This article titled “Clinton takes on Trump, Putin and misogyny as fans flock to book tour” was written by Sabrina Siddiqui and David Smith in Washington, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 19th September 2017 01.58 UTC
Half a mile from the White House, where Hillary Clinton expected to return in January, she slouched into an olive green arm chair for another round of what she has likened to “therapy”.
Had it not been for her stunning loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 election, she would be taking her place this week with world leaders at the United Nations general assembly. Instead, Clinton was speaking at the Warner Theatre at the start of a 15-city book tour to promote What Happened, a 469-page memoir that dissects her doomed presidential campaign.
As Trump, the first president with no previous political or military experience, sat around a table with US allies in Manhattan, the former secretary of state pointedly refused to say if she preferred her former opponent to Vladimir Putin.
“I have to take that under advisement,” she said when asked to choose between Trump and the Russian president, before stating matter-of-factly: “I ran against both of them.”
The crowd erupted into supportive applause, as it did several times when Clinton skewered Russian interference in the election – a cloud that has loomed over Washington amid investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.
While discussing the hacking of emails of both the Democratic National Committee and her former campaign chairman, John Podesta, Clinton declared: “I hate the word ‘hacked’. They were stolen – they were stolen by the Russians.”
Tickets for Clinton’s event sold out within a matter of minutes, bringing the theater to its full capacity of 1,847 seats amid chandeliers, ornate gold panels and velvet curtains.
Loyal supporters were in a jubilant mood as they lined up more than an hour before the event’s start time. Many were the young women who had pinned their hopes on Clinton at long last breaking what she referred to, in her 2008 concession speech, as “that highest, hardest glass ceiling”.
One young woman at the lobby bar, who donned a Clinton campaign shirt that read “A woman’s place is in the White House”, said: “I think I’ll order a prosecco. This is a celebration.”
Clinton entered the room to a standing ovation from the audience, which included some of her campaign staff. She smiled broadly and waved. The event was the biggest ever sponsored by the local Politics and Prose bookstore, whose co-owner Lissa Muscatine served as Clinton’s chief speechwriter at the state department and the White House.
Friendly in its overall tone, the discussion centered on many of the thematic elements of Clinton’s book, from the proliferation of fake news and Russia to sexism and the media’s focus on style over substance.
“I ended up not censoring my thoughts,” Clinton said. “I will admit I censored some of my original language.”
As with Clinton’s book, the mood wavered from light-hearted to serious, blending candid confessions from the campaign trail with lessons learned “to make sure that ‘what happened’ doesn’t happen again”.
“If we don’t get people to vote … we’re not going to turn this around,” Clinton said, while advising the Democratic party to embrace a platform of “both economic justice and social justice”.
“I don’t buy this false dichotomy: you can only be for the economy [or] you can only be for civil rights.”
Clinton has previously criticized her top rival in the Democratic primary, Senator Bernie Sanders, for making unrealistic economic promises. She made no reference to Sanders on Monday night, but when Muscatine mentioned his name, some members of the audience booed and hissed.
Clinton also reflected on the extent to which misogyny swayed the election, a topic she largely avoided as a candidate but has been far more vocal about since her defeat in November.
Republicans “just have a hard time thinking about a woman in the White House”, she said, while noting success made men more likable but by contrast made women more unlikable.
“When a woman runs, she has to work extra hard to convince other women she can do the job she is running for,” Clinton said.
Expressing concern that Trump’s victory had given rise to bigotry and prejudice, Clinton urged the audience to “be the kind of rebuke to those that want to divide us and undermine us”.
“I view this book as much about resilience as running for president,” she said. “It’s critical that people have a sustained commitment to taking our country back.”
The US capital, where Clinton won more than 90% of the vote, was always guaranteed to offer a warm welcome. Danielle Guessford, 28, a government contractor, said afterwards: “She’s awesome, still trying to fight and stand up for what’s right.”
Asked if Clinton should run again in 2020, Guessford replied: “Of course. But I’d like Barack Obama even better.”
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