Monday, August 17, 2009


Here’s a communications lesson we don’t talk about often because it’s so rare – someone on stage, wearing a microphone, sitting in front of TV cameras who completely loses their temper. Secretary of State Hillary (not Bill) Clinton did exactly that when a student asked her a question during her visit to the Congo. She heard the interpreter say the student had asked about what her husband, former President Bill Clinton, thought of a recent trade agreement (apparently the student was asking what President Barack Obama thought). “You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?” Hillary said, grimacing and gesturing in frustration, her voice rising, in a video clip replayed thousands of times worldwide on network news channels and viewed by millions on the Internet. “My husband is not Secretary of State, I am. If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband.” Followed by an icy glare. As many journalists wrote, the mere suggestion she’d be asked her husband’s opinion seemed to “touch a nerve.” ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper wrote on his blog: “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.” It’s a tough call, but Hillary should have either asked for the question to be clarified, or simply blocked it by stating she doesn’t speak for her husband. In front of live cameras is no place to teach someone a lesson. Granted, she was on a grueling 10-nation tour of Africa and was no doubt tired. Even more reason to ensure she was properly prepared. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, was celebrating his 63rd birthday in Las Vegas. Go figure.

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