The First Draft: Hillary Clinton’s bad day
Secretary of State Clinton’s bad day started Monday in Kinshasa, in the middle of a grueling African trip, when a translator goofed and made it sound as if a questioner wanted to know what Clinton’s husband Bill thought of a particular issue. While on this tour, she’d already had to comment on the former president’s humanitarian mission to free to U.S. journalists from North Korea, and basically, she’d had about enough.
Read a just-the-facts Reuters story on what happened here and watch the video below.
But because the Clintons are the Clintons, with a long history in the public eye, that was hardly the end of it. Tuesday morning television — CNN, ABC, NBC, others — replayed the video of Hillary Clinton snapping at the student questioner: “You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion, I am not going to be channeling my husband.” It was a five-star video on YouTube.
Back at the State Department, Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley acknowledged that the question, however poorly it was translated — the questioner wanted to know what President Barack Obama thought, not former President Clinton — struck a nerve. Crowley told CNN that her reaction had to be taken in the context of her African trip, where she has worked to draw attention to the plight of women who are victims of rape as a weapon of war in Congo.
“If Africa, if Congo is going to advance, women have to play a more significant role. She was in the setting of a town hall, and the questioner was interested in what two men thought, not the secretary of state,” Crowley said.
No question about it, Hillary Clinton is a polarizing figure. But whatever you think, being secretary of state is challenging enough, especially on an exhausting trip to a continent with critical diplomatic issues, without being second-guessed about how she feels when asked questions involving her high-profile husband or the man she ran against who is now president.
Or is she fair game, no matter what the circumstances?
In domestic U.S. politics, Obama heads for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for a town hall meeting on health care. Fireworks possible.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Joe Bavier (Hillary Clinton in Kinshasa, August 10, 2009)