NYTimes Mag Celebrates 'Iconic' Hillary, 'Highminded' Yet 'Hardheaded' Secretary of State

July 3rd, 2012 12:13 PM

Reporter Steven Lee Myers heaped praise on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a 5,500-word profile for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, evident in the title, "Last Tour of the Rock-Star Diplomat."

One of Myers's big scoops is that Hillary Clinton can remember names and personal details, which is apparently just as important as all that foreign policy guff: "Whatever she might have lacked in scholarship or experience in foreign affairs, she has made up for with a politician’s touch....She has an acute attention to detail, remembering names and personal details." Myers concluded by promoting a Hillary run for president in 2016, when she would be "more iconic than ever."

Myers was not nearly as big a fan of a Republican at war, President George W. Bush. He wrote for the Times on February 12, 2008: "Mr. Bush never sounds surer of himself than when the subject is Sept. 11, even when his critics argue that he has squandered the country's moral authority, violated American and international law, and led the United States into the foolhardy distraction of Iraq."

From his Hillary Clinton profile:

What has been most striking about Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state is at once how suited for the job she has proved to be and how improbable it once seemed, even to her. “Not in a million years,” she replied by e-mail in November 2008 when her political aide Philippe Reines first told her that President-elect Barack Obama was considering her appointment, despite having derided her experience in foreign affairs as first lady during the campaign. His experience, Obama said during the primaries, was “grounded in understanding how the world sees America, from living overseas and traveling overseas, and having family beyond our shores” and “not just of what world leader I went and talked to in the ambassador’s house, who I had tea with."


Obama and Clinton have instead led the least discordant national-security team in decades, despite enormous challenges on almost every front. They share a vision of diplomacy that is high-minded in its support for democratic rights (in Libya and elsewhere) but hardheaded when those values run up against American security interests (Egypt and Bahrain) or other limits of American power (Syria). They have handled crises with neither rancor nor, for the most part, public leaks intended to shape their private debates. Clinton set the tone from the start, enforcing respect for the man who bested her on the campaign trail. “Early on, when there were people around complaining about the Obama folks, she wouldn’t brook it at all,” Andrew J. Shapiro, Clinton’s former Senate aide and now an assistant secretary of state, told me. The message “was delivered quite clearly.” “We work for the president,” he recalled her saying.


Clinton was the first elected official to become secretary of state since Edmund S. Muskie served a turbulent eight months at the end of the Carter administration, when Iran held Americans hostage and the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan. Whatever she might have lacked in scholarship or experience in foreign affairs, she has made up for with a politician’s touch, inside the State Department and around the world. She has an acute attention to detail, remembering names and personal details. In a meeting, she once recalled, unprompted, an obscure article about diplomacy in tough places written by a young foreign-service officer who twice served in Iraq, Aaron D. Snipe. Two people who work in the building told me of instances in which she called to express condolences when relatives died. These gestures and her strong advocacy for the budget at the State Department have re-energized the American Foreign Service, which felt beleaguered under President George W. Bush.


Now there is speculation that she could mount a presidential bid in 2016, regardless of Obama’s fate in November. Some administration officials privately acknowledge that she would instantly be the presumptive front-runner, only 69 in November 2016 and more iconic than ever.