She didn’t beat him, and now she’s suggesting he might be impeached.
Hillary Clinton is still running against Donald Trump — against what she says he represents about the worst in America, against his twisting of the truth, against his priorities and against his personal attacks on her.
Friday morning, she was back at Wellesley College, her alma mater, delivering her third commencement speech there—the first was at her own graduation, the second as first lady.
She was talking to the graduates about their future. But she was focused just as much on her own past, and the hardest, fullest case against Trump she’s made since last November.
"In the years to come, there will be trolls galore, online and in person,” she said, urging the graduates not to let themselves get beaten down. “They may even call you ‘a nasty woman.’"
When she was getting her diploma in 1969, Clinton said, “We were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice,” pausing to soak up the cheers and applause from a crowd who knew exactly what she was talking about, and approved.
Just in case anyone missed the point, she leaned in a little further, reminding students and attendees of the private women’s liberal arts school in Massachusetts that Richard Nixon had gone down “after firing the person running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice.”
“But here’s what I want you to know. We got through that tumultuous time, and once again, we began to thrive as our society changed laws and opened the circle of opportunity and rights wider and wider for more Americans,” Clinton said.
Clinton has been struggling nonstop over the past six months with her loss, but she’s also been struggling with her public role. People close to her, many of whom share her insistence that a race she ran well was stolen out from under her by Russian involvement and by a surprise October letter from that same now-fired FBI director, are frustrated that she hasn’t been more in demand for a central role in the Trump resistance.
Many other Democrats, though, would like to see her fade into history, angry that she does not seem to be accepting her full responsibility for her loss, and frustrated that she’s keeping the party trapped in a Clinton versus Trump loop that they’ll never escape.
Clinton has started a political action group, Onward Together (playing off her campaign slogan, complete with a logo that uses the same font and arrow that was all over last year). She’s popped up at events, taking questions from moderators, giving short remarks. She’s taken a few digs at Trump, enough to stir a few passing conversations among diehards and observers, ranging from "Is she maybe running again?" to "She’s not really thinking about running, right?"
But never has she delivered as detailed a case against the man who beat her, whom she spent last year feeling it was her duty to keep out of the White House, and scared that she wouldn’t be able to.
There’s a deeper problem in society of people forgetting about facts, she said, and she urged the graduates to tackle that, both in being more sophisticated consumers and by being more aggressively involved.
But she centered it in an attack on Trump and his aides, whom she said are engaged in a “full-fledged assault on truth and reason.” She called them people who are “denying things we see with our own eyes — like the size of crowds, and then defending themselves by talking about ‘alternative facts.’"
All last year, Clinton campaigned by saying Trump wasn’t what America should be. In a sense, that was a lighter charge than what then-President Barack Obama said on her behalf: that Trump’s election was, essentially, a threat to the republic.
That’s where Clinton landed on Friday.
“When people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them — it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society,” she said. “That is not hyperbole, it is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done.”
She went deep in on Trump’s budget, calling its proposed cuts to programs “an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us.”
Listing some of the cuts specifically, she tied the budget to the White House’s lack of commitment to accuracy and facts — in this case, with not offering any real explanation for the $2 trillion gap in how they’d pay for what they’re pitching.
"Let’s call it what it is — a con,” she said.
And that’s about more than fuzzy math, Clinton charged.
“If our leaders lie about the problems we face, we will never solve them,” she said.
On Twitter, her former campaign aides lit up, putting up quotes, pushing back on criticism.
Responding to one reporter who wondered about the difference between whoever wrote Friday’s speech and the people behind her campaign speeches, Nick Merrill — her traveling press aide before and during the campaign, and one of the few who’s still on Clinton’s payroll — sarcastically shot back, “Same shitty team!”
They weren’t the only ones going right into it.
"HILLARY STILL COUGHING …" read a predicable tweet from the consistently anti-Clinton Drudge Report after she stopped for some water and it took about 20 seconds for the raspiness to leave her throat.
"BLAMES ALLERGIES …" came the next tweet.
The Republican National Committee even put out a statement about the speech, calling it "a stark reminder why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016."
"Instead of lashing out with the same partisan talking points, Hillary Clinton would be wise to look inward, talk about why she lost, and expand the dwindling base of Democrat Party supporters — we won’t hold our breath though," said RNC chair Ronna McDaniel.
While warning about the grave danger facing the nation, Clinton insisted the dramatic rhetoric wasn’t about bitterness.
“You may have heard that things didn’t exactly go the way I planned,” Clinton said at the outset of her speech. “But you know what? I’m doing OK.”
But, she insisted, the White House really wasn’t on her mind: “I couldn’t think of anyplace I’d rather be this year than right here.”
She urged the graduates to register to vote, to get other people to register to vote, maybe to run for office themselves. Get involved, she said. Fight back. Don’t let Trump and what he represents break you, she said.
"It’s often,” Clinton said, “during the darkest times where you can do the most good."