Hillary Clinton is soaring these days. And oh, how she must be relishing it.
Both her worldwide influence and domestic popularity are at their peak, whether the U.S. Secretary of State is sternly lecturing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad about his government’s slaughter of innocents, or dancing up a storm in Cartagena, Colombia.
As she winds down her four-year term as Secretary, during which, as The Economist magazine admiringly calculated, she’s “visited 95 countries and logged some 730,000 miles, sometimes cramming more than a dozen meetings into a single day,” Ms. Clinton can seemingly do no wrong.
Even a recent trite media blitz mocking her dependence on the “scrunchie” hair accessory couldn’t make a dent in her gravitas. (Although ranking well below Bridesmaids writer and star Kristen Wiig on Time magazine's current list of the 100 most influential people in the world might give her pause. At least she's above Kate and Pippa.)
But gone are the days when, during her unsuccessful 2008 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, persistent sexist attacks – calling Ms. Clinton the “b” word, mocking her fashion choices – chipped away at her dignity and momentum.
Now, a fondly constructed online parody, “Texts from Hillary,” that went viral when it imagined in-your-face messages Ms. Clinton was sending from onboard her jet as, wearing dark glasses she sternly stared down at her BB, only confirmed her pop-cult awesomeness quotient. (Mitt Romney texts “Any advice?” to Hillary, she replies: “Drink.” The President asks, “Hey Hil, Whatchu doing?” she flips back: “Running the world.”) Ms. Clinton even good-naturedly summoned its male perpetrators, two Washington consultants, to meet her.
Today Ms. Clinton, 64, is not only touted as a shoo-in for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination (you're always more popular when you don't desperately want it), but even wistfully whispered about as a possible last-minute replacement on this year’s ticket for Vice-President Joe Biden, should the Democrats need her to push them over the top against Mitt Romney.
“That is not going to happen. That’s like saying, if the Olympic Committee called you up and said, ‘Are you ready to run the marathon, would you accept?’ Well, it is not going to happen,” she told CNN this week.
Madam Secretary was underscoring her supposed non-political status. However, she was laughing as she did so. Her face was clearly tempered by the time and travel demands of her hard-charging job. But her expression was softened, it seemed, by a sense of inner security she has never had before. Call it the Sally Field glow: “You like me, you really like me.”
Only four years ago, the dogged senator from New York and former first lady faced a humiliating political reality that the hope-and-change juggernaut of Barack Obama meant she wouldn’t make history as her party’s first female presidential candidate.
Despite rumours of a disastrously run campaign, vilified by Democrats who thought she and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, had sought to savagely undercut the Obama campaign, Ms. Clinton, resplendently neon in a tangerine pantsuit, vowed to the Democratic convention that even though she had become almost a cult figure in “the sisterhood of the travelling pantsuits,” Barack Obama was now her guy.
Amid misgivings in his own circle, the President rewarded her with the Secretary of State job, and she hasn’t let him down since – ever loyal, toeing the White House line, but clearly her own person, confident, as she said in more than one interview, that she could get in to see the big Kahuna any time she wanted.
History will sort out whether she accomplished anything substantive in her diplomatic posting, but in the meantime, if she sticks to her resolution to leave government, after “20 extraordinary years,” Ms. Clinton will have some time on her hands.
Her mother, who lived with her in Washington, died last year at 92, her daughter Chelsea is married and working in television, and that ol’ dog of a husband, Bill Clinton is, well, doing his own thing, publicly with his foundation, and God knows what privately. (It’s perhaps germane to note that the last time Ms. Clinton was this popular domestically was as the sexually betrayed first lady whose husband was being impeached. But hey, he triumphed over his trouble too.)
Here is one scenario for this remarkable, complex woman. She could put her might where her mouth is and take on as a sole project the cause that has burned within her for two decades, that “women’s rights are human rights.” As a new book, The Unfinished Revolution, initiated by Human Rights Watch, makes clear, girls and women all over the world are still struggling to triumph over extremist regimes that hobble them, whether it’s rape in the Congo or disastrously set-back rights to be educated and autonomous in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ms. Clinton could even garner a Nobel Peace Prize to match her former rival’s, President Obama, if she seriously improved the lives of girls and women. That would still leave her time to snap up the 2016 nomination and become the first female president of the United States.
It's a scenario that could read to some resolute non-believers, like a Machiavellian, or rather Clintonian plot. But to her fans, why not? They know that politically and personally, Hillary Clinton has always been ready to run the marathon. That’s just who she is.