The Year Hillary Clinton Launched Her Last Best Shot at the Presidency - Rolling Stone
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2015: The Year Hillary Clinton Launched Her Last Best Shot at the Presidency

From emailgate to Val the bartender, Clinton had a year of ups and downs

HIllary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

If she's elected president next year — and, hell, even if she isn't — 2015 will have been a critical year in Hillary Clinton's life. It was the year a majority of Democrats — and a majority of Americans, in some surveys — conceded, at least to pollsters, that they believe she's the most qualified person to be president. It also happened to the be the year Americans got to see what Hillary Clinton is really like, not at a town hall, or in a campaign video, but in private, via her own emails. We learned about her grocery list ("Gefilte fish: Where are we on this?") and her trouble finding a local NPR station on the dial.

Here's how Clinton's year played out.

Hillary Clinton

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks on stage with Gates Foundation Co-Chair Melinda Gates and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton for the official release of the No Ceilings Full Participation Report which coincides with the start of the 59th session of the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women on March 9, 2015 in New York City. Global and community leaders participated in the program which looked to highlight the findings showing 20 years of global data compiled by No Ceilings reveals that there is more to done to achieve Ôfull and equal participationÕ of women and girls worldwide. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Spencer Platt/Getty

March 2, 2015: “Emailgate” Breaks

By early March, Hillary Clinton had already decided she was going to run for president — she reportedly did that at Oscar de la Renta's beachfront spread in the Dominican Republic over the holidays. She was just figuring out how to let the American public know when emailgate broke. On March 2, the New York Times reported on revelations, uncovered by the Select Committee on Benghazi, that Clinton had used a personal email server exclusively during her four years working at the State Department. Other officials, including other secretaries of state, had used private email accounts before Clinton — but she was the first, as best anyone knows, to use only private email.

Clinton's initial reaction to the scandal was essentially to shrug it off, saying other officials. She maintained that the Federal Records Act, which some accused her of trying to circumvent, was only amended to require federal employees to transfer personal emails to government servers after she left office.

Hillary Clinton

April 12, 2015: Hillary Reintroduces Herself (and Eats at Chipotle)

When Clinton finally made the long-expected announcement that she would seek the Democratic nomination for president, she did it with a YouTube video and a cross-country van tour designed to re-introduce the former first lady, senator and secretary of state to the American people. Both were optimized to make her appear as relatable as possible. There would be no luxury bus, no over-hyped prime-time special. There would be no fancy catered lunches, either: When Hillary was on the road, she ate Chipotle. She did such a convincing job blending in at a franchise in Maumee, Ohio, in fact, no one even noticed she was there. Her campaign had to tip-off a New York Times reporter, who had the restaurant's manager review security footage, showing that not only had she eaten at the chain, she "carried her own tray." Presidential candidates: They're just like us!

Hillary Clinton

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walks off the stage after joining Gates Foundation Co-Chair Melinda Gates and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton for the official release of the No Ceilings Full Participation Report which coincides with the start of the 59th session of the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women on March 9, 2015 in New York City. Global and community leaders participated in the program which looked to highlight the findings showing 20 years of global data compiled by No Ceilings reveals that there is more to done to achieve Ôfull and equal participationÕ of women and girls worldwide. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Spencer Platt/Getty

April 23, 2015: Clinton Foundation Scandal Breaks

In a front-page story, the New York Times detailed new revelations that the CEO of mining company Uranium One donated $2.35 million to Bill Clinton’s nonprofit, the Clinton Global Initiative, between 2009 and 2013. This is notable for three reasons: because Uranium One controls a large share of the U.S. uranium mines; because at the time of the donations, Russia's atomic energy agency was in negotiations to buy Uranium One; and because Uranium One needed permission for the deal from the Committee of Foreign Investment in the U.S., of which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was one of eight members at the time. The deal was approved in 2010, but the donations were not disclosed until 2015. The failure to disclose was particularly unseemly given the fact that Hillary Clinton made a personal promise to President Obama when she accepted her role as secretary of state that the foundation would disclose all donors, lest foreign nations come to believe they could buy influence with charitable contributions.

Hillary Clinton

Spencer Platt/Getty

June 13, 2015: Launches Campaign

Clinton, flanked by her husband and daughter, officially kicked off her campaign in a large, carefully choreographed rally held on New York's Roosevelt Island. The location was chosen for its symbolism: It's in New York state, where Clinton served as senator; it's near the United Nations, where she made appearances during her time as secretary of state; and it's outdoors, as she noted during her speech, "in a place with absolutely no ceilings."

Hillary Clinton SNL

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Miley Cyrus" Episode 1684 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton as Val during the "Bar Talk" sketch on October 3, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

NBC/Getty

October 3, 2015: Appears on ‘Saturday Night Live’ as “Val the Bartender”

Clinton made a cameo appearance on Saturday Night Live, playing Val, a bartender with a heart of gold, a mean Donald Trump impression, and some sage advice for Hillary Clinton (played by cast member Kate McKinnon). 

