- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 10, 2017

At a time when her public approval is as low as ever, Hillary Clinton this week will re-enter the public arena with a book that blames everyone including Bernard Sanders and Barack Obama for her election loss — and analysts say it will only further tarnish her legacy and ensure she has little, if any, future influence in politics.

Mrs. Clinton will begin promoting her most recent work, “What Happened,” with a book signing Tuesday in New York City, the first stop on a tour that will stretch through the end of the year.

The former secretary of state also is making the rounds on television, including appearances on Sunday morning political talk shows and with “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert this week.

But by jumping right back into the political fray less than 10 months after her stunning defeat at the hands of Donald Trump, analysts question whether the media attention will benefit Mrs. Clinton or whether she is trying too hard to quickly rebuild her reputation at a time the American people simply don’t want to hear from her.

“She still can’t accept the result. It’s a little bit like someone who lost a loved one in a car accident. It’s just not acceptable yet,” said Lara Brown, a political science professor at George Washington University. “The smartest thing she could have done is not written a book and been quiet for another eight months, and then some of the anger and resentment would have dissipated and [the Clintons] would have been in a place where their approval ratings would be higher and they would be useful on the trail” for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections next year.

“She’s hurting her legacy, not burnishing it,” Ms. Brown said.

Whatever the book and press tour means for Mrs. Clinton, there is likely to be little effect on American politics in a broad sense. Many prominent Democrats, while speaking highly of Mrs. Clinton, largely have sidestepped questions about the book and have insisted that they are looking forward, not backward.

Despite the book’s focus on the past, Mrs. Clinton said, she is looking forward and will remain involved in politics even though she won’t run for office again.

“I am done with being a candidate. But I am not done with politics because I literally believe that our country’s future is at stake,” she told CBS on Sunday.

In October 2009, Mrs. Clinton was speaking in almost exactly the same terms, emphatically saying that she would never run again.

When asked by NBC’s Ann Curry whether she would run for president again, she laughed with gusto and said, “It never crosses my mind. No, no, no. No.”

Even if she is inclined to run in 2020, the shadow of her shocking defeat last year likely would cast a heavier shadow than the 2008 loss to Barack Obama did. The last presidential race featured the two most unpopular candidates in modern political history in one of the ugliest campaigns in decades, and Mrs. Clinton somehow emerged as even more disliked than her Republican opponent.

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 36 percent of Americans feel either “very positive” or “somewhat positive” about Mr. Trump. For Mrs. Clinton, that figure is 30 percent — a shockingly low number given that the former first lady has kept a relatively low profile since November other than a handful of speeches.

That low profile is now over. Mrs. Clinton was all over television Sunday morning.

She said she accepts fault for her loss. She told CBS News, “I felt like I had let everybody down” and stressed that her use of a private email server did deep damage. Yet also made no bones about her belief that others share the blame.

Mrs. Clinton places some of that blame on the “millions of white people” who were energized by Mr. Trump’s message, along with sexism that she argues kept many voters from voting for a woman.

“I started the campaign knowing that I would have to work extra hard to make women and men feel comfortable with the idea of a woman president,” she said.

Broadly, Mrs. Clinton said her loss was the result of a combination of factors.

“The forces that were at work in 2016 were unlike anything that I’ve ever seen or read about. It was a perfect storm,” she said.

In the book, Mrs. Clinton goes into great detail explaining how FBI Director James B. Comey derailed her campaign with an October announcement that he was reopening his investigation into her use of a private email server.

She also bashes Mr. Sanders, the Vermont independent who energized progressives and mounted a stiff challenge in the Democratic primary race, for his political attacks against her, specifically his effort to paint her as a creature of Wall Street.

Mrs. Clinton blamed Mr. Sanders for being more interested in disrupting the Democratic Party than trying to keep a Republican out of the White House. She said the senator’s attacks did “lasting damage” to her effort.

Mr. Sanders fired back last week.

“Secretary Clinton ran against the most unpopular candidate in the history of this country, and she lost. And she was upset about that and I understand that,” Mr. Sanders said during an appearance on the “Late Show.” “But our job now is really not to go backwards; but it is to go forward.”

In her book, Mrs. Clinton questions whether Mr. Obama could have aided her chances with a prime-time TV address about Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the election. The accusations continue to dog Mr. Trump and remain the subject of independent and congressional investigations.

At the same time, she denies that calling half of Mr. Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorables” was in any way “determinative” of the election outcome. She stood by that claim Sunday.

“I thought Trump was behaving in a deplorable manner,” Mrs. Clinton told CBS. “I thought a lot of his appeals to voters were deplorable and there were a large number of people who didn’t care. It did not matter to them.”

She hasn’t listed her failure to campaign in key swing states such as Wisconsin as a major factor in how the race played out.

Analysts say that none of her claims is entirely wrong but rather incomplete and lacking context.

“I think she is making a strong argument about Comey and Sanders [and their effect on the race], but where she falls down is failing in any way to acknowledge her own responsibility. She basically was a nonpresence in the areas where the election was decided,” said William Chafe, a historian at Duke University and author of the book “Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal.”

Indeed, the entire exercise, analysts say, seems to be Mrs. Clinton’s attempt to find an explanation for what seems to her like an inexplicable loss to Mr. Trump.

“The hard part for her is this loss doesn’t make logical sense,” Ms. Brown said. “She is trying to make logical sense of it to accept it. And in doing so, she is reaching for every possible explanation she can find.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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