Has-been Hillary

The funniest episode in the protective yet revealing new Hillary Clinton profile arrives when we learn that this sad, unemployed, 69-year-old lady is so desperate to keep her self-image alive that she still employs flunkies and retainers to treat her as though she actually were the president, or the secretary of state, or a president in waiting, or at very least the leader of the opposition. Her longtime loyalists are so happy to bustle around her in the service of maintaining the illusion that, after she takes an hour away from it all to exercise, her communications director, Nick Merrill, breathlessly updates her on everything that’s happened in the political world in the last threescore ticks of the minute hand. Her profiler, Rebecca Traister of New York magazine, obviously a great admirer but one who declines to throw herself overboard from reality for the sake of giving Hillary more company bobbing about in the sea of fancy, writes that Clinton “listens to the barrage of updates, nodding like a person whose job requires her to be up-to-date on what’s happening, even though it does not.”

Ouch. Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t merely in a state of denial. She has become Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. Politically speaking, she is dead, but she doesn’t know it. Her staffers are so many Haley Joel Osments — too kind (and too attached to their salaries) to tell her that her career is over. She doesn’t need briefings. She doesn’t need to do interviews. She doesn’t need to write the book she is writing (after so many indigestible volumes, why bother with one more?). She doesn’t need to stake out a politically nuanced position on James Comey’s firing or scramble to get out in front of the Resistance parade. She lost two exceedingly winnable presidential campaigns in Hindenburgian fashion. There is no demand for her to run again and there is nothing left for her except to receive whatever ceremonial honors and sinecures may come her way. She has been handed her political retirement papers by the American people. She’s done.

Clinton tells Traister, vaguely, “Take me out of the equation as a candidate. You know, I’m not running for anything,” and indeed she isn’t, right now, since this isn’t an election year. Yet nothing Clinton does these days makes sense unless you keep in mind that she actually thinks she could run again.