Hillary Clinton on Putin, Polar Bears, and Not Going Away

Last night, Hillary Clinton was a guest on Stephen Colbert's show, during which she said plainly "I'm not going anywhere," told an amazing story about experiencing Vladimir Putin's misogyny firsthand, and drank a glass of chardonnay. Below, the first (and much longer and substantial) block of her appearance:

STEPHEN COLBERT: Folks, I am terribly excited, because she was first a First Lady, then a Senator, then Secretary of State, and I would have bet anything the next President of the United States. Please welcome Hillary Rodham Clinton!

[audience cheers and applause as Hillary Clinton walks out; she shakes Stephen Colbert's hand as they greet each other warmly; a large part of the audience gives her a standing ovation; she takes her seat on stage to extended cheers and applause]

COLBERT: Thank you so much for being here.

CLINTON: Oh, Stephen, it's good to see you.

COLBERT: It's good to see you. It's an honor to have you here.

CLINTON: Thanks!

COLBERT: You have a new book. It's called "What Happened." And I don't know how else to start this interview, other than saying: What happened?! [audience laughter; Clinton laughs] What happened?

CLINTON: Well, that's the question I try to answer.


CLINTON: Yeah, because it was the question I asked myself starting on election night.

COLBERT: Mm-hmm.

CLINTON: And I started—

COLBERT: What time on election night? [audience laughter]

CLINTON: Ugh! Well, as I write in the book: Midnight. [shrugs] Midnight.

COLBERT: Yeah, I remember.

CLINTON: The dark time of the soul. Midnight. [audience laughter]

COLBERT: Yeah, I'm waiting for it to not be midnight soon. [audience laughter]

CLINTON: Yeah, right. And so I — I was asking it like you just said: What happened?! You know? And I figured, maybe I'd better try to find out, to figure it out. So that's why I dove into this book. It was, ah, very painful and difficult, but, at the end, I really feel like I've done my very best to lay out what happened so that it doesn't happen again. I mean, that's my primary goal here is so that it doesn't happen again. [lengthy audience cheers and applause]

COLBERT: Well, a lot of people have said, "Oh, I, boy, I wish Hillary Clinton would just go away."


COLBERT: "Just go away."

CLINTON: Well, you know, if they take up a collection and send me somewhere really nice— [audience laughter]

COLBERT: Really? [chuckles]

CLINTON: I might consider it!

COLBERT: Really? Yeah!

CLINTON: But it, you know—

COLBERT: Obama's on David Geffen's yacht a lot. You could go with him. [audience laughter]

CLINTON: [shrugs] Well, you know, I — I am not going anywhere. [massive audience applause]

COLBERT: Well, I'm glad you're not!

CLINTON: So. [extended audience cheers and applause; Clinton smiles and chuckles]

COLBERT: I agree. At first I could understand some of those calls — people saying like, "The Republicans are tearing themselves apart; don't give them, you know, someone to rally around in opposition to," because you are a convenient figure for them to unite against.


COLBERT: But I actually do not think that's how what's happening to our government is going to be stopped. I think it's people who are willing to be civically engaged and believe in the promises and the progress of the last fifty years that will save this country.

CLINTON: I agree completely—

COLBERT: So thank you so much for not going away.

CLINTON: —absolutely completely!

COLBERT: But wait a second: It must not have been easy.


COLBERT: It must not have been easy to write this book.

CLINTON: It — it wasn't easy! I mean, it was painful. It was horrible reliving it, and, you know, being as candid, open as I could be about the mistakes I made and talking about those. But also trying to come to grips, as I write in the book, about everything from, you know, sexism and misogyny, to voter suppression, to the unusual behavior of the former director of the FBI, and the Russians. And the Russians! — and you have been sounding the alarm about this — because I believe so strongly that they think they succeeded in messing with our democracy, and I just can't abide that, so—

COLBERT: Do you think they succeeded in messing with our democracy?

CLINTON: Yes I do. I do. I do. Because—

COLBERT: To what degree? Like, influencing the vote? Or influencing opinion?

