Hillary Clinton said she didn’t want to run for president again in 2020. Her spokesman emphasizes that’s the case. And yet . ..
In an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher on Friday at the 92nd Street Y, Clinton offered comments that some interpreted as leaning in to a 2020 run. Clinton’s words aren’t nearly so clear, but she also seemed to not quite have let the dream of being president die.
Here’s the exchange, with the key parts in bold:
SWISHER: We’re going to talk about 2020 in a minute. Do you want to run again?
CLINTON: (slight pause) No. No.
SWISHER: That was a pause.
CLINTON: Well, I’d like to be president. I think, hopefully, when we have a Democrat in the Oval Office in January of 2021, there’s going to be so much work to be done. I mean we have confused everybody in the world, including ourselves. We have confused our friends and our enemies. They have no idea what the United States stands for, what we’re likely to do, what we think is important. So the work would be work that I feel very well prepared for having been at the Senate for eight years, having been a diplomat in the State Department, and it’s just going to be a lot of heavy lifting.
SWISHER: So are you going to be doing any of that lifting? Do you feel like --
CLINTON: Oh I have no idea, Kara, but I’m going to -- I’m not even going to even think about it til we get through this Nov. 6 election about what’s going to happen after that, but I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure we have a Democrat in the White House come January of 2021.
First things first, Clinton does give a pretty clear couple of “no” responses when asked whether she wants to run again. Swisher noted a slight pause in her response, but it wasn’t as if she sat there thinking about it for a while.
Then Clinton seems to draw a distinction: She doesn’t want to run for president again; she wants to be president. She goes on to talk generally about having a Democrat as president come 2021, but then seems to revert to putting a very specific Democrat — herself — in that office. “So the work would be work that I feel very well prepared for having been at the Senate for eight years, having been a diplomat in the State Department, and it’s just going to be a lot of heavy lifting,” Clinton says.
Swisher then asks whether Clinton will do that heavy lifting. Some interpreted that as a question about Clinton herself running; Clinton’s spokesman Nick Merrill said Clinton’s answer was instead about supporting another Democrat.
That’s entirely plausible. Clinton made the “heavy lifting” comment after talking about herself being president, but the comments jumped around between herself and another Democrat being president quite a bit. It’s jumbled.
What’s clear is that Clinton still seems to long for the presidency, and that much shouldn’t be surprising. Sometimes that’s compelling enough for a twice-failed candidate who nobody expects to run again to give it another look (see: Mitt Romney in 2016). Clinton says she doesn’t actually want to run, and we could perhaps forgive her for rhetorically putting herself in an office that she has long craved and came within 80,000 votes of winning.
If you’ve completely shut the door and you don’t want people to keep thinking it’s even a slight possibility, though, it was a curious response.