WASHINGTON – As if a peaceful Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t enough of a challenge, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had to spend her holiday chasing an even more unattainable ideal: peace in the Mideast.
So Clinton left her and President Obama’s trip to Asia and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. She met with President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt. She met with the Palestinian Authority. The result was a cease-fire that got photos of teddy bears amid rubble off the front page.
Like too many of her achievements, however, this one was soon spoiled – or at least overshadowed – by a man: Morsi essentially declared himself above the law. Clinton is used to men complicating her life, notably her husband, Bill, and then-senator Barack Obama.
In the annals of those who pick themselves up and dust themselves off, Hillary has no peer – unless it is Bill. They now rest at (she) and near (he) the top of lists of the Most Admired Woman and Man in the World.
Hillary got there in part by merely showing up, which is a lot of what being secretary of state is about. When she touched down in Latvia in June, she became the first secretary of state to visit more than 100 countries. She gets credit for handling the crisis in Libya and took responsibility when the U.S. Consulate there was attacked.
As a first lady then as the junior senator from New York, Clinton is used to standing one step behind. There has to be lingering tension between Clinton and Obama, but it is hard to find. Their troubled history unites them. The eight-hour flight between Thailand and Myanmar was spent, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said, reminiscing on Air Force One.
Before Clinton was the most admired woman in the world, she was the most fascinating. If being the first failed former-first-lady presidential candidate was hard, it was no worse than living through the impeachment of her husband.
I covered the White House in the 1990s, when klieg lights in the driveway turned night into day, and I had to constantly remind myself that a human being lives here, as Philip Roth wrote in his fictionalized version of Clinton’s trials. Was there anyone back then who thought the Clintons would emerge whole, much less thriving?
In an interview with CNN in May, Clinton talked about her post-public career, catching up on sleep and taking walks without an entourage. If I want to wear my glasses, I’m wearing my glasses, she said. If I want to wear my hair back, I’m pulling my hair back. You know, at some point it’s just not something that deserves a lot of time and attention, and if others want to worry about it, I’ll let them do the worrying for a change.
Spoken like a woman who has found peace in her life, if not the world. If she decides to run for president, of course, she’ll have to deal with all the political (and apolitical) trivia: whether she’s too old or too liberal or should wear a ponytail. Until then, I prefer to think of her as the woman who brought peace, or at least a week of it, to the Mideast.