CLINTON: Influencing voters, and therefore influencing opinion, I think is becoming clearer and clearer. I don't know what the Congressional investigations and I don't know what the Special Counsel investigation are going to find; I'm gonna wait for that. But I don't think anybody can with a straight face say that the Russians did not set out to influence our election, and they did so. This latest revelation about the way they bought ads on Facebook and targeted them — we're gonna find out a lot more, Stephen.

And I am saying as clearly as I can — I feel like I'm a bit of a, you know, a Paula Revere; I'm trying to sound the alarm about this [audience laughter and applause] — is that the—

You know, you've gotta understand what Putin's strategy is. He really doesn't like democracy. He thinks it's an inconvenient, messy process. And he doesn't like us, and he wants to destabilize our country; sow doubt about our democracy.

I mean, these latest revelations, where you had Russians pretending to be Americans — so you had fake Americans, with fake news, and fake stories, and fake demonstrations — that wasn't just because he's bored and has nothing to do. He wants to undermine how we see each other, how we respect each other, how we support our institutions and our society.

So, I think that they believe they had a good outing in twenty-sixteen, and I think that they will be back in twenty-eighteen and twenty-twenty, unless we stop them. [audience applause]

COLBERT: Now, you mentioned that he — that Putin doesn't like democracy and he doesn't like America; part of the speculation is that he specifically doesn't like you. Do you think this was personal on a certain level?

CLINTON: I think it was mostly about the role I played as Secretary of State, which he did morph into a grudge against me, because I would say things like, you know, "The Russian people deserve free and fair elections. They deserve to have a democracy."

COLBERT: Questioning the legitimacy of his election in two-thousand eleven.

CLINTON: The parliamentary elections, that's right. And, so, our intelligence community and others have said that he did have a personal grudge against me— You know, I don't take it personally. I think it's part of his worldview, which is all tied up with his anger, his disappointment in the collapse of the Soviet Union, and his feeling that we're his number one rival — he wants to really undermine the European-American alliance.

And so I see it as: I was doing my job — I was honored to do my job, to stand up and speak out on behalf of American values and our democracy — and, partly because I'm a woman, which does seem to get him a bit agitated— [audience cheers and applause] And he actually has said that, um, some things about that—

COLBERT: Has he — did he ever say anything to you personally that demonstrated his misogyny?

CLINTON: Well, he demonstrated— As I write in the book, you know, there's an expression, we certainly know it in New York, called manspreading. [audience laughter]

COLBERT: [chuckling] Yes.

CLINTON: And every time I met with him, it would be— [spreads her arms and flops back in her chair, taking up lots of space] Okay? [audience laughter] The whole deal! And, so, I'd go to meetings with him— One in particular, we were in his dacha outside of Moscow, and the press comes in, and he just berates America about one of the many things that annoys him about us, and then the press leaves, and I've got four or five things we're trying to deal with him and Russia on — and I always came to my meetings with him trying to find something that I could actually engage him about.

So, we went through the economy and human rights and all these other things that are critically important, and he was, you know— [mimes staring off into space] Like, as President Obama once said, like the bored guy in the back of the room. He couldn't care less.

Then I said: "You know, I am really pleased to hear that you care about wildlife conservation, and that you are trying to save species in Russia, like Siberian tigers and polar bears." Then he came alive! And then we had an interesting conversation, so—

COLBERT: [mimicking Putin] "I wrestle polar bears!" [audience laughter]

CLINTON: Yeah! "I wrestle po—" No, he said to me, so he said: "Come with me!" He takes me down the stairs, down this corridor, into the door — all of his security guys are jumping up, because we weren't expected — into this inner sanctum with this huge desk and the biggest map of Russia I think exists, and he started telling me he's "going here to tag polar bears." And then he says to me: "Would your husband like to come?" [audience gasps and laughter; Clinton grins broadly] And I said, "Well, you know, I'll ask him, but, if he's busy, I'll go!" [she grins as the audience cheers]

COLBERT: We're gonna take a little break, and when we come back, Secretary Clinton and I just might break out the chardonnay.
And so they did!

[Images embedded in tweets are of Hillary Clinton smiling and talking animatedly while holding a glass of white wine.]

Everything about that was terrific, but this was my favorite part, for reasons I'm sure I don't have to explain: "I am not going anywhere." MA'AM.

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