Introducing former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, First Lady, author, and person who won the popular vote by three million votes Hillary Clinton, Stephen Colbert had to wait for his audience’s extended applause to die down. And, sure, losing an election to a buffoonish bigot reality show host and confessed sex creep might not mark Clinton as the most skilled politician in American history (although it’s unclear how many other candidates had to cope with an opponent surreptitiously backed by a foreign power), the ovation suggested that the crowd was offering up tribute to someone who pretty clearly predicted every aspect of the national nightmare we’re in. Asking Clinton about her bestselling book, What Happened (the paperback of which Clinton was there to promote), Colbert joked that perhaps there’s a word missing from the title, considering said nightmare. “Or two words,” volleyed Clinton back, exhibiting some of the game humor that—not to pile on—might have served her campaign a little better.
But if the best revenge is living well and classily refusing to gloat, then Clinton is winning the historical long game. Noting that the new afterward to her book is titled “Democracy In Crisis,” Colbert asked Clinton, “Is that just a fancy way of saying ‘I told you so?’ Because you’re allowed.” Clinton brushed past that opportunity but, for the remainder of her extended interview with Colbert, laid out pretty much every way in which she had predicted the ongoing shitshow a Donald Trump presidency would become. From delegitimizing elections, to demonizing the press (and by extension, you know, truth and reality), to attacking the rule of law, to enabling corruption at the highest levels of government, to “undermining national unity” (perhaps another way of saying, “promoting outright white supremacist assholoery”), Clinton plainly called out Trump and his Republican collaborators in congress for doing exactly what she knew—and said—they would do.
But even Clinton expressed some dismay at how shocking it’s been—even to her—that her former congressional Republican colleagues have thrown in with Trump’s cynically lunatic agenda. “I do not understand what has happened to the Republican Party,” said Clinton, citing the perhaps-rosy memory of the late John McCain as someone who would put “country over party.” Still, Clinton—who was part of the team that investigated Richard Nixon—called on the GOP to actually hold this nakedly corrupt and Constitution-stomping president to account, pooh-poohing the example of those anonymous op-ed writers who are supposedly working tirelessly behind the scenes to curb Donald Trump’s worst impulses. Stating that, no, she never had to steal documents from president Obama’s desk to keep him from doing something stupid and/or unconscionable, Clinton called it “sobering” that people are supposedly “keeping bad things from happening” considering “all the bad things that have happened.”
On that topic, Clinton weighed in on the current hearings on a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land for a person whose records are being hidden from the American people by the Republicans, and who now has a credible accusation of being yet another Trump-affiliated sex creep hanging over him. Clinton called on Republicans to stop trying to ram through Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment before what looks like an election after which a lot of them are going to be looking for jobs. Citing Republicans’ blocking of Obama nominee Merrick Garland (a qualified jurist that, at press time, no one has accused of attempted rape) one of the “crassest and most cynical” moves in the history of the Senate (which is, admittedly, a bold claim, considering), Clinton didn’t seem all that optimistic on that front. Her message was—instead of “I told you so”—for Americans who care about restoring any semblance of checks and balances, the rule of law, the sovereignty of our elections and democracy, or a congress even pretending to give a crap about the will of the people or the common good is to vote in the upcoming midterms. (She also clarified to Colbert that, while the issue of bringing criminal charges against a sitting president is a tricky one constitutionally, it’s already been settled that a president in office can be indicted for things he did beforehand. Like—just spitballing here—colluding with a hostile foreign power to subvert American democracy.)
And while the prospect of a Democratic congress impeaching Donald Trump might be a tingly proposition to many, Clinton agreed with Colbert that the best way to fix what she termed this constitutional crisis is to put people in office who are going to do the best job. Again, Clinton didn’t say, “Like me, you goddamn dummies.” But she really didn’t have to.