At 66, most folks are looking to slow down a bit, reap the rewards of a lifetime of hard work, find a hammock, some sun, a bottle of wine, kick back. Then there’s Hillary Clinton. She’s not like the rest of us.
The former U.S. secretary of state and first lady doesn’t know the meaning of easing off the pedal. She’s giving as many speeches today as she ever did as a politician or diplomat, perhaps trying to stay sharp for what many believe is an inevitable second run for the White House.
Ms. Clinton was in Vancouver on Wednesday night to speak at an event sponsored by the Women’s Leadership Circle of the city’s Board of Trade. In a short speech – she charges $200,000 a pop, according to The New York Times – she kept her remarks mostly focused on empowerment and the increasingly important role women are playing in politics and business around the globe. There is still a way to go, she said, and as long as she’s alive, she intends to fight to see more girls and women get the opportunities she’s had.
For most in attendance, Ms. Clinton is an icon and a role model, an alpha female who’s intimidated by no one and who believes that the human brain is the world’s greatest weapon. While her speech wasn’t particularly captivating, she delivered it with ease and grace and gave the majority of her audience what it was looking for: hope and inspiration.
Afterward, she took questions from former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, who asked her about Ukraine. The former secretary of state gave the audience a history of the region, but stopped short of repeating the incendiary remarks she made earlier this week about Crimea. During a speech in California, Ms. Clinton said Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia on much the same pretext Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered for his intrusion in Ukraine.
Ms. Clinton won worldwide respect for the job she did at the U.S. State Department. In her four-year stint, she travelled to more than 80 countries touting the benefits of “smart power” – otherwise known as brains over brawn – while enhancing her own reputation for being tough as nails. You certainly don’t imagine her ever being intimidated sitting across from the likes of Mr. Putin. I know who I’d put my money on in a staredown.
This aspect of her personality is one of the reasons many Americans, particularly Democrats, are hoping that she’ll declare for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination. She would be a virtual lock to become the nominee. Many Democrats now believe she would have been better than Barack Obama as president – certainly tougher, anyway. The Republicans are afraid of her, as well.
A political overachiever who was often mocked for her fashion choices, especially her love of the pantsuit, Ms. Clinton is now seen as almost hip. Her new cool was helped by an Internet meme of a couple of years ago inspired by a picture of her, sitting aboard a State Department jet and wearing big, dark sunglasses while reading her BlackBerry. In the words of Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Ms. Clinton looked like a “don’t mess with me” commander getting “ready to ice somebody.”
Her husband, former president Bil Clinton, has remained publicly mum about her ambitions, but it’s no secret he wants her to run. He believes the job should have been hers seven years ago. But that’s also the sense of entitlement many worry about – the sense it’s written somewhere that a Clinton must occupy the White House again. It’s that odour of privilege that rubbed many people the wrong way last time.
Still, most expect her to do it again, and win this time. She’d be 69 at the inauguration, but few see her age as a barrier. Hollywood is already raising millions on her behalf. Many of Mr. Obama’s chief electoral strategists have jumped aboard. She will publish a tome this summer about her time as secretary of state, and the book tour could become the de facto launch for her nomination campaign.
Slow down? She spoke again in Calgary on Thursday. If anything, it looks like Ms. Clinton’s getting ready to run harder than ever.
Follow me on Twitter:@Follow me on Twitter: @garymasonglobe