Toronto: ‘We are living through an all-out assault on truth and reason,’ Hillary Clinton

Former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took to a Toronto stage Thursday night in front of a cheering audience of thousands, a scene reminiscent of the campaign trail she left behind on Nov. 8, 2016.Hillary Clinton revved up an enthusiastic crowd of about 5,000 at the Enercare Centre in Toronto on Thursday, as she promoted her new memoir, What Happened.

Her electoral loss was almost a year old, but the sting is clearly still fresh.

“There were times when I just wanted to pull the covers over my head,” Clinton said of her failed campaign.

The appearance in Toronto was part of a 15-city tour to promote her newly released memoir, What Happened. And, like her memoir, the speech darted between reasons for her electoral loss — including individuals from former FBI director James Comey to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — and the “phoney stories and hysterical appeals” of right-wing press outlets.

The event itself was tightly locked down. Men and women in black suits, many with telltale earpieces snaking up their necks, led media to a cordoned-off area and audience members to their places.

RCMP officers were embedded for Clinton’s protection, and maintained a low profile. Instead of their usual scarlet uniforms, they wore suits that blended easily with the crowd of about 5,000 — most of them women, who howled and applauded above Clinton’s comments, which ranged in topic from Donald Trump to HGTV.

After a musical opener warmed up the crowd, playing songs such as “Sway” and “Hold On,” Clinton’s appearance began with a set of opening remarks, which brought the crowd to their feet.

From the back of the room, one woman called out: “We love you!”

The comment echoed through the room. Clinton beamed, telling the crowd her family had vacationed in Quebec just this year. Veering into politics, she singled out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “charismatic and compassionate.”

“I remember when we had that in America,” she said, again delighting the crowd.

After a preamble that expressed admiration for both Harriet Tubman and Kelly Clarkson, Clinton settled into a chair across from her moderator for the night — Caroline Codsi, president and founder of Women in Governance.

She was ready, she said, for the “hard questions.”

But the questions posed to Clinton were adoring. Recalling a televised debate between her and her opponent, Trump, the moderator described the latter as “like a big bad wolf in a business suit.” At one point, Codsi prompted the crowd to give Clinton a round of applause for her pre-candidacy accomplishments.

“Why did he refuse to say anything?” Codsi asked of Comey and the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential campaign. Why, it was also asked, did he choose to go public about the investigation into Clinton’s emails?

“I don’t know why he did it,” Clinton responded. “I know it was the principal reason I lost the election.” She added that she had her doubts about whether the former director truly thought the allegations were “serious,” and that she didn’t blame voters for her loss.

She does, however, fear for the era her nation lives in under the leadership of the man who beat her in the election.

“We are living through an all-out assault on truth and reason,” she said.

All the while, the crowd clapped along, booing at mentions of Trump. Clinton didn’t shy away from jabs at her former opponent and his apparent liking of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He likes all that macho performance,” Clinton said of Trump, adding that the current president took a liking to authoritarianism because it “dispenses with all the messiness of democracy.”

Comparing Canadian and American politics, she hailed the parliamentary system north of the border — because in America, she said dryly, “literally anyone can run for president.” She openly called her opponent a “creep.”

Codsi pointed out that Americans often tease Canadians, but “we have Trudeau, and you have Trump, so who’s laughing now?”

“Yeah, Canadians really are nice,” Clinton responded, chuckling.

As Codsi continued to praise Clinton, the former candidate herself voiced the confusion that was palpable in the room: “How did I lose, listening to you, Caroline?” she asked.

Throughout the hour, she speculated in particular on issues of sexism. “For men, professional success and likability go hand in hand,” she said. “Not for women.”

There was a kind of “blowback about women’s progress” happening, she said. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was silenced when she tried to read a letter from Coretta Scott King in the Senate about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, she noted, but a male colleague was able to continue.

Just last week in Canada, she added, former Conservative cabinet minister Gerry Ritz called current Environment Minister Catherine McKenna “climate Barbie” in a derogatory tweet.

The only way to combat sexism in politics is to increase the representation of women, Clinton asserted. “It’s not just what happened to me in 2016.”

Asked about the next generation of women in politics and the impact of movements like the Women’s March, Clinton said: “There’s a lot of great energy in the United States right now.” Though her experience was daunting, she said she hoped it wouldn’t dissuade other women from entering the political arena.

“I don’t want anyone to give up because it’s hard.”

Asked if she had any names for potential candidates in the 2020 presidential election, Clinton dodged specific answers, commending individuals working in fields from government to the private sector. She said she would expect between 20 and 25 candidates in the running.

And, she added, if there’s a woman among them, “I hope that she’s someone I can agree with so I can support her.”

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