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Monday, August 10, 2009

Hillary Clinton In the Congo

By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer, "Clinton: I'm Secretary of State, not Bill"

KINSHASA, Congo – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's temper flared on Monday when a Congolese university student asked for her husband's thinking on an international matter.

"My husband is not secretary of state. I am," an obviously annoyed Clinton replied sharply.

A week after former President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea to secure the release of two detained American journalists and stole the limelight from the start of his wife's first trip to Africa, Clinton was clearly nettled by the question at a town hall forum in Kinshasa.

"You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?" she replied incredulously when the male student asked her what "Mr. Clinton" thought of World Bank concerns about a multibillion-dollar Chinese loan offer to the Democratic Republic of Congo. . "If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband," she said.

The only problem? Apparently the translator made a mistake and the student had wanted to know what President Obama thought of the deal. A State Department official tells ABC News the student went up to Clinton after the event and told her he was misquoted. No immediate word yet how Clinton responded.

Just last week President Clinton stole his wife's thunder when he went to North Korea to rescue two American journalists retained there. His trip came just as Secretary Clinton embarked on a swing through Africa she hoped would shine light on the plight of the continent. Does she really resent having Bill as an ex-President backseat driver? Is she afraid of just being seen by the international community as an ex-President's wife?

It seems the Clintons may be fussing again over who really wears the pants in the family. From the tone of the conversation, Hillary doesn't condone Bill's meddlesome ways in State affairs. And, some would think the former President deserves a little more respect in matters of opinion. After all, with eight years of experience as the leader of the free world, Bill would be a logical candidate for consulting and possible negotiating.

During the Democratic primary, Clinton was often accused by aides to Obama of inflating or over-dramatizing her foreign policy experience. So, did President Obama offer her the Secretary of State position to take her away from the domestic issues, like health care reform, that she seemed poised to tackle as one of the Senate's leading Democrats. She is " in the tent" but also out of the way, focusing on foreign problems while leaving President Obama to concentrate on the economy, his top priority.

Is Hillary still distancing herself from stories raising questions about the web of personal and financial associations around Bill Clinton. Since leaving the presidency, he has traveled the globe to exotic places and with sometimes exotic characters, raising money for projects such as his foundation and presidential library and making himself a very wealthy man.

The work of the Clinton Foundation is a unique complication that has to be managed with great care and transparency, especially with Hillary in her unique position. Its stated mission is to "strengthen the capacity of people throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence." Questionable donors include Blackwater Worldwide Training Center, Freddie Mac Mortgage Company, Amar Singh, and Gilbert Chagoury.

Senator Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican whom some thought might make a good secretary of state for the Democratic president, stated, "Foreign powers might view the foundation as a doorway to the State Department, Lugar noted. It "exists as a temptation for any foreign power or entity that believes it can curry favor with a donation,'' he said. "Every new donation that is accepted by the foundatin comes with a risk'' of its perception of an impact on U.S. foreign policy.

And, of course, there's the ghost of Monica. Did Hillary stay with Bill after the Monica Lewinsky scandal because she had been planning to run for President herself and figured that Bill would be good resource by her side? Who knows? Maybe she regrets her course of action now while working in Bill's long shadow, or maybe she feels unable to corral Bill's personal ambitions and need for celebrity.

In her Nomination Hearing to be Secretary of State, Hillary said, "I believe that American leadership has been wanting, but is still wanted. We must use what has been called “smart power”: the full range of tools at our disposal -- diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural -- picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation." Maybe the combination of tools in the marriage isn't working as "smartly" as Hillary would like. Or, perhaps, Bill's tool is just no longer at Hillary's disposal.

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