Hillary Clinton’s Congo Blow-Up
Hillary Clinton chewed out a Congolese student for asking what “Mr. Clinton” thought about a public policy issue:
ABC’s Kirit Radia:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost her cool Monday after a Congolese student, speaking through a translator, asked her what “Mr. Clinton” thought about a Chinese trade deal with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?” Clinton replied, clearly irked by the thought of being her husband Bill’s spokeswoman. “My husband is not secretary of state, I am,” she replied. “If you want my opinion I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband.”
The only problem? Apparently the translator made a mistake and the student had wanted to know what President Obama thought of the deal. A State Department official tells ABC News the student went up to Clinton after the event and told her he was misquoted. No immediate word yet how Clinton responded.
Regardless of the error, the notion of Secretary Clinton’s deference to her husband clearly touched a nerve with America’s top diplomat. Just a week ago the former President stole his wife’s thunder when he appeared in North Korea to rescue two American journalists detained there. His trip came just as Secretary Clinton embarked on a swing through Africa she hoped would shine light on the plight of the continent.
What’s odd, unless there are two translators involved somehow, the video clearly shows the questioner speaking in English and saying “Mr. Clinton” and then the lady at the podium repeating the question — again in English — to Mrs. Clinton.
Regardless, her indignant response seems rather over-the-top for America’s chief diplomat. She could have asked for clarification before going off. (My guess would have been that the student meant “Mrs. Clinton” and it got garbled in translation to English.) Or she could have joked, “Well, you’ll have to ask him next time he’s in Kinshasha” and added “but here’s what I think.”
All of the women commenting on this one thus far, however, stick up for Hil.
Pamela Leavey: “As a woman who blazes her own path, I think Hillary’s response was natural.”
myiq2xu (Not a common name, so hard to guess gender other than that it’s on a blog with riverdaughter as the username A man, but one writing on a group blog with “riverdaughter” as its domain name):
This appears to be the new CDS meme — “Hillary is a mad b**ch.” They used to say she was “cold and calculating” but now she’s out of control. Exactly how do they think she should have responded to the “What does your husband thnk?” question coming from the translator?
As you can see in the video, Clinton was ticked off at being asked what a male leader thought, especially when her purpose in this region is to draw a bull’s eye on the rape and torture of women in the Congo.
The United States Secretary of State obviously didn’t appreciate the misogyny, which is rampant in the Congo and other African nations, born out by the questioner expecting her to “channel” a male. Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley responded.
“The Secretary of State is going to Goma Tuesday, to draw attention to the plight of women who are victims of rape as a weapon of war” in Congo, he said. “She did react to what she heard,” Crowley explained. Even if the interpreter mixed up the translation, he said, “you can’t separate the question from the setting.”
As the Washington Post story quoted at the top reports, Congolese President Joseph Kabila has declared “zero tolerance” regarding sexual assaults and violence against women, but so far it’s just words.
There can be no doubt that Clinton came off harsh in this setting. A little righteous indignation from the most powerful female persona on the planet was in order, especially considering women in the Congo are in danger most of the hours of their waking and sleeping lives.
CNN reports that after the event Clinton and the questioner “seemed to have reached an understanding,” according to Crowley.
But seriously, you cannot bring basic human rights to women in places like the Congo if the men there don’t wake up to the respect women deserve, highlighting how far we have to go if not even the U.S. secretary of state is treated with respect.
But she was treated respectfully. A packed house had come to hear her and some nervous student whose native language isn’t English said “Clinton” when he meant “Obama.”
That said, Crowley’s point is a fair one: “you can’t separate the question from the setting.” It’s hardly inconceivable that she had gotten the impression during her visit thus far that she was not being treated seriously because of her sex and reacted to the question with that in mind.