The Soap Opera Comes to an End

The Soap Opera Comes to an End–47jh.,b43

The Hillary and Bill show, America’s longest-running soap opera,” June 4, 2007). But the scriptwriters, ever resourceful, still had some surprises in store.

In an obvious play for a young, diverse audience, the writers phased in two exciting new characters, slender in form and exotic in provenance, who rerouted the plot in unforeseen ways. One was “Huma Abedin,” born in Michigan to two Muslim parents, who spent most of her young life in Saudi Arabia before she began her career in the Bill Clinton White House. There she soon became Hil­lary’s political daughter, filling the glamour gap with her slim figure, great clothes sense, designer-grade wardrobe, and fabulous sheets of dark hair. At the same time, “Barack Obama,” an unlikely fusion of Kansas and Kenya, had burst on the scene with a “Yes, we can!” vision of national greatness, unbounded ambition, no sense of deference to his elders, and no sign of knowing that 2008 was supposed to be “Hillary’s turn.” Only Camelot, over 40 years earlier, had dared to attempt such a plot twist, and Bill Clinton, who was inspired to run for the White House when he shook John Kennedy’s hand at the age of 16, was reduced to sputtering rage, and then shock and horror, as JFK’s lineal heirs and his one living brother deserted the Clinton camp and embraced the usurper. It was a setback the Clintons never expected to suffer, and the lesson they took was that next time—and there would be a next time!—they would lock things down early and give no rival an opening. Their money and power would be overwhelming; their control so complete that nothing could threaten it. And so—once Hillary became secretary of state in the administration of the man who defeated her—the private email server was born, a safeguard against prying reporters and disloyal government employees.

Ironically, this exalted new position was seen at the time as a résumé-booster that would enhance her mystique in her next run for office. But instead it opened the way to the path of destruction, when it allowed her worst traits—a hunger for money and a Nixonian-strength paranoia—to grow and flourish. Almost all former presidents can use their careers as an excuse to print money, but the Clinton Foundation was in a class by itself, combining the clout of both a past president and a likely future commander in chief, allowing them to play off one another in audacious and devious ways: Pay a huge fee for retired President Bill Clinton to speak to your audience, and you have also done a big favor for future President Hillary. In the meantime, think of what she could do for you as the nation’s top diplomat, whose decisions and influence affect the fortunes of people all over the globe. Bill Clinton’s speaking fees soared (to $750,000 at least once) while Hillary was secretary of state and then a presidential hopeful and would fall just as fast once she lost the election, to absolutely nobody’s surprise.

Suspicions arose that it was largely to hide the quid pro quos of the Clinton Foundation from the press and the public that the insecure private server came into existence at all, but in 2015 critical pieces about the foundation began to appear in the media. The server itself became a sensation starting in March of that year, and Hillary, who hoped to make history as the first woman president, began making history instead as the first serious candidate for president to be under investigation for possible federal crimes. For a year and a half, Democrats lived with the fact and the fear that at any time their nominee could be indicted, leaving them high and dry and without a plausible replacement. The optimists believed that the FBI would never dare urge an indictment of a nominee of a major political party who was running for president, while the pessimists feared that the very existence of the investigation—even without prosecution—would leave suspicions to muddy the waters.

Citing the resemblance to the course set by Hillary (who had suffered her own share of public embarrassments), they supported her choice to stay with her husband (for the sake of their child, who was born some months later). A year or so later, they would back her decision to support him in his plan to get back into politics as a changed man who was wholly repentant and sought to resume his career by becoming mayor of New York. They mourned again for her weeks later when Weiner lost the primary, having proven himself neither changed nor repentant, though they were less supportive this time of her decision, taken, she said, for the sake of their child, not to dump him for good.

This was not the end of the damage done by this caper: Just two months later FBI director James Comey announced the investigation of Hillary’s server had just been reopened, due to a new cache of emails found on the laptop that Weiner had shared with his wife. After the election was lost, the Hillary team would insist this was the moment and incident that had stopped her momentum. But at the time, as events unfolded, it seemed that the damage was fleeting and minor. “Clinton’s campaign was so confident in her victory that her aides popped open Champagne on the campaign plane,” the New York Times reported. The long-running Clintons saga seemed a cinch to be renewed for at least four more years, even if viewers had grown less enthusiastic over time. But the script for the ending, planned to be read live as the actors first saw it, was known at the time but to God.

“It was a gradual realization,” said CNBC’s John Harwood. “It wasn’t fully realized I think until 11 or midnight—when it was like, ‘Wow, she IS going to lose.’ ”

At midnight, the Clinton sources stopped talking to reporters. “Late in the evening the emotional axis was crossed,” Susan Swain of C-SPAN told Stelter. “The Clinton crowd registered tension, anxiousness, then shock and disbelief.” At 1:36 a.m., the AP called Pennsylvania for Trump, putting him at 264 votes in the Electoral College, and Wisconsin made it official at 2:31. “President Trump may be something that everybody needs to get used to,” Chuck Todd had told his NBC panel a few hours earlier.

source–weekly std, noemie wmwey, nyt, nate cohn, brian stelter, cnn, pbs, judy woodruff, john harwood, john dickerson, susan swan

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