When you’re Hillary Clinton, even a quiet year is busy. The former secretary of state spent her first full year in decades as a private citizen crisscrossing the country giving speeches, writing a book, helping to grow the charitable foundation started by her husband, campaigning for Democrats, and laying the groundwork for a likely presidential run.
She hardly went more than a few days without some kind of public appearance, and rarely stayed in one city for very long. Even her vacations were interrupted by book promotions or speaking gigs. That’s Hillary Clinton’s idea of relaxing.
But not all of it was good for her. In fact, some moments were downright bad. Here’s a look back at Clinton’s ups and downs in 2014:
THE LOW TIMES:
Clinton made a series of comments about her wealth that became quick fodder for Republican critics while promoting her book. First, she told ABC she was “dead broke” when she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, left the White House in 2001. Then she told The Guardian she was not “truly well off.” She later said she regretted the comments, but they’ve continued to haunt her.
A clumsy break from Obama
In an interview with The Atlantic, Clinton broke the typical party omerta to criticize President Obama’s foreign policy. That led to a week of press coverage about tensions between the camps, and snarky counter-shots from Obama allies. Clinton appeared to have gone farther than she intended, and her spokesperson later said she and the president would “hug it out” and smooth things over when they next saw each other.
Clinton has a more ambitious job in mind than being an author, but she has to be disappointed by sales of her memoir “Hard Choices,” which covered her tenure as secretary of state. The book did well at first, but sales fell off quickly following some negative reviews and recognition that the volume offered few new salacious details. A book attacking Clinton by a conservative author eventually overtook Clinton’s book, as did the memoir of likely GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson.
Clinton was dogged by her astronomical speaking fees, especially for public universities, throughout the year. For instance, she charged the University of California at Los Angeles $300,000 to appear at the school – and that was a discount, according to The Washington Post. Even though the money went to the Clinton foundation, it still raised question accusations that she was fleecing the schools. Others called her out of touch for thinking $300,000 is as discount.
THE HIGH TIMES:
With little doubt, the highlight of Clinton’s 2014 was the birth of her granddaughter, Charlotte, in September. Clinton has been bugging daughter Chelsea to have a kid for years, and raved about the infant and her new “grandmother glow” in numerous public appearances afterwards. Clinton has even worked Charlotte into political messaging, saying every child should have the opportunities to the grandchildren of presidents.
Iowa Steak Fry
Clinton returned to Iowa, the state that derailed her 2008 presidential campaign, for the first time in September. The pro-Clinton super PAC Ready for Hillary worked hard to stock the crowd with Clinton supporters, and plastered the event with their signage, and she was welcomed warmly. But Clinton also gave a strong speech, which coyly hinted at a presidential run. “It’s great to be back – let’s not let another seven years go by,” she said.
An emerging stump speech
Since stepping down as secretary of state, most of Clinton’s public speeches had been fairly dry and policy focused. But as she campaigned for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections, she found a loftier message about restoring fairness for working families and making government work for them. The biggest shift came in Philadelphia, when Clinton campaigned for now Gov.-elect Tom Wolf. She weaved together policies that form the “building block of the Democratic Party” into her personal life and those of average Americans, themes she would later repeat.
Clinton has made a surprising focus of criminal justice reform of late. After Ferguson, she called for removing “weapons of war” from police officers, and for reducing mass incarceration, especially of blacks.
In December, Clinton was embraced by the entire Kennedy clan, another political dynasty which bestowed a human rights award at star-studded dinner named in honor of Robert F. Kennedy. “I go to a lot of events, supporting a lot worthy causes, and there is nothing like this,” she said, looking out at the star-studded crowd. While many progressives distrust Clinton, they would find a lot to like in her remarks, which tied together the struggle of African-Americans protesting police brutality – “yes, black lives matter” she said – with her support for a law to ban torture. She added that the family was an “inspiration.”