Financial Times Interview with Secretary Clinton
Financial Times has a nice, long article on Secretary Clinton, here is an excerpt but definitely go check out the whole thing:
…But this is a campaign without a vote. Today, Clinton’s convoy is snaking through São Paulo, Brazil, not South Hampton, New Hampshire. She herself is no longer an aspirant for the White House, despite what the overnight flights, town hall meetings and strategy sessions that make up her gruelling schedule might suggest. Instead, she is in Latin America to shore up relations with the region and promote a new idea of US leadership, one very much built around herself.
In the convoy moments before, she was wrapped in a shawl, suffering from a cold and angry at the delays that pushed us into the side streets speckled with box-like bars, warehouses and love hotels while Brazilian motorists sought to cut into our path. There is no sign of that now. With the metabolism of a born politician, she feeds off the energy of her audience and takes questions from students, teachers and local celebrities for an hour. Hillary Clinton never looks happier than when she is centre stage.
Most US secretaries of state wouldn’t bother with this sort of event, much less initiate it and arrange for it to be screened on the biggest local channel. Yet this is what Clinton does on almost every foreign trip – and she seems to spend half her life on her official 727, crammed with long-time aides and armed bodyguards. The schedule is backbreaking and constantly shifting. She has notched up more than a quarter of a million miles since taking office.
“We now have a case to make and it is not just a case that is made to the president or the prime minister or the foreign minister or an ambassador,” she tells me a few weeks later, as she perches on a sofa in her expansive office, with its view of the Lincoln Memorial. “People now have a voice and an opinion and a vote in many instances on the direction that their own societies take … I want to model a different kind of leadership that is open and willing to listen but [also] to stand our ground if necessary.”
She argues that these trips of hers help to restore the US’s image in the wake of the Bush administration – by making contact with public opinion abroad, and so boosting American power. Her aides say that, as a battle-hardened politician who also happens to be one of the most famous women in the world, she is ideally placed to carry out the task. But the deeper question is whether she is merely implementing the foreign policy crafted by Barack Obama, her boss and former rival, or whether her role – and ambitions – go beyond that.
Is she a kind of saleswoman-in-chief for the US, I ask? “Well, I think that is part of the job,” she replies, toying with the napkin underneath her glass of water. “If you are making a case for American values and for American leadership, you have to make it where people now get information … Given the bridges we had to build and some of the repair work we had to do, we had to travel.”
As in São Paulo, her system is under strain – “I’ve been fighting this all day,” she says as she masks a cough set off by her allergies (Washington’s cherry blossom trees are shedding their flowers). Life is still hectic – the volcanic ash cloud has just all but paralysed Europe and televisions throughout the State Department are showing the first British election debate. But Clinton remains enthusiastic, affable and unhurried, her speech peppered with exclamations such as “oh my gosh”, even as she discusses issues of state. She politely asks if I have any updates for her about Europe’s airspace shutdown and tells me she’s been talking to Norway’s foreign minister about it.
“He said that this dust gets into engines of any size, even Air Force One – it’s chunky! I don’t know how else to describe it,” she says, an odd note of hilarity entering her voice as she pronounces the word “chunky”.
Clinton often speaks in this eager, unvarnished way – a world away from the clipped, on-message manner of her immediate predecessor in the post, Condoleezza Rice. If anything, she is an undiplomat – known less for calibrated circumlocutions than for her plain speaking and sometimes her gaffes, a woman who retains both a formidable political constituency and a laugh she once admitted can send cats scurrying from a room.
See the rest here.