Yesterday, I cheered when I read the transcript of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's response when a student asked about Bill Clinton's thoughts on foreign policy. Her words crisply asserted that she was the Secretary of State and that she would not be "channeling" her husband's thoughts on any foreign policy issues. Her tone was everything I want in a chief foreign affairs adviser -- clear, no-nonsense and direct. However, reading Sec. Clinton's exchange and seeing it have become two different stories.
When I saw Secretary Clinton sitting slightly slouched, looking like she was ready to jump out of her chair and into the face of the student-audience member, I could see the double standard coming. Many of the news reports were quick to conclude that she was just raving mad. "She lost her cool!" "She just lost it." The news sound bites are already buzzing about Sec. Clinton's infamous temper and have hurled the sobriquet "Hitlerly" at her. This will probably be the news story that will get more coverage than all of the good work she has done on her international tour.
Many of the women news reporters, though, were willing to find the back story of the situation. Some reasoned that Sec. Clinton was probably jet lagged from an arduous tour of the African continent and she probably snapped because was tired. The more courageous women reporters felt that Sec. Clinton was standing up for herself: why was someone asking her about her husband's, or any man's, thoughts?
It's baffling that Sec. Clinton's response is even a news story. Her response was completely justified. The question, as it was asked, made Sec. Clinton invisible by circumventing her opinions and asking for those of her husband's. You would be hard pressed to find a person who would not be annoyed if their work was ignored, discredited, and deemed non-existent.
Certainly, as an ambassador of goodwill, our Secretary of State needs to be diplomatic, patient, and understanding. Based on insider accounts from insiders, such as former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, I'm sure that Sec. Clinton probably does have a temper. She was a law firm partner, after all.
However, Sec. Clinton did not loose her cool; she was merely being passionate about her job. Similar to Bill Clinton or Sen. McCain -- two men whose infamous outbursts are framed as passion -- she wanted to set that student straight. While she could have gone the Dick Cheney route and told the student to go you know what himself, she instead tersely corrected the student who apparently did not know realize that the U.S. Secretary of State can think and speak for herself.
Hopefully, this incident will not turn into the media frenzy reminiscent of the Gates-Crowley affair. I really could do without another teachable moment over a beer at the White House.