Her Brilliant Career

There's a long profile of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December's Vogue, "Her Brilliant Career," which I highly recommend reading. It has some of the same problems that most profiles of Clinton (and other prominent women have): What I would call merely basic decency or thoughtfulness or empathy shown by any nice person is, when demonstrated by Hillary Clinton and viewed by a male reporter, called "mothering." But there is much to appreciate in the piece, too.

I really liked this, which underlines the experience I wrote about here:
Clinton, a woman from politics, knows how to work a crowd. Sometimes her motorcade would arrive and she would jump out and just plunge right in, getting out ahead of her security team, who often looked a little panicked. She danced her funky little dance at the dinners held in her honor (as seen on YouTube). In Cape Town, she threw a party for the press and drank with the best of us, talking for more than two hours, into the night, with surprising off-the-record candor about everything from her husband to her disdain for certain world leaders. She's fun. She laughs at herself. And she is full of surprisingly sharp, pointy little retorts, barbs, and comebacks. On several occasions she drifted to the back of the plane, allowing zesty debates to flower, often asking, "What's your take?" of different reporters, who hung on her every word. One of them told me his opinion of Hillary had completely turned around: "My parents hated her, and I thought she was a bitch who surrounded herself with horrible people. But she's nice! She's really frank and blunt and funny. … I like her."
And this:
There were so many strange and sublime moments on this trip: a woman farmer in a cornfield outside Nairobi squealing with delight when she met Clinton, "I am one of the women you speak about all the time! You are meeting me! And I have met Hillary Clinton!" A handshake from Sheikh Sharif, the president of Somalia, that clearly moved Clinton. "He was very touching," she says. "He had immense dignity, coming to me publicly, a representative of both the United States and a woman." A moment in Pretoria when a reporter asked the South African minister of foreign affairs, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (who oddly enough looked a bit like Clinton in her robust bearing and bright colors), what has changed about South Africa's relations with the United States and she shot back with an edge in her voice, "The zeal and passion that Hillary Clinton brings to the relationship is what has changed!" Clinton speaking to a group of African businessmen: "Because people are poor doesn't mean that they don't have any money."

The most extraordinary day of the entire trip was a testament to this very idea, what Clinton calls "smart power," and it is something she is very passionate about: that the micro-economies of the poor are deeply important, and when the so-called soft issues—violence against women, food safety and agriculture, sustainable development—are not tended to, the result is chaos, instability, conflict, and war. The Victoria Mxenge housing development, a project outside Cape Town started by a few homeless women who were living on the side of the road with their children, has grown through microloans into a sprawling 50,000-home development. Clinton had visited as First Lady in 1997 and then brought President Clinton back a year later. When her motorcade arrived there on a glorious Saturday afternoon, she was met by a ragtag brass band that had a New Orleans vibe, women ululating at the top of their lungs, choral singers, and dancers, and it all added up to an explosion of joy—a happy chaos. Hundreds of people behind barricades screamed and pushed and reached out to touch Clinton as she ran along the line; some of the women were in tears. One of them yelled, "It is so nice to see you again!" Clinton was ebullient. Caroline Adler, a young State Department staffer, said, "She gets crowds wherever she goes. But this? This is unique. This feels like euphoria."
If you read nothing else, read the last few paragraphs that begin with "Two hours later, my phone rings. Clinton would like to do the interview…"

[H/T to Historiann.]

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