All of it is at risk

Financial Times reporter Edward Luce talks to Hillary Clinton over lunch:

With an eye on the likely coming reversal of Roe vs Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that enshrined women’s right to abortion, I ask Clinton how far such unfinished business is likely to go. “If you go down the rabbit hole of far right intellectuals, you see that birth control, gay marriage — all of it is at risk,” she replies.

What is the Christian right’s endgame, I ask. Presumably they would not be able to create the theological dystopia depicted in Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale? My question triggers a passionate response. Clinton speaks about how some states will make it illegal to abort after rape and incest if Roe vs Wade is overturned. One state — “and this is hard even to speak about”, she says — would require the woman to get the permission of her rapist before aborting. Others plan to criminalise women who have the procedure in states where it is legal.

I ask whether things would have turned out differently had Clinton, not Trump, won in 2016. Her answer makes it clear she thinks the January 6 2021 storming of Capitol Hill to stop Joe Biden’s certification would simply have happened four years earlier. “Literally within hours of the polls closing in 2016, we had so much evidence pouring in about voters being turned away in Milwaukee and not being able to vote in Detroit,” she replies.

Milwaukee and Detroit, what do they have in common? Both destination cities for the Great Migration: heavily Black and heavily Democratic-voting.

It seems like a good moment to ask Clinton about Russia’s leader, whom she once quipped had “no soul”. Though Clinton talks about today’s situation in Ukraine, she keeps referring back to Putin’s role in America’s 2016 election, which she believes was in revenge for an “anodyne” statement she had made as secretary of state in 2012 in support of the pro-democracy protests against his return to Russia’s presidency.

She relates an anecdote about a restaurant dinner in London several years ago, where the guests debated the wisdom of Nato’s post-cold war expansion. After a while, the waiter interrupted: “‘Before I take your order, I am from Poland and I have one thing to say: never trust the Russians,’” Clinton recalls approvingly. She adds: “I always believed in expanding Nato and I find the arguments against that to be naive at best, because what we have seen is proof positive of why it was necessary.”

Putin once said of Clinton: “It’s better not to argue with women.” Was Putin as scathing towards Clinton in private as he was in public, I ask. Clinton draws a breath. “Yes, he was very sexist towards me. We had some interesting, even helpful, interactions in private and then the press would be invited in and he would say something insulting about America. He would then manspread for effect.”

The FT shows the manspreading in a photo above that paragraph, so I had the opportunity to see and notice and roll my eyes at the manspreading before Luce quotes the words.

I cannot allow the lunch to end without questioning the direction of her party. I say that Democrats seem to be going out of their way to lose elections by elevating activist causes, notably the transgender debate, which are relevant only to a small minority. What sense does it make to depict JK Rowling as a fascist? To my surprise, Clinton shares the premise of my question.

It doesn’t surprise me much.

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