jobs.
“I’ve watched a million presidential debates in my life, and I was waiting for the moment when one of the people asking the questions would have said, 'Well, so, exactly how are you going to create more jobs?'" Clinton said. “Right? I mean, I thought that, you know, at some moment that would happen.”
As The Fix’s Callum Borchers notes, it turns out NBC moderator Lester Holt actually led off the very first debate with this question: “Beginning with you, Secretary Clinton, why are you a better choice than your opponent to create the kinds of jobs that will put more money into the pockets of American workers?”
One of the criticisms of Clinton since her loss is that she has blamed everyone and everything but herself. She did offer some thoughts on her own shortcomings, but not really in any detail. And six months on, she’s clearly much more than eager to chew over the other reasons she lost.
Even when Clinton acknowledged her own problems, she seemed to merely be checking a box and conceding the point. “Did I make mistakes? Oh my gosh, yes,” she said, before adding, apparently somewhat sarcastically: “You’ll read my confession and my quest for absolution.”
The “quest for absolution” line was delivered pretty thickly. The takeaway: Clinton may believe in her own personal failures, but she believes they’re overblown next to everything else. Something tells me she’ll focus more on those things in her book.
Look, it’s fine to blame outside factors; Clinton lost by less than 1 point each in three blue-leaning swing states that made President Trump the winner. It’s completely plausible that Comey or Russia or misogyny made the difference.
But “absolute personal responsibility” suggests you are taking total accountability for the outcome. Clinton simply isn’t doing that. In fact, she’s suggesting her own flaws were pretty minimal.