On the Plane

Always Late, Ever the Crowd-Pleaser

By Glenn Kessler
BRUSSELS, March 6--Nothing starts on time in Hillaryland.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is late to nearly every meeting and event on her schedule, and today's "town hall" with European Parliament interns and young professionals was no exception. The overflow crowd of hundreds of people was seated long before the official start time. And then they waited. And waited.

Reporters traveling with her have learned that no matter how many of Clinton's staff gather before an event, Clinton will not be seen until her well-tailored aide, Huma Abedin, appears. Abedin, who is Clinton's deputy chief of staff, will walk smartly to the podium, carrying a blue folder containing a set of prepared talking points. Moments later, Clinton will walk into the room.

For the town hall, Abedin, and Clinton, materialized about a half hour behind schedule.

Once Clinton showed up, she had the audience eating out of her hands. The lovefest began immediately, with a standing ovation. One man was wearing a t-shirt that declared, "I [heart] Hillary." She couldn't resist letting him ask a question.

Hans-Gerd Poettinger, president of the parliament, set the tone when he lauded Clinton and the new Obama administration, declaring that the election of Obama "has given new hope to the world."

The queries were much more substantive than many of her previous town halls on the road--covering such issues as Israeli settlement expansion, climate change, terrorism, homosexual rights, relations with Russia and European democracy. Clinton handled them with aplomb.

She even turned a somewhat convoluted question on European democracy into a plea for an end to constant debate, and political process, that does not result in action. "Democracy that does not deliver for people will be undermined by the very people it is intended to serve," Clinton said, saying there was "a leadership crisis in the world."

Her one slight misstep came when she noted that "our democracy has been around far longer than European democracy." She was likely referring to pan-European democracy--she was standing in the European parliament, after all--but the crowd noticeably stirred and many people appear annoyed. You could sense they thought it was typical American bluster. (Ever heard of the Magna Carta?)

Clinton seemed to content to keep taking questions until she got a signal from her anxious staff that--again--she was running way over schedule. Before she left, Poettinger gave her what he considered the highest compliment, saying a European could not have given better answers. And the crowd gave her yet another standing ovation.

By Washington Post Editor |  March 6, 2009; 7:06 AM ET  | Trip:  Clinton in Mideast, March 2009
Previous: For Clinton, Fewer Crowds in Mideast than Far East | Next: Hitting the Wrong Button


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It's funny, I'm European and frequently get ticked off by American bluster, but I have no problem with the statement that US democracy is older than European democracy.

Magna Carta was merely a charter of barons' rights. None of those responsible for it would have dreamed of applying, say, the provision of habeas corpus to a commoner. England 1215 was about as far from democratic as is possible to conceive.

The only true European democracies that predate US democracy were the direct democracies of the ancient Greeks.

Of course, many people in Europe now argue that these Greek states weren't real democracies because they rested on a large slave population without citizens' rights. But that would be no issue for you Americans, since you, like the Greeks, never let the presence of a large underclass of slaves get in the way of calling your system a democracy.

Posted by: Kevrobb | March 6, 2009 10:08 AM

This is as it should be, one waits for the queen. The queen is never late since events start when she arrives, therefore the serfs are early. Clinton doesn't give a rats a$$ about keeping people waiting. Besides being rude, a person who habitually keeps others waiting is doing it as a way to emphasize how important she is. Not surprised.

Posted by: Jimbo | March 6, 2009 11:21 AM

This is as it should be, one waits for the queen. The queen is never late since events start when she arrives, therefore the serfs are early. Clinton doesn't give a rats a$$ about keeping people waiting. Besides being rude, a person who habitually keeps others waiting is doing it as a way to emphasize how important she is. Not surprised.

Posted by: Jimbo | March 6, 2009 11:21 AM

This is a trait Bubba shares also. The psychological need "to control the event" by arriving whenever you want.

When it becomes consistent as it is with the Clintons, the term rude is appropriate.

As the observation goes, "It always about them." Imagine how much they must dislike President Obama for upsetting their apple cart.

Posted by: Vienna Voter | March 6, 2009 11:28 AM

Hillary's audience thinks she's worth waiting for, even the snide, snarky Glenn Kessler says so. The rest of you eat your Clinton hating hearts out. And a word to Mr. Kessler: "they also serve who only stand and wait". Try volunteering for a transfer to an overseas assignment like Iraq or Afghanistan where you won't have such unbearable boredom in doing your well-paid job.

Posted by: Roseann | March 6, 2009 12:02 PM

I agree with Roseann........Mr. Kessler, try reporting the news, instead of your personal biases......it is nice to see the US Sec of State received enthusiastically......our new government is bringing good feeling back to Europe and the rest of the world.......

Posted by: jamesb | March 6, 2009 12:44 PM

I think Hillary Clinton was truly the ideal pick for our new Sec of State. She has the status, both policy-wise and popularity-wise, to do some great and much needed PR and changing of direction for our nation and for our new adminstration.

Kevrobb has it exactly right regarding the history of democracy. I lived in Greece and though they proudly claim the philosophy, they readily offer that the US has the specific government ideals down pat (i.e., our Constitution).

(And... Too bad more of the US Founders didn't listen to Tom Paine regarding slavery.)

Posted by: Jan | March 6, 2009 2:17 PM

Spot on jamesb.

Instead of "reporting" on how people were left to wait for the person they volunteered their time to see, why not focus on the fact people overseas are actually enthusiastically attending Secretary Clinton's events.

Seems to me to be yet more evidence that certain media-types will spin any event she does into one that fits their chosen Clinton loathing "narrative."

No matter how well she actually performs, how well-reasoned (and intentioned) her (and by extension our President's) foreign policy initiatives may be - there will always be something insubstantial these reporters will latch onto in order fit a "narrative" that suits their petty greivances.

Posted by: HRC21 | March 6, 2009 4:30 PM

Not all that fond of Hillary...

still, whatever she does that ticks off the
israeli reporter Glenn Kessler is boffo with me...

He won't like anything she does unless it's pandering to Israel...and THAT's not going to happen any more. Yippee

Posted by: Yippee | March 7, 2009 9:45 AM

Not all that fond of Hillary,

but WHATEVER she does that ticks off the
nasty ISraeli reporter Glenn Kessler is boffo with me!

He won't be hnappy unless she's pandering to Israel.

Following new US policy. Yippee

Posted by: Yippee | March 7, 2009 9:47 AM

Mrs. Clinton is now again a punching bag of media. Obama was forced to pick her, as SoS. She is not much of a literate and/or of an intelligent person. So, she puts her foot in her mouth once, twice or even more a day, while on her duties' tour. The media is never forgiving her anything, and even sometimes blowing things much out of proportions. She is unsuitable for SoS position. Everbody knows it, starting with president Obama - himself. So, media would be blasting her and making the cheap circus clown from her all the way though. Why can't she save what is still left from her respect by public and self-respect and resign because of health problems, for example, or similar? She is the greatest obstacle for Obama's policies simply because of her luggage, which she can't get rid of. What does it take for her-herself to realize it and to act on it?

Posted by: aepelbaum | March 7, 2009 2:16 PM

I like how Huma Abedin is referred to as an aide and deputy chief of staff. No rumor, no innuendo. Stay classy.

If Obama is qualified to be Prez, Hill is more than qualified for SOS.

Posted by: Brian | March 8, 2009 4:20 AM

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