Emerging from the political shadows months after a devastating presidential campaign loss to Donald Trump, a fiesty Hillary Clinton — while never directly mentioning the occupant of the White House — urged women to “resist, insist, persist and enlist” in the continuing political struggle on key issues like women’s health care and budget priorities.
“I am thrilled to be out of the woods,’’ Clinton told a sold-out, mostly female audience of 6,000 at the Professional Women’s Business Conference in the Moscone Center on Tuesday, who greeted her arrival with cheers and a standing ovation. “And there’s no place I’d rather be,’’ she added wryly, “... other than the White House.”
Her speech in San Francisco, one of the country’s most liberal bastions, comes amid talk of a “comeback” tour for the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, who has become increasingly active in expressing her views on Twitter.
The Washington Post reported this week that Clinton’s formal re-emergence into the political realm will include a speech at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security on Friday at a ceremony to mark an award that is named in her honor. In addition to getting back on the speaking circuit, Clinton has said she’s also taken on a major writing project — a book of essays and inspirational quotations due out this fall.
In San Francisco, the former secretary of state appeared relaxed, and often resorted to self-depreciating humor to address some of the more painful aspects of her failed campaign — even as she leveled veiled jabs at the Trump administration and its policies, particularly those that affect women. But Clinton, in making several references to her “long walks in the woods” in the past months, appeared to signal she’s rested — and ready to take on new issues and draw contrasts with Trump in the public arena.
“Sure, the last few months are not exactly what I’ve envisioned,’’ she told the audience, “but I do know what I’m fighting for — a fairer, inclusive, big-hearted America.”
Clinton was especially animated when she noted high-profile instances of women’s treatment in the months since Trump has taken office — an administration, she said, which has the lowest levels of women’s hiring in a generation.
“Just look at all that’s happened in the last few days — to women who are simply doing their jobs,’’ she said. Referring to an incident in which White House spokesman Sean Spicer reprimanded African-American journalist April Ryan, she noted that Ryan “was doing her job just this afternoon in the White House press room when she was patronized and cut off just trying to ask a question.”
Clinton also cited Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, who on air laughingly dismissed an impassioned House floor speech by Rep. Maxine Waters for wearing “a James Brown wig.” Waters, Clinton said, was “taunted with a racist joke about her hair.”
“Too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kind of indignities in stride,’’ she said. “But why should we have to?”
Clinton also cited recent photos making the rounds on social media showing armies of men standing proudly around the president as he is “making decisions about women’s health.”
“How could they not have invited any women to the table?” she said. “It may not be an oversight at all … but an intentional signal: Don’t worry, the men are in charge of everything.”
Urging women to “resist, insist, persist and enlist” in the political struggle, Clinton said Americans must “resist bias and bullying ... hate and fear,” and “insist that we can do better, that is who we are ... we are always pushing towards that more perfect union.”
In a pointed reference to Trump’s “American carnage” inauguration speech, she said: “Where some see a dark vision of carnage, I see a light shining on opportunity and creativity.”
“We saw that the day after the Inauguration, when women and men from all walks of life marched ... the biggest march in our country’s history,’’ she said. “Afterward, there were plenty of people who wondered whether that level of enthusiasm could be sustained.’’
But Clinton called the run-up to the defeat of the Trump administration’s health care bill last week “the first indication” that the answer is yes.
She said the Republican Congress trying to “jam through a [health care] bill that would have kicked 24 million people off their health insurance,’’ was "met with a wave of resistance."
And “when this disastrous bill failed, it was a victory for all Americans,’’ she said. Clinton added in warning, “but the other side never quits. Sooner or later they’ll try again.’’
"We will need to fight back” against “bad policies that will hurt our people and take our country in the wrong direction.”
“Obviously the outcome of the election wasn’t one I hoped for,’’ she told the audience. “But I will not stop speaking out" for issues and ideas that will improve the lives of average Americans, she said.
An appearance in California virtually guaranteed a supportive crowd for her re-emergence into the political realm: last November, the Democratic candidate clobbered Trump here by 4.2 million votes in November, or a nearly 2-1 margin.
And San Francisco, an exceedingly friendly turf that the former candidate tapped dozens of times for political fundraising, is also home to Susie Tompkins Buell, one of Clinton’s most longtime and loyal friends, who later shared the stage with her in a conversation at the PBWC event.
Buell, at the close, declared Clinton officially back in the limelight. “It’s clear you’re out of the woods, for us,’’ she told Clinton. “I always knew you would be. Nobody’s going to take you down.”