Thursday, August 13, 2009

Clinton’s Flash of Pique in Congo

Hillary Rodham Clinton in Africa

It was hot. She was tired. And it had been a long day in Africa.

And the media has made her remark the story. All the other things she has done have been buried under the trivial.

After the forum, her aides told the traveling press corps that there might have been a mistranslation, and that the student actually wanted to know the opinion of her boss, not her husband. But that interpretation did not dispel the controversy either, since it gave new life to the nagging question of whether Mrs. Clinton felt marginalized in the Obama administration.

Palace intrigue seems more important than substantive issues.

Her talk with the students had started out friendly enough, with questions about human rights and the environment. But it got a little edgy when several students pushed her on why Congo, whose first prime minister was ousted with the help of the C.I.A., should now trust the United States. She then became a little prickly.

the hubbub seemed to drain Mrs. Clinton. Until then, she had seemed impervious to the jet lag that was stalking her entourage from the moment they plopped down in Kenya. But on Tuesday, especially after meeting Congolese rape victims and touring a squalid refugee camp where thousands of people lived cheek by sunken cheek, Mrs. Clinton seemed enervated. Perhaps it was the sight of so many civilians suffering from a conflict the world has failed to stop. She said a few words on the plane ride back from Congo, but her language was not as emotional as it had been, or as urgent.

No matter the issues she was talking about — encouraging good governing, ending Africa’s wars, lifting women up from their lowly position in a place like Congo. The interest in this trip, it seemed, was not about the problems facing Africa. It was about her.

As one journalist covering her trip put it: “She is a celebrity. We have a celebrity secretary of state. When you have a celebrity, you get celebrity coverage.”

What does say about the media covering her? Nothing good about that media covering her.

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