She mentions Turkey, Italy and, above all, Hungary. Its sinister. Can Hungary plausibly remain in the EU? I think its a really good question. Because there should be some standards that are complied with, and rule of law, free press, those basic pillars of democratic politics and governance, should be absolutely required.
The morning we meet, Clinton has flown to Swansea from Dublin, where she had given a speech at Trinity College. Her improbable relationship with Swansea University has a certain sentimental charm. The politicians great-grandparents came from Wales and her grandmother was raised on Methodist hymns and memories of rolling Welsh hills. According to genealogists, Clintons ethnic breakdown is 31.2% Welsh. So when the law school approached Clinton following her election defeat, she, to their delight, agreed to a partnership.
During her day in Swansea with academics and local politicians, she answers questions on everything from lowering the voting age to 16 (interested, but undecided), using cannabis oil for medicinal purposes (broadly in favour, but would like to see more research) and raising the UKs age of criminal responsibility from 10 (emphatically yes). Her command of her brief is staggering, right down to the latest neuroscientific evidence of the impact of toxic stress on adolescent brain development. The only questions I see floor her concern Melania Trump.
What did Clinton make, I ask, of her public statement about hating to see families separated? I didnt know what to make of it. I ask how she interpreted the jacket the first lady wore to visit a child detention centre, bearing the opaque and intriguing slogan: I really dont care, do u? Clinton slumps back in her chair, wide eyed, arms spread, defeated by the mystery. That, I have no idea. I have no idea. I cant even I dont have any idea. I dont know. Does she feel sorry for the first lady? I dont know. I honestly dont know.
Clinton will spend the evening and the next day in Swansea, before travelling on to give a speech in Oxford. Since her defeat, she has taken precisely two three-week breaks; once back in the US she will resume campaigning tirelessly for the Democrats until the midterm elections in November. At 70 years old, the schedule would be punishing enough, even if she were garlanded in universal praise and gratitude. As it is, Trump supporters continue to chant, Lock her up, and many on her own side are barely any kinder, fearful that she damages their brand. A recent Atlantic magazine headline read: Hillary Clintons High Profile is Hurting the Democrats.
Nowadays, Clintons own speeches seldom fail to warn about the dangerously polarised divisions poisoning US politics. Few Americans would dispute the description; in fact, this may be about the only point on which all sides can agree. But surely Clinton must be aware that every media report and profile invariably describes her as a polarising figure. Has she ever considered the possibility that her most effective contribution to healing the countrys divisions would be to withdraw from public life?
Im sure they said that about Churchill between the wars, didnt they? she flashes back sharply, a fraction too quickly for the line to sound spontaneous. I mean, Im not comparing myself, but Im just saying people said that, but he was right about Hitler, and a lot of people in England were wrong. And Churchill was a pain. He kept popping up all the time. Besides, she goes on, I love what I do and I care about a lot of things, so Im very interested in what people are doing to try to figure stuff out and solve problems. So its not really work to me. No, it doesnt feel like work.
She assures me she has made her peace with her defeat. Im OK. Im fine. But having devoted her whole life to public service, she must still wonder why her country preferred a man memorably surprised to find the presidency more work than he had expected. I wonder if Americans who found Trumps leisurely work ethic more relatable now regard Clintons resolve to keep going as not so much heroic as weird. If she decided to call it a day, I begin to say, no one would blame
I would, she interrupts. I would blame me. Yes. I would. It feels like a duty. It feels like patriotism, and it feels necessary. Im not going anywhere.