Hillary Clinton’s back in the spotlight, but decidedly not on the campaign trail
Hillary Clinton’s speech Wednesday night to a group of businesswomen in San Francisco may have been the most political she has been since losing November’s election. But people close to the former secretary of state stress the speech doesn’t foretell a more forceful jump back into the political fray.
The small group of Clinton aides who are still in regular contact with the 2016 Democratic nominee say Clinton, through a series of speeches she will give in the coming months, won’t shy away from defending “core American values” when they are questioned or challenged.
Does that mean she will take on Trump and his administration if needed? Yes, advisers say, as was clear by Tuesday’s broadside against White House press secretary Sean Spicer. But, to date, Clinton has tried not to hone her critiques directly at the President, who she has not spoken to since she conceded to him early in the morning on November 9.
“I know there’s a tendency to ascribe political motives to all she does. But what you saw yesterday was simply a woman who isn’t going to stand by and watch other women be bullied, insulted and demeaned,” said Nick Merrill, Clinton’s spokesman. “And more broadly, as you heard her say in her speech, when it comes to standing up for core American values, she’s going to speak out.”
Clinton learned about Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly’s comments about Rep. Maxine Waters’ hair and Spicer’s back-and-forth with April Ryan on Twitter, aides said, and decided Tuesday that she wanted to work the comments into her speech on sexism.
“She was patronized and cut off as she tried to ask a question,” Clinton said of Spicer’s exchange with Ryan, adding later: “Any woman who thinks this couldn’t be directed at her is living in a dream world.”
Clinton, after spending time with her family and famously hiking in the woods around her New York home, has started to reemerge into public life in the last few months. Things have changed for the former secretary of state, too: Gone is the near-constant attention, cadre of aides and constant political fighting. Same goes for the private plane. Clinton took a commercial red-eye flight back to New York after Tuesday night’s speech.
Aides say that Clinton has yet to make a final decision about how she wants to spend her time in the coming years and is taking her time, unlike after she left the State Department and had to quickly get ready to run for president.
A number of top colleges have reached out to Clinton about using them as a venue for her future advocacy, said people who have talked to the former Democratic nominee. While a decision is far from imminent, Clinton did spend time earlier this month at both Wellesley College, her alma mater, and Harvard University, where she sat for an extended interview for the American Secretaries of State Project.
The former secretary of state has also spent time meeting with with young activists who are trying to start new organizations or get their projects off the ground, an aide said. The meetings are an attempt to motivate and spur activism among young people.
Clinton’s next speech will be at Georgetown University, where she will discuss women in politics and peace efforts. And on April 10, Clinton will speak at a fundraising dinner for the LGBT Community Center in New York. Clinton will also speak at the Wellesley graduation later this year, a speech that will bring her back to the 1969 commencement speech that helped launch her career.
The former secretary of state is regularly talking to friends, former donors and close campaign aides, but those who have spoken with her describe the calls as more personal than political or professional.
A source familiar with Clinton’s plans said that while she has had meetings and phone calls with aides to try to understand what happened in 2016, the calls are more focused on making sure things improve for Democrats going forward and less about reliving the mistakes her campaign made.
Working with Dan Schwerin and Megan Rooney, her top campaign speechwriters, Clinton is currently spending much of her time writing her forthcoming book of personal essays, set to publish in fall 2017.