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Le Nouvel Observateur, France

The Metamorphosis of Hillary Clinton



By Natacha Tatu

Against all expectations, Hillary Clinton got “cool.”

Translated By Naomi Solleveld

1 February 2013

Edited by Natalie Clager


France - Le Nouvel Observateur - Original Article (French)

The American secretary of state is leaving her job on Friday. Unpopular for so long, today she is in prime position for the race to the White House in 2016. For a long time, she was unpopular: too ambitious, too authoritative, too powerful at the White House. No matter how valiantly the former First Lady supported her womanizing husband during the Lewinsky affair and tried to cover up his escapades, she found it very difficult to win Americans' hearts. Her titanic health reform ended in fiasco. For the Republicans, the former First Lady is the leftist battle-axe par excellence, a “socialist,” as they so contemptuously described her, who doesn't know her place as “first wife” and campaigns, horror of horrors, in favor of abortion.

As for the Democrats, they don't really know what to think anymore. Who is she, this diplomat from Yale with her oversized teeth? An opportunist or a woman of conviction? Intelligent, determined, competent, yes, without any doubt. But is she likeable? She has neither Bill's charm, nor his charisma. In this eminently emotional political universe, she has never known, a little like Mitt Romney, how to be liked by her own camp. She has long paid the price for this. Her bitter campaign against Barack Obama during the Democratic primaries for the 2008 presidential elections did not come to anything. Yes, Hillary Rodham Clinton has come a long way.

Becoming “Cool” against All Expectations

Appointed secretary of state of the United States in 2008 at the age of 61, Bill's wife occupies the most exposed, most sensitive and most important post in the newly-elected president's team. And she certainly makes her mark here. She emerges from Bill's protective shadow, travels the world, visits 112 countries, takes part in 1,700 international summits, travels tens of thousands of kilometers, contends with the crisis in Libya, the Arab Spring, the progressive withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and, more recently, the tragedy of Benghazi, which cost the lives of a United States ambassador and three other Americans. She faces all this with courage, without failing or weakening under the Republicans' attacks. She is also at the forefront when it comes to other subjects such as women, poverty or the fight against AIDS. And the Americans, if somewhat dubiously at first, gradually began to see her in a new light, and even to admire her.

For her part, Hillary has also changed. In spite of her severe pantsuits and her unflattering haircuts, she has softened. When she is not dealing with war and diplomacy, this self-controlled, tough “executive woman” is learning how to express her feelings. By revealing something about her fertility problems, she showed her human side. In being (a little) self-deprecating, in using the social networks of which she was initially very wary, she is learning how to attract sympathy. She is less suspicious of the press. In short: Against all expectations, as Howard Hurtz of the “Daily Beast” puts it, Hillary Clinton got “cool.”

Personification of “The Clinton Belle Époque”

She knew how to rise above the rivalries, the old feuds and the tensions with Barack Obama, showing herself to be “one of the best secretaries of state the country has ever had” according to the president. They “did not socialize together” as she says, but they knew how to establish a real partnership. One cannot reproach her, on the contrary. As for the Republicans, she has shown herself to be pragmatic, still capable of overcoming partisan divides. And against all expectations, she began to personify, for Americans, “the Clinton belle époque,” a sort of golden age for America where there was no unemployment, where nobody spoke about debt or deficits, where U.S. industry worked like a charm.

Today she leaves the Harry Truman Building in Washington, as not only the most admired and most powerful woman in the country, but also the most popular political personality: 66 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of her, according to a Washington-Post ABC survey, carried out last December. Almost all of the Democrats (91 percent!), but also two thirds of the independents, and even 37 percent of the Republicans, with whom she is twice as popular as Barack Obama, consider that she did a good job. For the record, in 1988, 84 percent of the Republicans had a negative opinion of her, and 70 percent did not support her. Today, only 32 percent of them have a “very negative” opinion of her.

"Hillary-for-2016"

In short, she is in prime position for the race to the White House in 2016. Her popularity does not exceed only that of the Republicans, but also that of the vice-president Joe Biden, who has also been mentioned as a possible candidate in 2016. For the moment, she evades the issue every time the question is asked. “I'm really old-fashioned,” she said last fall. “I feel I have made my contribution. Now I want to try some other things. I want to write, teach, work on the issues affecting the world's women and young girls… I think that it's time for others to step up." Which says everything and nothing. She has never given the slightest indication of her intentions for 2016. But neither has she ever clearly ruled out her intention to enter the race.

Only one thing is certain: Those who speculated on her blood clot on the brain, in December, were doing it for their fees. During a hearing in mid-January, one whole day in which she was subjected to a flow of often very aggressive questions in front of Congress, she appeared stronger, clearer, more determined than ever, and even, let's say, straightforwardly impressive.

A super PAC, a support committee essential to candidates who can raise money for the campaign, has already been formed. It is entitled "Hillary-for-2016." Of course, on paper, she has nothing to do with this initiative. On paper…



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