Hillary Clinton and I were going to Zoom. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.
Not four months ago, when the video communication platform was practically unheard of and the prospect of real life being replaced by some locked-down Zoomtopia would have been laughed off as preposterously far-fetched. Not 10 years ago, when news reports of the then Secretary of State getting tough on issues like Iran sanctions were often drowned out by heckles of, ‘What is she wearing?’ and, ‘Helmet hair!’ And not a decade prior to that, when I watched America’s First Lady stand beside her husband – numb-faced beneath the warpaint – as he uttered the words that would follow them both for years to come: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
Hillary Clinton and I didn’t Zoom, as it turned out – for which the 72-year-old is apologetic. “I have learnt how to Zoom,” she insists, on the phone from the Dutch-colonial mansion in Chappaqua, New York, that has been the family home since 1999 and the couple’s place of confinement during lockdown. “And we would have Zoomed today, but we only have one account and Bill had arranged a call at the same time.” It’s hard to feel usurped by one of the most popular US Presidents in history. And although I’ll never now get to see Clinton’s lockdown hair, I’ve got decades of mental imagery to accompany every political point she makes, every burst of Trump-directed rage, every joke and rich, head-thrown-back laugh.
That warmth and humour would have come as a surprise, had I not spent the previous days immersed in Hillary, a four-part documentary that sheds more light than ever on one of the most opaque and divisive women in public life. Directed by veteran documentarian Nanette Burstein, who spent 35 hours interviewing Clinton, the series splices archival clips from her career and 2016 presidential campaign with interviews with childhood friends and former staffers, President Obama, her husband and her daughter, Chelsea.