Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hillary Clinton and Africa

There was a time, perhaps, that a U.S. Secretary of State traveling to Africa and visiting seven countries would have gained more attention. Perhaps. But not so much these days.

Jeffrey Gettleman's article Hillary Clinton’s Folksy Diplomacy notes that aside from one minor event did her travels appear especially newsworthy to folks here in the U.S.
“My husband is not the secretary of state, I am,” Mrs. Clinton snapped, after a Congolese student at a town hall meeting (also sometimes called a “townterview”) asked what Mr. Clinton thought about an issue. That snippy — but totally inconsequential — comment grabbed more attention that anything else she said or did in Africa. Congo may be burning. Trouble may be brewing in Kenya. Liberia may be heroically emerging from gruesome circus to model democracy. But in the end, Africa isn’t so interesting to most Americans. Hillary Clinton still is.
For the most part, based on Gettleman's account at least, the trips do offer important opportunities for political stagecraft and photo-ops.
In eastern Congo, we needed to use two planes to land at a small airport and Mrs. Clinton’s plane circled in the air for 15 minutes so journalists could land first, set up their cameras and get the arrival shot of her, the first secretary of state to swoop into Congo’s conflict zone, despite the fact this very area has been a killing field since the mid-1990s.

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