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Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton's book opens new chapter

As Hillary Clinton takes "What Happened" on the road, critics have questioned her need to return to the public spotlight. But as DW's Rachel Stewart learned, Clinton's fans appear to need this as much as she does.

"I think this is a good time for her to re-engage in the public spotlight,” says Kathleen Rhem. "We're not over the trauma, but we're coming to terms with the results of the election. I don't know that I could have sat through a speech or read her book even just a couple of months ago - but now I'm looking forward to it."

The 47-year-old has come to the sold-out opening night of Hillary Clinton's book tour, at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., with her friend Jennifer Labach. The two women met while volunteering for Clinton's unsuccessful presidential campaign last year.

Labach, 58, agrees that hearing Clinton discuss her new book will be "part of the healing process" for the campaign's supporters just as much as for Clinton herself.

"I don't want her to disappear," she adds. "I want her to stay in the limelight in whatever way she can."

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Fans in the capital lined up to attend her booking reading at the Warner Theatre

Hillary Clinton's reemergence less than a year after her dramatic loss has drawn mixed reactions - much like most of her time in the spotlight. Fans in the capital lined up to attend her booking reading at the Warner Theatre

Democrats' dirty laundry

In the run-up to the release of Clinton's latest book, "What Happened" - a dissection of the presidential campaign that saw her lose to Donald Trump - there has been much discussion about whether it is appropriate for her to air her thoughts on the matter so publicly, or if she should remain in the shadows with her tail between her legs. One Vanity Fair headline read "Can Hillary Clinton please go quietly into the night?”

Even some of Clinton's fellow Democrats have said that the 500-page memoir risks fueling infighting among Democrats by picking over the failed campaign. They argue that it would be in the party's best interests for her to simply move on.

Read more -No, most working class Americans didn't vote for Trump

"I know people say she shouldn't be out here, that she could be causing a rift," says 16-year-old Cole Peavy. "But I think it's important for her to be here, talking about the real issues that prevent women from breaking that glass ceiling."

The high school student from Silver Spring, Maryland, is wearing a top with a hand-painted portrait of Hillary Clinton on it. "My friend made it for me for Christmas!” he says proudly.

USA Cole Peavy bei der What Happened Tour von Hillary Clinton (DW/R. Stewart)

What happened? Well, this T-shirt for one thing. Cole Peavy, like many Clinton fans, have kept the hope alive for the former stateswoman all these months

Still 'with her'

These are the kinds of people who now fill the theater's 1,800-capacity auditorium. It's a mixed crowd in terms of age and gender, and every second person is sporting an "I'm with her" button or some other 2016 election paraphernalia. Many of them have seen Clinton live before, maybe even numerous times, on the campaign trail - and yet there is a sense of anticipation and excitement in the air, as if this is the first time they will catch a glimpse of their political hero.

Most people have paid a handsome sum for the privilege of being here; tickets for the tour, which is currently scheduled to visit 15 cities across North America by the end of the year, range from $50 (41 euros) to an eye-watering $3,000 for front-row seats and a backstage meet-and-greet.

Clinton, whom critics have accused of not being personable enough, has promised on this book tour: "I'm letting my guard down." On stage tonight she seems relaxed, perhaps feeling at ease in the company of interviewer Lissa Muscatine, who is both a friend and long-time Clinton speech writer. Muscatine was part of the team behind Clinton's iconic "women's rights are human rights" speech, delivered to the UN women's conference in Beijing in 1995.

A picture of Clinton's memoir with black and white cover

"What Happened" has drawn praise and criticism. On Amazon, the book drew roughy 1,500 reviews within hours of publication. The bookseller later noted that most of the comments came from users who had not purchased the memoir

Bots, trolls and Russians

Tonight, Clinton returns to the theme of women's empowerment. She insists that her accounts of the difficulties she has faced as a woman in high political office are not intended to discourage other women from following in her footsteps, but to "call out" this sexism and get people talking about the problem.

As well as gender discrimination, there are many other factors and "big forces" that Clinton believes kept her out of the Oval Office. In her book, and again on stage this evening, she lays into former FBI chief James Comey, the website WikiLeaks, the press, and "bots, trolls and Russians."

She has plenty of laughs at Donald Trump's expense - much to the partisan crowd's delight - but also warns soberly that President Trump and his administration pose "a clear and present danger to the future of our country."

In "What Happened" Clinton writes that the failure of Bernie Sanders, her main rival in the Democratic primaries, to pull out of the race sooner did lasting damage to her campaign. She also singles out former President Barack Obama - who beat her to the Democratic nomination in 2008 - for not doing enough to inform the public about evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

But on the book tour's opening night, Sanders doesn't feature at all in the discussion, and Obama gets a glowing review as an "extraordinarily supportive friend."

USA Hillary Clinton Buchvorstellung Warner Theatre in Washington (Reuters/J. Ernst)

Lissa Muscatine (right) was Clinton's speechwriter during her time as first lady and secretary of state

This audience shared in Clinton's grief last November. Now they roar in approval as Clinton says emphatically: "We're not going anywhere!"

The lasting impression of the evening is that this book is not about Clinton dwelling unnecessarily on the past, but rather it is an opportunity for her to make sense of her defeat and to move on - while encouraging her supporters to do the same.

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