It has been just seven months since embattled President Hillary Clinton was sworn into office. It feels like seven years.
Clinton may have failed to electrify her party’s base early on in the 2016 campaign, when Bernie Sanders’ social justice fire and brimstone was siphoning off the most enthusiastic Democratic voters. But at the second debate in St. Louis, when Clinton finally stood her ground, turned to stare Donald Trump in the eye and confidently admonished him, “Back up, you creep” — that was the moment she relit her own flame. The game was on.
After a concentrated blitz through the Rust Belt states where the Electoral College was in play, Clinton ultimately prevailed on Nov. 8 with a decisive 56 percent of the popular vote — the widest margin of victory since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election.
But today, in an alternate universe where Clinton actually occupies the White House, the first female president is under siege on a number of fronts, most visibly from her former campaign rival. Trump’s loss paradoxically raised his media profile even more, propelling him to multiple appearances every day on cable news, where he lobbed insults at the incoming Clinton administration. His regular guest segments on InfoWars’ “Alex Jones Show” increased the program’s viewership threefold during December alone.
And then, at the moment Clinton’s speech began on Inauguration Day, Trump TV made its splashy debut with the “Making America Great Again Hour,” hosted by Trump and freshly minted news director Bill O’Reilly, lured away from Fox News Channel. That network took another blow in May when Sean Hannity also jumped to Trump.
Absent its two marquee names, Fox News today continues to work through a personality crisis as it pivots back to the William F. Buckley conservatism that has been largely eclipsed by Trump’s brand of nationalistic populism. Tucker Carlson devotes as many segments of his show to sneering at and sparring with Trump surrogates Kellyanne Conway and Roger Stone as he does bashing the liberal Clinton agenda.
Though the Democrats picked up 17 seats in the House, the GOP still outguns them there and in the Senate. Special prosecutor Jeanine Pirro is signaling that her probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state will involve subpoenaed testimony from several high-ranking officials, including then-FBI Director Robert Mueller.
The reconstituted Select Committee on Benghazi has announced that its now-retracted December report will be expanded to include newly disclosed information from unnamed intelligence officials. According to three people with direct knowledge of the situation, evidence from Pirro’s investigation has been shared “informally” with the House committee.
More than 150 Republican lawmakers, led by Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have filed a suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Clinton, alleging that sales of her 2014 book “Hard Choices: A Memoir,” which has re-entered the Amazon best-sellers list, is likely netting her royalties that could run to thousands, or even tens of thousands, violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
Despite an over-the-top fete at the Oscars and a fawning reception from Ellen DeGeneres last month, Clinton is taking some heat from Hollywood. She quietly seethes at Bill’s foray into the talk show circuit, where he chuckles as comics make his philandering the butt of countless jokes. And rap-rock star Kid Rock scored big when his “Let’s Impeach That B****” became the first Senate campaign song to enter the Billboard Hot 100.
Everyone knew the ugly battle between the least popular presidential candidates in modern history would end badly. But who imagined things could go sideways so quickly?