Hillary Clinton’s re-emergence from private life this fall to promote her new book could provide President Trump with an opportunity to square off once more against his former rival, who has already begun sharing excerpts from her book that reflect poorly on the president.
But Clinton’s return to the spotlight could also tempt Trump to launch attacks against her that ultimately backfire, particularly if they reinforce her argument that sexism and political tricks helped rob her of the presidency.
Clinton unveiled on Monday the details of her upcoming tour to promote What Happened, a book sharing her thoughts about why she lost the 2016 election. The tour will take her from Washington, D.C., where she is slated to hold her first event on Sept. 18, through several of the states she unexpectedly lost to Trump and wrap up in Vancouver, Canada on Dec. 13.
“The president has to play this right. I’m not sure if he will,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist. “The worst thing he can do is make Hillary into a hero.”
The first glimpse of Clinton’s new book featured a snippet from her description of the second presidential debate last year, during which both candidates stood and moved around a stage for much of the event. Clinton said her “skin crawled” when Trump, whom she called a “creep,” stood near her.
The excerpt stoked anticipation for What Happened and led to speculation about how much of the book will focus on Trump’s campaign-era antics rather than the Clinton campaign’s own mistakes.
“I think that Hillary makes a pretty nice little target for Trump,” Feehery said of Clinton’s upcoming book tour. “For the president, it’s fine to rile up the base, but I think what I would do is keep reminding voters that she kept calling a big segment of the population deplorable, and she wasn’t just talking about white supremacists. She was talking about everybody that voted for Trump.”
Attacks on women’s looks or intelligence have repeatedly ensnared Trump in ethical thickets. For example, Trump’s tirade against Megyn Kelly, the then-Fox News journalist who asked him tough questions during a GOP primary debate last year, led to widespread condemnation after he hinted that Kelly’s menstrual cycle could have been to blame for her harsh line of questioning.
Trump weathered intense criticism after he tweeted an unflattering picture of Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife next to a beautiful photograph of his own.
More recently, the president has gone after MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, whom he described as “dumb as a rock” after claiming he rejected her from a party due to the appearance of her face post-plastic surgery.
“He can’t make her sympathetic,” Feehery said of how Trump should approach Clinton during the book tour.
The president’s famously acerbic barbs have found their way to everyone from House Speaker Paul Ryan to Pope Francis since the start of the presidential campaign, and no one has absorbed more heat from Trump than Clinton.
Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist, suggested Republicans may be eager for Clinton to resurface because she could draw the president’s wrath away from areas where he could do damage to their agenda.
“Democrats want Hillary Clinton to just go away, but Republicans are more than delighted for an encore,” O’Connell said. “Remember, Hillary is still one of the few political figures around whom every wing of the Republican Party can unify in terms of contempt.”
Clinton’s team has vowed that the 15 stops on her book tour will feature an unvarnished version of the candidate who has suffered years of criticism for her reticence.
“What you’ll see will be her story — Live,” read a description of her inaugural lecture in Washington next month.
“For the first time, Hillary Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history,” said the description, which was published Monday. “Now free from the constraints of running, Hillary takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules.”
Trump has earned a reputation for returning fire from anyone he perceives as an offender. His aggressive style has already alienated many of the lawmakers on whom he will soon rely to pass tax reform and secure funding for his border wall, two of the campaign promises he vowed to deliver this year.
Although some observers think Clinton’s impending attacks on Trump are virtually guaranteed to provoke a response from him, some Republicans have expressed doubt that Trump will come out on top of the two-month tour.
“I think there’s a lot of downside for Trump, just because the press really wanted Hillary,” Feehery said.”I think the other downside for the president is if she appears more presidential than he does, then it will lead to a lot of buyer’s remorse from some voters.”
This post originally appeared on Washington Examiner