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Back in the spotlight, Hillary Clinton refocuses on policy and politics — and a familiar foe

Back in the spotlight, Hillary Clinton refocuses on policy and politics — and a familiar foe
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves to students and guests while receiving a standing ovation before delivering remarks at Georgetown University. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton is playing to form as she edges her way back into the spotlight, choosing venues cautiously, picking words deliberately and all but ignoring President Trump's ongoing Twitter attacks against her, months after he beat the Democratic presidential nominee.

But just like Donald Trump, the rest of the nation still appears preoccupied with the former secretary of State.

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Her bolder wardrobe and new coiffure rated a Vanity Fair analysis. A new indie film has been inspired by stories the Clintons told during the campaign of her gap year in Alaska, where she said she worked in a cannery scooping eggs out of slimy fish. (Like all flattering Clinton anecdotes, the veracity of this one has its challengers on the right.)

Films, TV shows and books inspired by Clinton's historic electoral meltdown will roll out in the coming months.

With all that, Clinton herself is gingerly stepping back into public view, emerging from the woods near her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., where for a while after the election, selfies snapped by fellow hikers who bumped into Clinton's entourage were her only public sightings.

On Friday, Clinton took center stage at Georgetown University. Much has changed since the campaign, but Clinton's style hasn't. She even used one of her favorite punchlines from the stump while forcefully offering Trump some unsolicited advice on the White House budget plan.

The remarks came as Clinton was invited by the university's Institute for Women, Peace and Security to bestow an award named in her honor to Colombian leaders who helped bring an end to war in that country and elevate the role of women in the peace process.

Clinton spoke of the progress the world has made in advancing women's rights since she addressed world leaders on that issue two decades ago at the historic U.N. gathering in Beijing. But she warned that progress is threatened by Trump.

"We are seeing signals of a shift that should alarm us all," Clinton said. "This administration's proposed cuts to international health, development and diplomacy would be a blow to women and children, and a grave mistake for our country."

Clinton then raised the letter signed by 120 former generals and admirals beseeching the Trump administration not to make the cuts.

"These distinguished men and women who have served in uniform recognize that turning our back on diplomacy won't make our country safer. It will undermine our security and our standing in the world."

As Clinton began to discuss the details of a study in order to back up her point about the damage Trump's budget plan could do, she turned to a familiar line from the campaign.

"Here I go again," Clinton said to whooping and cheering from an audience of mostly female students, "talking about research, evidence and facts."

The Georgetown talk came days after an address to the Professional BusinessWomen of California San Francisco, where Clinton prodded the Trump administration for its treatment of women. She chastised White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for scolding journalist April Ryan, an African American, to stop shaking her head during an exchange in the White House briefing room.

She expressed outrage at the photo that went viral on Twitter showing not a single woman represented at the White House meeting where Vice President Mike Pence strategized how to cut women's care as part of their failed plan to salvage the Obamacare repeal.

And she took aim at Trump — without naming him — for having fewer women in Cabinet-level posts than any White House in a generation.

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But even with the weight of the campaign gone, Clinton prefers to stay on script. If her many fans in the audience at Georgetown – some of whom lined up as early as 4:30 a.m. to get a seat — were hoping to hear more than a prepared speech, they left disappointed. Clinton did not participate in the question-and-answer session that followed the awards ceremony.

When 700 people crowded into the ballroom and overflow room at a Hilton in Scranton, Pa., to hear Clinton address a women's group on St. Patrick's Day, they didn't hear much about politics. Clinton spoke mostly about her family's connection to Scranton and spending summers there as a child. At the end she promised she would be making herself more visible and talking about issues in the weeks to come.

She is certainly not doing it on Trump's timetable. His tweet Monday night, that the House Intelligence Committee probing his campaign's ties to Russian meddling in the election should instead be looking at the Clintons, merited no response on Clinton's Twitter account.

But while Trump can't get Clinton to engage, one of his least favorite news organizations is apparently having more success. On Thursday, Clinton will be on stage at Lincoln Center in New York for Tina Brown's Women in the World summit, held in association with the New York Times. There, she will be in "conversation" with columnist Nicholas Kristof. Presumably that involves answering unscripted questions.

Follow me: @evanhalper

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