Once she gets that Bernie Sanders guy out of the way—a task that is becoming much, much harder than she ever imagined—Hillary Clinton is ready to take the gloves off with Donald Trump.
If the reality show billionaire manages to win the Republican presidential nomination, and “if I’m fortunate enough to be the Democratic nominee,” Clinton declared on Thursday night ‘s installment of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, “it’ll be quite the showdown. Yeah.”
The real estate mogul, in fact, had been Fallon’s guest on Monday’s program, so the late-night comic favored the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state with his patented Trump impression, along the Republican frontrunner’s saber-rattling remark that “I haven’t even started on Hillary yet.”
“Does he intimidate you?” Fallon asked.
Clinton—whose celebrity status is at least the equal of The Donald’s—waited a beat, flashed her eyes dismissively and answered with a barely audible “No” that produced the looked-for laugh from the studio audience.
“Tell you what—he’s a lot more obsessed with me than I am with him,” Clinton added—a comment no doubt designed to provoke a Twitter tirade from the thatch-roofed, tough-talking tyro politician. (Earlier, Fallon had joked during the monologue: “There are four stars in the universe named after Donald Trump. A burning ball of hot air has stars named after him.”)
As with her last appearance with Fallon in September—also, by no coincidence, on the night of a Republican presidential debate, a bit of calculated counterprogramming—Clinton’s mission was to present herself as likable enough, especially now that the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary are mere days away.
She laughed and laughed at Fallon’s impression of her husband Bill, shared her techniques for staying awake when she hasn’t been given time to sleep (“I dig my fingernails into my palm”), confided her granddaughter Charlotte’s fixation on the Sesame Street character Elmo (and did a pretty fair impression of the Elmo doll that she gave Charlotte for Christmas), and even sat for a few selfies with Fallon, which the talk show host immediately posted on the candidate’s Snapchat account (one with animated cartoon-character springs sprouting out of his eyeballs).
At one point, Fallon was so close to Clinton during a selfie pose that he practically sat in her lap. “If you recognize the cologne, it’s the Axe Effect,” he lewdly advised—prompting a fusillade of Clintonian giggles.
Clinton, 68, continues to suffer from a trust deficit with voters who read daily about her email troubles and the FBI investigation of same, and are put off by her ideological flexibility and air of perpetual premeditation.
Fallon couldn’t resist a gentle jape about Clinton’s troubles in the monologue: “Backstage she told me she’s a huge fan of the show and I told her, ‘Yeah, I know, I read it in your emails.’”
Recent polls show that 74-year-old Vermont senator Sanders, an avowed socialist with a Brooklyn accent and crazy white hair, is within striking distance in Iowa and beating her soundly in New Hampshire—an unimaginable circumstance and potential catastrophe, if realized, that seems to be scaring the bejeezus out of Clinton’s combat-hardened campaign operatives.
In a display of either admirable grit or virtuosic insincerity, maybe a bit of both, Clinton affected not to be rattled when Fallon—who was polite enough to introduce her as the “leading candidate” and “Democratic frontrunner”—asked about her rapidly shrinking advantage in the race for the White House.
“We’re in a tight race,” Clinton said, adding that she never really credited those early polls—“that’s really artificial”—that had her running with seemingly insurmountable double-digit leads over Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley. “I’m excited,” she added brightly, grinning an electric grin. “This is not a job they give away. You really have to work hard for it.”
O’Malley, poor man, is so far behind that he’s barely a speck in the rear-view mirror; Fallon mistakenly suggested that it would only be Clinton and Sanders facing off in Sunday’s Democratic debate in Charleston, South Carolina, to be carried on NBC, and Clinton was compelled to correct him.
“Governor O’Malley’s there too,” she said—a comment that inspired cruel laughter among a group of political reporters who were screening a live feed of the taping a few floors above the Tonight Show studio in Rockefeller Center.
Just like Trump on Monday, Clinton ended her appearance by submitting to a mock job interview, with Fallon firing questions that he read off of a clipboard.
How did she hear about the position?
“Fourth Grade social studies.”
Why is she suited for the job?
“I think I have the experience, the qualifications to tackle the range of challenges this job presents…And I have references.”
Why does she want it?
“I really care what happens to our country,” and so on and so forth.
What are her strengths?
“I’m tenacious. I’m determined. I’ve gotten results.”
At which point Fallon demanded: “Can you type?”
Amid the audience laughter, Clinton said, “I can in a pinch,” and then embarked on a lengthy disquisition about typing on a keyboard versus an iPhone and her frustration with the annoying autocorrect feature that overrides eccentric spellings and produces words that have zero to do with anything.
“We’re interviewing you,” Fallon interrupted. “You’re chatty,” he added, to more laughter. “You’re Chatty Cathy!”
Describe yourself in two words, he instructed.
“Strong. Focused,” she answered after some thought.
“And lastly,” Fallon declared, “is there an email address where we can reach you?”
Clinton chuckled gamely and slapped her hand several times on Fallon’s desk. One had to wonder if there was any place else she might have wanted to wield it.