Entry from August 11, 2009

Is it me, or did Hillary Clinton sound just the tiniest bit defensive when she thought a Congolese student had asked her about Bill Clinton’s view of the offer of a Chinese loan to the Congo’s government? No, others appear to have noticed it as well. Here’s how The Times of London reported the incident:

Less than a week after the former US President stole his wife’s thunder by securing the release of two American journalists detained in North Korea, Mrs Clinton, the US Secretary of State, snapped when asked about her husband’s opinion by a university student during her seven-nation African tour. . .”Wait, you want me to tell you what my husband thinks?” an incredulous Mrs Clinton said, before adding sternly: “My husband is not the Secretary of State, I am.” As the crowd collectively gasped and some began to applaud, Mrs Clinton continued. “You ask my opinion I will tell you my opinion, I’m not going to be channelling my husband,” she said.

The Times was hinting that, as her arrival in Africa had coincided with her husband’s supposed diplomatic triumph in North Korea, Mrs Clinton must have felt overshadowed yet again by the “big dog” who has been standing between her and the public spotlight all her adult life. Without him to stand in her way, she might have been so beloved.

For his toadying to a dictator and mass murderer in order to gain the release of the two hostages certainly had produced another gush of adulation in the media — and perhaps especially from the chick media. Thus Maureen Dowd in The New York Times:

Kim Jong-il’s bright smiles were not returned by Bill Clinton. It was strange to see the reclusive Kim so eager and the raffish Clinton so disciplined. Yet the grinning North Korean and stony-faced American were no doubt both savoring their moment of mutual relevance. . .It was a moment unique in the annals of diplomacy. Bill was being hailed as a dazzling statesman who might have changed the stormy weather between the U.S. and North Korea, just as Hillary was beginning an 11-day trip to Africa designed to highlight the subjects she most cares about: do-gooder development and women’s issues.

Robin Givhan in The Washington Post: also praised Mr Clinton’s restraint, which (she says)

sent the message that while the president was in Pyongyang for emphatically humanitarian purposes, his heart and soul had not come along for the ride. This was pure pragmatism. . .People are nothing if not the sum of their emotional selves. And for a little less than 24 hours in North Korea, on his humanitarian mission, the former president was willing to let his title and his stature do the talking, while the man disappeared.

To the gossip girls of American journalism like the Mses Dowd and Givhan as to Jon Stewart Bill Clinton is “the most interesting man in the world.” Why should this be? I think it is because he makes it so easy for them to suppose he is giving them a glimpse behind the public façade into that “emotional self” that Robin Givhan supposes is his authentic being. So grateful are they for this illusion of knowledge, that they won’t hear of any doubts that maybe it was a bit unwise for Mr Clinton to allow Kim Jong Il to use him to raise his stature in the world. Mr Stewart ridicules the idea while Miss Dowd dismisses it: “Conservatives were screeching, naturally, that the Clinton trip would provide propaganda cover to the North Koreans to continue their nuclear shell game. . .But the former Bush bullies [like former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton] have no credibility on diplomacy” — even, presumably, if they are right — and don’t show up well against the “dazzling” Bill Clinton. This is where celebrity politics has brought us, and it’s getting to be almost enough to make me feel sympathy for Hillary Clinton.

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