Hillary Clinton Book Interview: In 'What Happened,' Clinton Is Done But Not Over In interviews with NPR, Clinton discusses her life since the election she didn't expect to lose and why she lost. And she offers scathing criticism of President Trump.

Hillary Clinton Is 'Done,' But Not Going Away

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Hillary Clinton didn't expect to lose the election. She spent the last several months trying to figure out what happened. And those two words - what happened - are the title of her new book out today. NPR's Tamara Keith covered Clinton's campaign from start to finish and interviewed her near her home in New York.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hillary Clinton had imagined wearing her purple suit on her first trip to Washington, D.C., as president-elect, sending a signal about bipartisanship. Instead she wore it the morning after the election to give her concession speech.


HILLARY CLINTON: Last night I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans.

KEITH: It was over. Her frenetic campaign schedule, her plans well underway for a second Clinton presidency all came to a screeching halt. Two days later, Clinton ventured out to a nature preserve a couple of miles from her house in Chappaqua, N.Y. Last Friday, we went back there with her.

CLINTON: I just try to walk and think.

KEITH: In the weeks after the election, Hillary Clinton spent a lot of time walking in the woods in shock with nothing but time. She traded in her bright suits for yoga pants, and she did a lot of reflecting.

CLINTON: It was part of a process after the election to, you know, come to terms with having lost and my personal disappointment in letting millions of people down - also my fears about what a Trump presidency might mean for our country and the world. So I had a lot to think about.

KEITH: In her book, Clinton writes about James Comey, unfair media coverage, Russian election interference, sexism, restrictive voter ID laws and character attacks from Bernie Sanders that stuck with her past the primary, all external factors she says contributed to her loss. More than once, she points out that she won the popular vote. But there's also a lot about what Hillary Clinton could have done better, and I asked her about that.

CLINTON: You know, I take ultimate responsibility for the loss. I was the candidate. I was the person whose name was on the ballot. And I'll never - you know, I'll never get over that. And it was everything from the decision to use a personal email, which got blown up. It was a dumb mistake. I think it was a dumber scandal, but it hurt.

KEITH: In the book, Clinton writes, I've made mistakes, been defensive about them, stubbornly resisted apologizing. She says giving those paid Wall Street speeches was a mistake. She admits her campaign struggled to stay on message, and she spends an entire chapter talking about her failure to break through with white, working-class voters and how terrible she feels about saying this at a CNN town hall in March of 2016.


CLINTON: Because we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right, Tim? And we're going to make it clear that we don't want to forget those people.

KEITH: She says her words came out all wrong, and they haunted her for the rest of the campaign.


DAVID CUTLIP: We all heard what Hillary Clinton said.

CLINTON: Because we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.

CUTLIP: She said it, and she meant it.

KEITH: In coal country, President Trump got a lot of credit for what Clinton considered a false promise to bring back coal jobs. Meanwhile, she had a detailed plan for helping displaced workers in the region. Actually, during the campaign, she had a plan for just about everything.


CLINTON: You know, Hillary Clinton shows up with her plans. She tells you what she wants to do. Well, this is a job interview. I'm supposed to tell you what I want to do, and then I expect you to hold me accountable for actually getting it done and producing results.


KEITH: But now she writes many voters really didn't want to hear about plans and policies. They wanted a candidate to be as angry as they were. They wanted somebody to blame.

CLINTON: I don't think I sufficiently embodied that real great emotional need that people had to have a recognition of the anger. I was trying to answer the anger. I was trying to say, yeah, I know why you're angry. The 2008, 2009 financial crisis was horrible, and I know people are still suffering from it. But here's what we're going to do about it because I like to get up in the morning and say, OK, what are we going to do?

KEITH: I asked her, what was your biggest regret?

CLINTON: Losing is my biggest regret (laughter) and losing to someone who was not qualified and did not have the experience or the temperament to be president of the United States. That is my biggest regret.

KEITH: In her book and in this interview, Clinton takes numerous jabs at the man who now sits in the Oval Office. She says Trump's foreign policy moves have given aid and comfort to Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.

CLINTON: And I think he's being played. I think he doesn't even understand the kind of strategic overview of what's happening in the world.

KEITH: So yeah, Hillary Clinton yells at the television a lot.

Do you ever turn on the news and not think, what would I do in this situation?

CLINTON: No. I do it every single time (laughter). And look; I was prepared to be president. I had prepared and worked at it. And I go a little bit batty when I hear, you know, him say, gee, this is a really hard job; who knew health care was so complicated? I did.

KEITH: There's a chapter in Clinton's book on being a woman in politics where she argues that sexism and misogyny are real and need to be confronted.

Do you think America was not ready for a female president?

CLINTON: I think there's a significant percentage of Americans, many more in the Republican Party than in the Democratic Party according to all of the data, that is just not ready. They just cannot imagine it, and they are resistant to it.

KEITH: Clinton insists it's not just her, pointing to attacks on female Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris and the way Carly Fiorina was treated in the Republican primary.

CLINTON: If you think it's just about me, you don't have to deal with it 'cause, OK, I lost, you know? Have a nice time walking in the woods. But if you think it's endemic as I believe it is and that when a woman sticks her head up, she gets hit from both the right and the left by men who - primarily men who do not want to accept the reality of a woman being a leader, an executive...

KEITH: As for those hikes in the woods, shortly after the election, Clinton ran into a young woman with her baby and dog. The picture, posted on Facebook, spawned a meme - HRC in the wild. And out in the wild, there were many hugs and painful conversations with supporters who were mourning her loss as well.

CLINTON: Oftentimes they would burst into tears, which was difficult but understandable.

KEITH: And before long, Clinton got a sense that all these chance meetings weren't by chance at all. In fact during our interview, two women and a yellow Labrador approach.

CLINTON: Isn't this a glorious day?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Glorious day - I am so happy to see you.

KEITH: There are many people, including some Democrats, who would be happier if Hillary Clinton stayed in the woods, didn't write this book, didn't re-open the wounds of 2016.

CLINTON: Well, they're going to be disappointed because I think it's important for people with my experience and my insight into what went on in the campaign but more generally about our country to speak out.

KEITH: Clinton says she is done running for office, but she plans to keep speaking up. Tamara Keith, NPR News.


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