Hillary Clinton

Darren McCollester/Getty

August 11, 2015: Meets With Black Lives Matter Activists

Clinton met with five Black Lives Matter activists after a campaign stop in Keene, New Hampshire. They asked her specifically about the 1994 crime bill her husband signed into law, which she lobbied for, and which is believed to have increased the number of incarcerated Americans by 60 percent between 1992 and 2000. "Now that you understand the consequences, what in your heart has changed?" one activist asked. Clinton acknowledged the policy hadn't worked, but said the BLM movement needed to find common ground with people in positions of power for black Americans to see a difference in their lives. "I don't believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocations of resources, you change the way systems operate," Clinton said.

Hillary Clinton

Adam Bettcher/Getty

August 28, 2015: Admits Email Server Was a “Mistake”

By mid-August, Clinton's poll numbers were slipping, while Bernie Sanders' were surging, and she was having trouble shaking off the scandal about her email server. She sat down with ABC News in an effort to put the issue to bed once and for all. "That was a mistake," Clinton said about exclusively using of a personal email server while secretary of state. "I'm sorry about that. I take responsibility, and I'm trying to be as transparent about it as I possibly can."

Hillary Clinton

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Joe Raedle/Getty

October 13, 2015: Forcefully Defends Paid Family Leave at Debate

In August, the DNC announced it would hold a scant six Democratic primary debates — that's 20 fewer than were held in 2008. Almost immediately after the schedule was announced, accusations emerged that the DNC scheduled fewer debates, and scheduled them on nights voters wouldn't watch, in order to protect Clinton's frontrunner status. At the first debate, though, Clinton delivered a commanding performance, the highlight of which came when she was asked about her support of paid family leave. 

"It's always the Republicans, or their sympathizers, who say you can't have paid leave; you can't provide health care. They don't mind having big government to interfere with a women's right to choose, and to try to take down Planned Parenthood," Clinton said to thunderous applause. "They're fine with big government when it comes to that. I'm sick of it. We can do these things. We should not be paralyzed by the Republicans and their constant refrain: big government this, big government that."

Hillary Clinton

WASHINGTON, USA - OCTOBER 22: Former Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton listens to questions from committee members while testifying in front of the Benghazi Committee during a hearing on the attack in Washington, USA on October 22, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty

October 22, 2015: Endures Hours of Grilling by the Benghazi Committee

The highlight of Hillary Clinton's year had to be appearing before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, and not because it was the first chance she'd had to defend herself; October 22 actually marked the third time she'd testified about the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. And not because it was a quick and painless process, either — she spent more than eight hours answering questions before the committee (11 if you include scheduled breaks). It was the highlight of Clinton's year because it made Trey Gowdy and his Republican colleagues look petty, while Clinton came out looking presidential. As Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi put it, Gowdy and his fellow Republicans on the committee "made the most eloquent argument for a Hillary Clinton presidency yet offered by anyone, including Clinton herself."

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, left, and Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, participate in the first Democratic presidential debate at the Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. While tonight's first Democratic presidential debate will probably lack the name-calling and sharp jabs of the Republican face-offs, there's still potential for strong disagreements between the party's leading contenders. Photographer: Josh Haner/Pool via Bloomberg

Josh Haner/Bloomberg/Getty

October 23, 2015: Invokes Sexism Against Bernie Sanders

Clinton was riding high, coming off one of her campaign's best weeks yet when she made an appearance at the Democratic Women's Leadership Forum, making a veiled accusation of sexism against Bernie Sanders. 

"I've been told to stop, and I quote, 'shouting about gun violence.' Well, first of all, I'm not shouting. It's just when women talk some people think we're shouting," Clinton said, to a round of applause. "And second, I will not be silenced, because we will not be silenced. Not by the gun lobby. Not by the size of this challenge. Not by any of it."

Sanders, who had referred to Americans "shouting" about guns on the campaign trail and in debates, just chuckled and shrugged when asked about the accusation on CNN. "All that I can say is I am very proud of my record on women's issues. I certainly do not have a problem with women speaking out. And I think what the secretary is doing there is taking words and misapplying them," he said.

Hillary Clinton

NEW YORK, USA - NOVEMBER 19: Former United States Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton delivers a speech about Syrian civil war and fighting against terrorism at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, USA on November 19, 2015. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty

November 19, 2015: Speech on ISIS

Six days after terrorists loyal to ISIS pulled off a series of coordinated attacks in Paris, Clinton, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, delivered a detailed speech explaining, point-by-point, how she would seek to systematically dismantle ISIS if elected president. She called for intensified airstrikes against the terrorist group, for ground troops to train Sunni and Kurdish fighters on the ground, and for a no-fly zone over Northern Syria. 

"Our goal is not to deter or contain ISIS, but to defeat and destroy ISIS," Clinton said. 

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