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Why Hillary Clinton won’t admit that she made mistakes

New York Magazine’s Rebecca Traister has a few guesses: “I’ve thought about it for 10 years.”

Hillary Clinton, Code 2017 Asa Mathat

When former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton appeared at the 2017 Code Conference, she drew heat for declining to directly answer Walt Mossberg’s first question: “Discounting outside forces that were very important, what misjudgment did you make that, thinking about it, was something that you wish you’d done the opposite?”

Onstage, Clinton pointed to the “maddening” way her private email server “was used” against her by former FBI director James Comey, the New York Times and political foes. On the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, New York Magazine’s Rebecca Traister — who profiled Clinton during and after the 2016 campaign — offered some theories for the evasive answer.

“This is one of the first times in 25 years that Hillary Clinton has not had to be a professional politician,” Traister said. “There was a viral video that went around before the election of 25 years of Hillary being asked the same question, which was, ‘Can you talk about the fact that you’re hated? Why do people hate you so much?’”

“This is not a defense, I’m just putting it in context,” Traister added. “The degree to which Hillary Clinton’s willingness to say, ‘I fucked up, I’m sorry,’ and to self-flagellate has been an object of media fetishization for a quarter-century.”

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Traister said Clinton won’t readily say she made mistakes, because she knows how it would play into the 25-year narrative that, as CNN’s David Gregory recently said, she hasn’t taken “real responsibility for the fact that she was not what the country wanted.”

“[Clinton is] acutely aware that this has been a fetish, and she’s also acutely aware that she’s been ill-treated by the press for decades, which is rooted in truth,” Traister said. “Whether you think she should be so defensive and aware of it is another question. I think this is a point where she’s like, ‘I don’t have to do this anymore.’”

On the new podcast, Traister questioned whether it was right to treat Clinton and Donald Trump as equally worthy of media criticism, when one was far more experienced than the other. And she questioned the belief that Trump rose to be the leader of the Republican Party on his own.

“It’s not an accident that the Republican candidate to run after two terms of Barack Obama, against Hillary Clinton, is a man who ran a campaign rooted, in part, on open calls to racism, misogyny [and] xenophobia,” Traister said. “Donald Trump is not some quirk of nature, and people treat him that way, still — ‘Oh, she lost to Donald Trump. Anybody could have beaten Donald Trump!’ — without acknowledging that America created Donald Trump.”

“Donald Trump was summoned to fight Hillary Clinton, and he did, effectively, because that’s a big part of what America wants,” she added.

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