The Democratic political machine of the future revved up for the first time just across the street from the original Democratic political machine. On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton launched her book tour at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble located just across the street from the old headquarters of Tammany Hall, the defunct political club infamously ruled by William “Boss” Tweed.
Clinton’s book tour is widely seen as a rollout for her potential 2016 presidential campaign. At the kickoff, her machine’s main goal seemed to be carefully controlling her narrative, which includes the claim Clinton’s genuinely undecided about making another run at the White House. However, in spite of Team Clinton’s best efforts, at the signing it was abundantly clear most people were certain the event was the launch of a presidential bid.
On day one, Clinton and her team aggressively stage managed The Hillary Experience. Guests who arrived at the event, some of whom began lining up on Monday and spent the night in the street, were greeted with a strict list of guidelines. Among other restrictions, there would be no photos with Clinton, no personalised autographs, and no bathroom breaks.
Reporters also were given some restrictions. They were kept in a roped off area one guard referred to as a “press pen” behind many of the fans and still photographers about twenty feet from the stage. A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman told the assembled members of the media they would be required to leave about twenty minutes after the event and that Clinton would not make remarks or take questions. These regulations led to some griping from the press, especially those reporters who indicated they were planning to travel to attend other events during Clinton’s tour.
When she arrived to cheers from the crowd, Clinton did actually make brief remarks. However, they hardly shed any new light on her agenda. Her speech was peppered with platitudes and references to the title of her book, “Hard Choices.”
“Thank you so much for being here. I am thrilled to be here at Barnes & Noble and to be given the chance to meet so many of you, to sign my new book ‘Hard Choices,'” Clinton began. “It’s really about the hard choices everybody has to make in life and, in particular, the hard choices that I made and was part of making during my four years as secretary of state.”
Clinton went on to explain her book is designed to illustrate America’s position in the global political landscape.
“It’s written for everybody who wants to think about and learn about what is happening in the world today — why America matters and why the world matters to America,” said Clinton. “We have a lot of hard choices ahead of us in our country to make it as great and strong as it should be. And we have a lot of hard choices to continue to lead the world to solve problems that effect us and the rest of humanity.”
Then, Clinton got down to business.
While the reporters likely were not satisfied with Clinton’s very brief and extremely generic remarks, the many people who showed up for her autograph were clearly pleased. They roared with applause after she spoke.
During the signing, Clinton was flanked by aides who manned an assembly line that saw a steady stream of fans and books cross in front of the wooden desk where she held court. Attendees were treated to short version of her signature, just “Hillary,” and a few warm words. Reporters could not make out her quick conversations with the guests from our spot in the pen.
The people who showed up at the signing were clearly among the most hardcore Clinton supporters. Many wore Clinton apparel including a yarmulke that said “Hillary” in Hebrew and t-shirts declaring “Hot For Hillary” and “Hillary Rocks.” At points, Clinton fans waiting in line for their autographs shouted up to the stage imploring Clinton to run in 2016
“You’ve got my vote for president!” one said.
Another Clinton admirer went a step further.
“The next president of the United States!” they declared.
None of these remarks seemed to provoke an audible or visible reaction from Clinton.
Outside the bookstore, those waiting to get in buzzed with anticipation.
“I really want to take a selfie with her,” a teenager named Mike said. “That would be the greatest selfie of all time.”
Another man, Miguel Quinones who was walking into the bookstore for an autograph said he supported Clinton during her unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. He offered a rather interesting theory to explain her loss to then-Sen. Barack Obama in the democratic primary that year.
“She gave [the last election] to Obama because somehow, some electronic intelligence, hackers, were robbing her finances real bad,” Quinones explained. “It happened to me too! Seriously. I was on her side. I have met her, and I know other secret things I can’t mention.”
As they left the event, guests clutched their signed copies of “Hard Choices” and gushed about their close encounter of the Clinton kind.
“She asked me where I was from and I told her I just moved to the city,” a young woman declared as she departed the store. “It was amazing. I’m rambling because I’m just star struck.”
Jeremy Cammy was clearly pleased with his experience.
“I was waiting there a long time. [The signature] is first name only, which is kind of nice. You become friends with her. It’s like, ‘Hey, Hillary, what’s up?’ So it’s great. She’s very personable, very friendly, very fun. She looks the part,” Cammy said. “People in there were cheering when she walked up. It was almost as if the president was walking up.”
Cammy also addressed the elephant in the room — whether or not Clinton will indeed move from her book tour into a presidential campaign. He had no doubts about her intentions.
“Everyone’s been asking her if she’s going to run – she said there’s something in the last few pages of the book,” said Cammy. “I think we all know what’s going to happen.”
In “Hard Choices,” Clinton addresses her “big decision” in the book’s final paragraphs on page 596.
“Having run for President before, I understand exactly how challenging it is on every front,” Clinton wrote, later adding, “Ultimately, what happens in 2016 should be about what kind of future Americans want for themselves and their children — and grandchildren. I hope we choose inclusive politics and a common purpose to unleash the creativity, potential, and opportunity that makes America exceptional.”
Clinton went on to say she has had “too few quiet moments” in recent years and wants to “savour them” for now.
“Whatever I decide, I will always be thankful for the chance to represent America around the world,” she wrote, concluding, “The time for another hard choice will come soon enough.”
In her book and her carefully-managed appearances in recent weeks Clinton has been coy about her ambitions. However, many of her supporters clearly view her book tour as merely a prelude to a presidential campaign.
Along with the official political machinery accompanying at the Clinton at the event, her unofficial campaign apparatus also showed up in full force.
Outside the bookstore, a man named Malik was selling t-shirts featuring a cartoon likeness of Clinton and the slogans “Run Hillary Run!,” “ELECT HILLARY 2016,” and “IT’S A MAN’S WORLD BUT A WOMAN SHOULD RUN IT!” Malik definitely sees Clinton’s presidency as a foregone conclusion.
“There’s so much momentum behind her,” he explained. “She can pick up the mantle and go places where President Obama was not able to go. She will be able to draw more cohesiveness in Congress. I don’t think she’ll be blocked as much as Obama.”
Ready For Hillary, the super PAC dedicated to supporting a hypothetical Clinton campaign, also had a presence at the event. Clinton’s first signing also served as the launch of a bus tour for the PAC, which is technically unaffiliated with Clinton. A female Ready For Hillary member stood in front of the Barnes & Noble next to the group’s bus, which was decorated with a massive picture of Clinton holding a Blackberry. The woman, who was holding a giant picture of Clinton, also seemed positive Clinton will run — and win.
“She’s done it all. She’s a mum. She’s a wife. The thing about it is she has had a single mind of what she wanted to do since she was in law school — to be President!” she said. “I’m just so happy it’s going to happen soon.”
With all this apparent certainty, had this supporter even entertained the possibility Clinton’s hard choice will end in a decision to give up her White House dream? Sort of.
“If she doesn’t, she is doing the country a disservice,” she said.
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