I can’t remember how many times in the last three months I have typed “the final indignity Hillary Clinton.” Even for a woman who has been in the spotlight for decades, she seems to have had more than her fair share.
Had she not run for the Senate as First Lady, it’s possible that Hillary Clinton’s final indignity would have been her husband’s betrayals, literally in the Oval Office, after she had supported him for years. But after a failed impeachment against him and a New York listening tour for her, “Mrs. Clinton” became “Senator Clinton” and she was on her way to a political career of her own.
Clinton likely would have had as many terms in the Senate as she wanted, but a decision to run for president herself exposed her to a professional low she never could have anticipated — losing the Democratic primary to a talented, but untested Senate freshman named Barack Obama. For a women who had waited for decades to take “her turn” to run, losing to a young man embracing “the fierce urgency of now” might have been her final indignity.
But that talented freshman won the White House and tapped Clinton as his secretary of state, giving her both a position of honor and a platform to launch her next bid for president. Had she resisted the urge to run again, and the chance to make history that went along with it, she could have retired into private life as a wealthy and legitimately historic woman, all the same.
But Hillary Clinton did run for president again, and in so doing, put herself on a path for a series of humiliations that many would find it impossible to move past.
One of those moments came when Anthony Weiner, her closest aide’s husband, was caught texting half-naked pictures of himself to underage women, complete with photos of his own toddler. The episode not only reminded voters of Huma Abedin’s messy marital problems, but of Clinton’s decades earlier. More importantly, it led the FBI to reopen its then-closed investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server, days before the election, all because of Weiner’s texts.
That moment sent her campaign reeling, and might have been Clinton’s final indignity, until Election Day. After a lifetime almost entirely focused on gathering experience, she was beaten by a man proud that he had none.
And not only did Trump defeat her, he did it clapping along to chants of “Lock her up!” at his rallies. At one debate, he looked her in the eye and said, “You should be in jail.” That same debate unfolded with four of the women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault in the 1980s, sitting squarely in the front row, placed there by Donald Trump and staring at her as the debate dragged on.
Was Election Day her final indignity? Not even close. Maybe that came on a day shortly after the election when an eager supporter Tweeted out a photo of herself with Clinton in the forest near her Chappaqua home. As Trump was assembling his cabinet and taking calls of congratulations, the photo revealed a make-up free Clinton literally walking alone in the woods.
Other indignities followed as Inauguration Day approached. About a month after the Election, Clinton returned to the Capitol for Harry Reid’s retirement party, where Democrats were still in shock at the election’s outcome.
“This is not exactly the speech at the Capitol I hoped to be giving after the election,” she joked.
But maybe, Hillary Clinton’s final indignity came today, as she and Bill Clinton arrived at Capitol for the inauguration of a man she had beaten in the popular vote by millions, but lost the presidency to nonetheless. Other Democrats had stayed away, but she was there, in a cream pantsuit, with a smile on her face.
As Clinton made her way to her seat on the platform, chants of “Lock her up!” rang out from a pocket of the crowd below. She smiled and waved. Minutes later, when she extended her hand to an arriving Mike Pence, he turned away in a flurry of well-wishers without reaching back. She smiled and turned back to Bill. When Donald Trump took the oath and then gave his inaugural address without thanking her, Hillary Clinton visibly held her head high.
Even while First Lady Michelle Obama struggled to pretend to enjoy the occasion, Hillary Clinton was there, back from defeat and playing her role. And that really is the lesson and legacy of Hillary Clinton.
There will never be a final indignity for her or anyone who insists on reaching for a goal that’s not assured or trying for a prize that’s not guaranteed. There will never be a final indignity for people who are passionate, and thus disappointed, or people who are human and thus make mistakes, sometimes really big ones.
But Hillary Clinton shows America again and again that it’s returning from the failure that matters. It’s keeping your pride — even when people or events could have understandably taken it from you — that counts.
A First Lady had never been a senator, but she became one. A woman had never been president, but Hillary Clinton tried to become the president, again and again. And on Friday, as she went to the Capitol to show Democrats and Republicans alike that the election is over, that she is moving forward, and that the nation must, too.
And that will be Hillary Clinton’s final, and lasting, dignity. Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.
President Donald Trump’s inauguration ushered in hopes from both sides of the aisle for some bipartisan comity. But shortly after Trump departed the Capitol Friday, those feelings ran headfirst into the partisan scars of the previous Congress.
