Hillary Clinton may be the most tone-deaf politician in modern history. Repeatedly over the course of a 41-year career as a political wife, candidate and appointee, she's said and done things that alienated voters. Who can forget her acerbic comments during the 1992 presidential race? "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas," she told one reporter on the campaign trail in describing her decision to continue her legal career while first lady of Arkansas. And then there was her response in defending her husband from allegations of extramarital affairs: "You know, I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette." More recently, there was her testimony in front of the committee investigating the attacks on a U.S. post in Libya that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador: "Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?" And of course, there was this infamous claim during the presidential campaign: "You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables." She described these people as irredeemable, "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it."
But Clinton's tin ear hasn't improved with age or experience. This week, she told a California audience, "I take responsibility for every decision I made — but that's not why I lost (the presidential election)." She went on to blame the Democratic National Committee, saying that after she became the party's nominee, she inherited nothing from the Democratic Party: "It was bankrupt. It was on the verge of insolvency. Its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong. I had to inject money into it to keep it going." She didn't bother to mention that DNC operatives were alleged to have helped her secure the nomination in the first place. She portrayed herself as a victim, even using the word to describe why the assumption she was going to win hurt her. And of course, she blamed the Russians — not without some justification, given their alleged role in hacking her emails and using WikiLeaks to dump them at the height of the election — and former FBI Director James Comey's investigation of her private email servers.
Clinton's lament, however, helps neither her nor the investigation into Russia's meddling in the election. The best thing she could do right now is to stay silent. Like it or not, Donald Trump won the election according to rules set up in our Constitution, securing enough electoral votes to win the presidency. There has been no evidence that Russia hacked voting machines and altered the vote count. And even if Trump's operatives helped "weaponize" information gleaned from the meddling — as Clinton claimed without citing evidence other than hearsay — saying so publicly without proof may undermine the case against the Russians among those who will simply chalk up the charges to partisan whining.
The more Clinton blames others for her election loss the less sympathetic a figure she becomes. She has never been her own best advocate. Whether it's the vast right-wing conspiracy, the Russians or Comey, someone else is always to blame when things don't go her way. She wants to be perceived as a powerful woman in her own right — one capable and deserving of leading the most powerful nation in the world — on the one hand and a hapless victim of forces beyond her control on the other. She'd be better off separating her defeat from the very real threat that one of America's strongest adversaries tried to interfere in our election.
Hillary Clinton — and many Democrats — seem to miss the forest for the trees in the Russia story. Russia may well have wanted to see Clinton defeated and Trump elected, but its ultimate purpose was to undermine confidence in American institutions and our electoral process. It wanted to sow seeds of distrust among American voters and to undercut American influence in the world, regardless of who won. Turning the story of Russia's involvement in the 2016 election into a partisan issue helps further Russian aims, and the real loser is American democracy.
Linda Chavez is chairwoman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a nonprofit public policy research organization in Falls Church, Va.; a syndicated columnist; and a political analyst. Her latest book is "Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics." For more of her reports, Go Here Now.