RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Hillary Clinton didn't think it would end up this way. She had felt good about her prospects of winning the 2016 presidential election, so good that she had planned what she'd wear on her first trip to Washington as president-elect. She knew what policies she would push in her first few weeks in office. She and her husband even bought the house next door to their home in Chappaqua, N.Y., because she thought when she became president she'd travel with an entourage and they'd need somewhere to sleep when she was at home. Since the election, Hillary Clinton has spent much more time at home than she could have imagined.
HILLARY CLINTON: It's actually great. It is wonderful being home, having time to putter around, clean closets, seeing my grandchildren. So it's not where I wanted to be, but it is a great reminder of what more there is to do in life and what the future can be like.
MARTIN: Figuring out her future has meant making peace with the past, and that's what her book is all about. It's called "What Happened," and in it, Clinton blames her election loss on former FBI Director James Comey, the media, the Russians. She does, however, take responsibility for failing to connect with voters in an important way.
CLINTON: I understood there was anger and fear and people were, you know, really unhappy because of what had happened in the financial crash. And I understood that my opponent had been from the beginning of the primaries fueling that anger and providing scapegoats and a kind of cynical nostalgia. I understood all of that.
What I didn't really do well is conveying how I got the despair and the anger. I talked about it. I talked about jobs. I talked about the despair of people in America, white Americans who were dying at an unbelievable rate because of suicide, opioid abuse, alcoholism, so much that really signified that despair. I talked about it, but I didn't really convey the emotional resonance that...
MARTIN: You kept going to policy solutions.
CLINTON: Yeah, I - yeah.
MARTIN: And you're saying you should have given a more emotional response.
CLINTON: I think more emotional response but honest.
MARTIN: Your campaign advisers told you time and again that a significant portion of the American electorate didn't trust you. They polled on that particular question and that word. Donald Trump used that. He branded you as quote, unquote, "Crooked Hillary." Bernie Sanders even picked up on that theme. Why didn't you tackle the trust issue head on?
CLINTON: Well, we thought we did. And I certainly tried to do that. But it's absolutely true that between the consistent, you know, pounding on me first by Bernie Sanders but more consistently by his supporters and the theme that Trump stuck with, it really was hard to break out from under that. And then unfortunately the Comey letter, aided to great measure by the Russian WikiLeaks, raised all those doubts again.
MARTIN: You mention and you spend time in the book talking about the forces you feel were working against you. You also say sexism was one of them, but you yourself in the book acknowledged that a good number of young women didn't vote for you, which is presumably not a sexist choice. They just weren't inspired by your message.
CLINTON: I think it's a lot more complicated than that. You know, I did win the women's vote. I didn't win the vote of white women, but I got more white women votes than Barack Obama did. But as I point out in the book, I talk about a conversation I had with Sheryl Sandberg, who has really helped to put into perspective a lot of research that supports common experiences. And you know, she said, look; the research is absolutely definitive. The more professionally-successful a man is, the more likable he is. The more professionally successful a woman is, the less likable she is.
And Sheryl ended this really sobering conversation by saying that women will have no empathy for you because they will be under tremendous pressure - and I'm talking principally about white women - tremendous pressure from fathers and husbands and boyfriends and male employers not to vote for the girl.
MARTIN: Could another Democrat have beaten Donald Trump?
CLINTON: Oh, I don't think it's useful to speculate because I was the nominee. I mean you can say that about, you know, George W. Bush and Al Gore and John Kerry. You can say that...
MARTIN: Although you do spend more than 400 pages going back in time and thinking about what-ifs.
CLINTON: Oh, I do, but what-ifs that I think are realistic to think about because, you know, what if I hadn't made the dumb mistake about emails? And it was a dumb mistake, but it was an even dumber scandal. What if the Russians hadn't been literally encouraged by Donald Trump to do even more to disrupt the election?
MARTIN: What if Joe Biden had been the nominee?
CLINTON: Well, he wasn't. And you know, he ran in '08, and he didn't run in this this time. If he wants to run in the future, he can do that. But I think that as I start off explaining what happened in the book, let's not forget the historical weight here. It's really difficult to succeed a president of your own party who has served two terms. That is a historical fact.
So I think it would have been tough for Democrats. I think that the closeness of our election, the hyper-partisan attitudes that people have would've made it hard. But I was very proud of the campaign I ran, and I think I was on the way to winning. And that didn't happen in the end.
MARTIN: I want to ask you about something you write at the very beginning of this book. You talk about needing to learn lessons from the 2008 campaign to apply to the campaign in 2016. And you write this - that unlike in 2008, you were, quote, "determined to run like an underdog and avoid any whiff of entitlement." So you were aware that that was kind of around you in 2008.
But there is and was this whole wing of the party - of the Democratic Party, many of whom ended up supporting Bernie Sanders, who believe that that is exactly how you ran in 2016, as a person who, yes, had paid their dues, had done the work and had prepared and that somehow you believed it was your turn to be president.
CLINTON: Well, I just totally reject that, as you (laughter) probably would have expected me to say. I find this criticism from Sanders' supporters to be so off-base. He's not even a Democrat. That's not a slam on him. He says it himself. He didn't support Democrats. He's not supporting Democrats now. I know a lot of Democrats. I've been working on behalf of Democrats to be elected, to be re-elected for decades.
And so yes, I was familiar to broad parts of the electorate, and I'm proud of that. But he and his followers' attacks on me kept getting more and more personal despite him asking me not to attack him personally. And you know, I really regret that. But now he's got a chance to prove that he's something other than a spoiler, and that is to help other Democrats. And I don't know if he will or not, but I'm hoping he will.
MARTIN: Did you underestimate the way that your familiarity with the American public could negatively impact your campaign?
CLINTON: Well, I thought it was pretty revolutionary that I was the first woman to have a realistic chance of becoming president. So I don't know how any woman who is not familiar to people, since we have so many hurdles to overcome, could have even been in that position that I found myself. So if I'd won, you know, I would have been seen as a genius. My campaign would have been seen as perfect. I understand all of that.
But I'm not writing this book - I'm not talking to you about it because, you know, I'm somehow aggrieved. I don't feel that at all. I very much am still proud as I can be that I had the chance to run, that I got to be the nominee. But I am really worried about the country. I am worried about, you know, what I see as a mean-spirited agenda coming out of this White House and my concerns as a former secretary of state about what's going on around the world.
So I have a platform, and I'm going to keep talking and trying to raise the questions that I hope Americans will take seriously and that I hope the press will take seriously because we've got a lot of, you know, choppy water ahead of us.
MARTIN: Although, you know, you say you still want a role in shaping the Democratic Party of the future. You're still going to talk about the issues you find to be important. But there are some Democrats out there saying they don't want you to do that, that writing this book is opening old wounds, re-litigating a past and it doesn't help move the party forward.
CLINTON: Well, you know...
MARTIN: Have you reconciled that, that people might not want you around as the party steps forward?
CLINTON: Well, they don't have to buy my book. And they can turn off the radio when they hear me talking (laughter). I'm not going anywhere. I have the experience. I have the insight. I have the scars that I think, you know, give me not only the right but the responsibility to speak out. And I'm responding to a very large outpouring of people who want to know what I have to say, who are excited that I'm not going to be, you know, slipping away into the background but going to stay front and center, doing what I can to try to speak out on behalf of this country that, you know, I love and just want to do everything I can to make sure it's strong going forward.
MARTIN: Hillary Clinton's new memoir is out today. It is called "What Happened." Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for your time.
CLINTON: Thank you so much, Rachel. Good to talk to you.
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