Some Democrats see the GOP reaping the rewards of what they call a strategy of obstruction in the last Congress, and it might be difficult for them to heed calls for bipartisanship, even if it’s something they might believe needs to happen.
But others may be willing to try.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of cooperation there, I really do,” said Sen. Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat, referring to issues like infrastructure development and trade.
One senior Democrat said that when Trump called for worker protections in his inaugural address, it was music to his ears and that Trump might find more allies among Democrats than in the GOP.
“Some of the ‘Buy American, Hire American’ stuff he talked about, look back at the record on where that came from,” said Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois.
“It’s been the Democrats. That’s been our theme for a long, long time,” Durbin said. “So if they want to join us, with President Trump, welcome aboard.”
But as the Senate gaveled in Friday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky complained that Democrats were dragging their feet in confirming nominees, and that was not the way to start off things.
“There are nominations that are not even controversial that we’re not doing. I would hope the feeling around here would be at least on Day One to have some level of cooperation,” McConnell said.
And it wasn’t just McConnell. Susan Collins of Maine, the moderate Republican whom Democrats frequently look to for bipartisan team-ups, seconded McConnell’s previous assertions that Democrats were still cranky about November and holding nominees hostage.
“I’m not sure what the cause is,” she said. “I think many of my Democratic colleagues are still coming to grips with the election results and are having a hard time accepting the election results.”
Democrats have repeatedly said they only want to have ample time to review nominees and make sure they have signed ethics agreements. But Durbin threw in another reminder of the hard feelings that persist from the just-concluded Obama era.
“Let me quickly add for those who have forgotten the record of the Republicans in the Senate when it comes to delaying nominations: Exhibit A will continue to be the vacancy on the Supreme Court,” Durbin said on the Senate floor. That was a reference to the GOP’s refusal to hold a hearing or vote on President Barack Obama’s nomination last year of Merrick Garland to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat.
Still, Sen. James Inhofe told Roll Call he expects Trump and Congress will get a lot done.
“It’s going to be good,” the Oklahoma Republican said, when asked about the president’s likely relationship with lawmakers.
But before that, he expects the 45th president will follow through on his vow to use executive actions and orders to undo a list of Obama-era policies.
“There’s a lot that, in our talks with the new White House people, they say he can do through executive orders,” Inhofe said. And he expects the new president will bypass Congress when he determines he must, but doubts his party will cry foul as it did when Obama did so.
“Sure,” he replied with a grin, when asked if Republicans will support Trump’s executive actions. “We’ve got a different crowd in there now.
But when asked what Republicans would do if Trump works with Democratic leaders on legislation, Inhofe replied: “We want him to work with them.”
Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the New Mexico Democrat who chairs the House Democrats’ campaign operation, said that would be nice.
“It’s critically important that the administration and the Congress find a way to communicate with one another and I hope that there’s many areas that we can work together,” he said, acknowledging that “broad strokes with broad brushes” was fine, but he wanted to see the details.
One former Senate dealmaker said the pressure is on to perform.
“America is looking for results in areas that are not partisan,” former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said. “Infrastructure’s not partisan. Safe drinking water is something everybody should be for. Do we need to get sensible about immigration policy in America? Should we secure the border? Yeah.”
But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s approach to immigration went against bipartisan efforts on the issue and was a cause for concern.
“Public sentiment will prevail and the president will know the harm that he is doing to our country by going forward with something that might have some popular appeal on the campaign,” Pelosi said.
Ultimately, said Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the onus is on Republicans to reach out.
“The Republicans control the agenda,” he said. “If they want to reach out and work with us, try to reach out and work with us. It makes life a lot easier. Donald Trump said he wanted unity in the country. Let’s see if they reach out to us.”
Republicans will get a chance to strategize about that as they set off for a House-Senate retreat in Philadelphia on Jan. 25-27 that will feature a visit from Trump.
Whatever happens with respect to cross-party cooperation, it won’t be for lack of trying, at least according to Manchin. Asked by a reporter whether there was hope for bipartisanship in Washington, the amiable former West Virginia governor replied, “I’m trying, honey, so hard, Jesus Christ. I’m doing everything I can.”
Bridget Bowman, Niels Lesniewski, Rema Rahman, Lindsey McPherson, John T. Bennett and Jason Dick contributed to this story.
Watch for a compilation of photos inside the U.S. Capitol ahead of the inauguration on Friday of Donald Trump
Several Senate Democrats pointed to the issue of Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Republican Rep. Tom Price’s investments at his confirmation hearing Wednesday, raising concerns that Price had invested in companies that would profit off of legislation he supported.