Stateside Hillary


She has been an excellent Secretary of State, no doubt.

Head of State
"We were in a very difficult position because we had pushed their system just about to the breaking point," recalled a senior official who was present. "We knew it, they knew it, and they knew we knew it." ..... with Chen even dialing in to a U.S. congressional hearing that Thursday by cell phone from his hospital bed to say he feared for his safety if he remained in China. The Chinese team was visibly surprised. ...... Clinton and her aides were being pilloried at home by everyone from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to the human rights community for abandoning Chen at the hospital. And the secretary was still worried about the deal. "Until he's actually out and up with his family," she told me, "it's still touch and go." ...... her own journey from idealistic human rights crusader to hardheaded global diplomat...... Back in 1995, on her first trip to Beijing as first lady, Clinton's impassioned speech declaring "women's rights are human rights" was so inflammatory the Chinese blacked out the broadcast. By 2009, when she made her first visit as secretary of state, she was determined to avoid that kind of controversy -- so determined, in fact, that she created one by declaring that human rights was just one of many issues she would raise with her Chinese counterparts. ...... Nearly every person I spoke with called Clinton a pragmatist, a doer, a person who likes to make things happen. ...... can you imagine Kissinger today getting away with covertly leaving Pakistan for China and simply disappearing from the public radar for two days? It's just not possible in the age of Twitter. ...... the most globe-trotting secretary of state ever but also the most popular national politician in America, with approval ratings standing in the high 60s ...... inescapable in American public life after more than two decades in the spotlight, increasingly celebrated as a class act who has managed to reinvent herself, yet again, from losing presidential aspirant to world-class problem-solver ...... the tabloids still put her on the front pages when she changes her hairstyle -- again! - .... The old Hillary wouldn't have known what Tumblr was, or would have feared she was being mocked by it. The new Hillary submitted a joke text of her own to the site's twentysomething creators, signing it, "Thanks for the many LOLZ Hillary 'Hillz.'" ...... Will she run in 2016? ..... many Democratic insiders told me they believe the nomination is hers for the taking. ...... will be an object of presidential curiosity "literally until the day that somebody clinches enough delegates to get the nomination." ..... Clinton gets big points for style and for taking her brand of "people to people" diplomacy international at a time when America desperately needed just her kind of star power to revive an image tarnished by a near decade of George W. Bush's cowboy unilateralism. ...... they can't help disdaining her focus on issues such as women's rights and development economics -- surely not the stuff of real diplomacy -- and see her attention to them as proof of how marginalized she's been by the Obama White House on the geopolitics that count ..... Her traveling press corps may roll their eyes; her exhausted aides may barely look up from their BlackBerrys. But there is Clinton, upbeat and chipper. ..... Clinton is an adept behind-the-scenes operator, a tough negotiator not afraid to play the bad cop -- or make fun of the macho posturings of her many tough-guy interlocutors. ...... Not necessarily Clinton as she'd like to be, but of what she has chosen to do in the world as she's found it. ..... an emotional three-hour meeting she recently had with one of her heroes, Aung San Suu Kyi. ...... "When I was first lady," recalled Clinton, "I could say anything I wanted to say, and I often did." Here she stopped for one of her trademark deep laughs before adding, "for better or worse." ...... Her shape-shifting career guarantees that Clinton will be criticized at every turn, but it also gives her the opportunity, as she noted about Aung San Suu Kyi, "to put into practice everything she's been thinking about and working on her entire adult life." ..... WHEN BARACK OBAMA SHOCKED everyone -- including his own campaign team -- by asking Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state in late 2008, many of the new president's foreign-policy advisors were furious. "She was the enemy," one of them recently recalled. "People rightly worried that the Clintonistas would all come back in force.… We didn't know if we could trust them." ....... In addition to the hostility from Obama's White House team, Clinton was a novice in international affairs; she had no background in diplomacy, speaks no foreign languages, and was mocked during the campaign for claiming that her foreign trips as first lady qualified her as a bona fide internationalist. And from the start, she appeared to be marginalized after Obama named a series of czars designated to handle most of the toughest issues of their shared agenda: diplomatic heavy-hitters like her old friend Richard Holbrooke for Afghanistan and Pakistan, seasoned envoy Dennis Ross for Iran, and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell for the Mideast peace talks. Even some of her advisors told me it was a steep learning curve -- the carefully calibrated language of diplomacy, said one, was a "dialect she wasn't fluent in." ...... Besides, Clinton was still personally reeling from the embarrassing defeat to Obama in the Democratic presidential primary. Not only had she squandered a frontrunner's lead -- and more than $13 million of her and husband Bill's money -- but sordid accounts of her campaign's self-destructive infighting and poor management seemed to reflect directly on Clinton's leadership abilities. ....... The two meet privately each week -- Tuesday afternoons, usually -- and "check signals" .... "You can see them influencing each other's views." .... But for all that, no one asserts that Clinton and Obama have forged more than a solid professional relationship. ..... Even the Arab Spring, the most dramatic rescrambling of the world order on their watch, has produced few opportunities for American leadership -- not to mention a confused, ambiguous series of outcomes, with fallen dictators in Egypt and Libya but also a bloody stalemate in Syria and the rise of unpredictable and often virulently anti-American Islamist political leaders across the region. ...... Then there's managing her inbox, where never a day goes by without some new global headache being added to the mix, a headache that will inevitably require a Clinton phone call or meeting or even being told by Obama to fly halfway around the world after just having gotten off a plane. ...... "the headlines and the trend lines." ..... In the second of what a participant called two "extensive conversations," Clinton made the decision. Let's do it, she said. ..... the intense "micromanagement" of the celebrity new diplomat did not end for some time. ...... she began working it relentlessly, showing up at an alphabet's soup worth of regional forums, proposing decidedly unglamorous new programs like a Lower Mekong Initiative ..... Clinton continued to work the Chinese too, promoting much more intense engagement than in the past. ..... part of a calculated plan that involved years of the secretary's "unsexy" diplomacy. .... WHEN THEY FIRST MET in 2009, Dai Bingguo famously greeted Hillary Clinton with the undiplomatic observation that she was "much prettier and much younger in person" than he had expected. ("We're going to get along just fine," she laughingly responded.) ....... From 10 p.m. on, an embassy official dialed Chen's number every 20 minutes, but never got through -- even though Chen managed to speak to many of his activist supporters and international news organizations, from Newsweek and Reuters to the Washington Post and New York Times. ...... Incredibly, Powell in 2001 was the first secretary even to have a computer on his desk. ..... "I have a certain level of understanding or sensitivity to what people's political problems are, even in authoritarian regimes, because everybody's got politics." ..... What would it take for her to run again for president in 2016? "Nothing," she replied quickly.
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