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You Go, Hillary!

I know I'm a tad late to the party on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Congo outburst, so I'll keep this short and to the point: You go, Hillary!

Listening to a translation of a question from a student, the usually controlled Clinton reacted with uncharacteristic public fury when she was asked what her husband, former President Bill Clinton, thought about a trade deal between China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Wait, you want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not the secretary of state. I am. So, you ask my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I'm not going to be channeling my husband.

Clinton was right to be upset about being asked that kind of question in a country and continent where male supremacy reigns unchallenged, generally speaking. Making it clear that she has authority in her own right sends a message to the men and the women in that audience, in Congo and in the rest of Africa that she won't put up with condescension. Not as a woman and certainly not as secretary of state of the United States of America.

Now it turns out Clinton was informed that the translation she was given was wrong. The student was asking her what President Obama thought. So, the secretary did what any self-assured leader would do. As Clinton left the event, she reached out and shook the hand of the student, exchanged some words and a hearty smile. Brava.

By Jonathan Capehart  | August 12, 2009; 4:27 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Perhaps you'd have a point if she hadn't responded with quite the, well, let's just say she kinda lost her cool.


Posted by: qwerty6899 | August 12, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Yonkers, New York
12 August 2009

Hillary Rodham Clinton is not a delicate flower you can trample on just like that.

She's a tough banana, as Barack Obama quckly learned during the long and hard presidential campaigns of 2008.

But she also knows how to forgive and forget. She has forgiven Bill long ago, hasn't she?

Mariano Patalinjug

Posted by: MPatalinjug | August 12, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Hills was right to be angry. While she is sweating somewhere in equatorial Africa on a meaningless mission mainly for Obama to get her out of the country, Bill is celebrating his birthday with all his buds and a parade of hookers in Vegas.

Posted by: sperrico | August 12, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

I'd be cranky too if someone asked me what my husband thought in a public forum. I've been trying to think of a single example where a man in a public office is asked in public what his wife thinks. I can't. (Although that might have been a reasonable question to ask the former President after Korea!)

I'd definitely be cranky too after hours and hours of flight times, the little planes and jet lag, but even more the horrors she no doubt was hearing about.

And I AM more than cranky that the news media is paying attention to all the wrong things about this visit. I so wish that they were holding Mrs. Clinton up for her personal commitment, the fact that the U.S. state department is finally paying attention to the atrocities in the Congo, and shining the light of the world upon the femicide that has been going on for far too long.

The women of the Congo deserve more. The Secretary of State deserves more.

Rev. Debra Haffner

Posted by: Religious_Institute | August 12, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Yes Hillary. You go please far, far away

Posted by: miriamac2001 | August 12, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

but i bet she didn't have a handkerchief...

Posted by: bill_delgrosso | August 12, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Hillary had just left a meeting with rape victims, and in a country where devaluing women is encouraged, she had every right to assert herself. Not only was she asked, "What does Mr. Clinton think through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton, but what does the basketball player, who was sitting to her left, think. Here she is, working her heart out on extraordinarily important, oftentimes dangerous work, and the questioner wants to know what a basketball star thinks above our SOS?!?! I'm glad Hillary let them know that women and girls in our country can speak for themselves, thank you very much!!

Posted by: karenmb | August 12, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Geez, we can't help it that we love Bill Clinton. He was an excellent President, and oooh the eye candy.

Hillary is like that, she snaps.

She's not the diplomat that Bill is, and quite frankly, I think Bill Clinton really ought to be Secretary of State instead of Hillary.

He'd be a better one that's for sure because just about everybody in the world loves Bill Clinton.

[Republicans excepted.]

Posted by: lindalovejones | August 12, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Thank you so much for your post. The student’s question as translated to Clinton was extremely sexist and she gave a terse answer that was wholly appropriate in these circumstances. She stands up for women rights in Congo and for her own rights and she’s been attacked in certain quarters for that? I say, bravo to SOS Clinton for speaking up forcefully on behalf of women. This is the 21st century and powerful women are not going to put a smile on their face when they are being insulted or demeaned in public because that’s what the patriarchal society has come to expect. SOS Clinton gave the perfect answer, the assorted sexists and misogynists will whine about her assertiveness and no body gives a damn because this is not a Miss Congeniality contest.

Posted by: alinosof | August 12, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

if it were Sarah Palin would this still be your stance? Brava!

Posted by: hawaiiboyinsf | August 12, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Whoa! I'm embarrassed to be an American woman. HIllary Clinton did the wrong thing. That is all.

Posted by: citizenchick | August 12, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

"if it were Sarah Palin would this still be your stance? Brava!"

I can't speak for Mr. Capehart, but can speak for myself. I was totally against Sarah Palin becoming Vice President, due to her far-right ideology and lack of experience. Yet, I supported her standing up to the "neanderthals" who were making sexist arguments about her family life.

Posted by: samrosenbaum | August 12, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Right on, Jonathan! I immediately turned to my husband and asked him what he thought I'd do under the same circumstances. He agreed that I'd rightfully give the questioner hell. Hilary is doing an amazing job as SOS and there are a lot of us Americans who are very proud of her. We're also glad she knows how to be tough.

Posted by: deborah3 | August 13, 2009 2:40 AM | Report abuse

Bravo! Hillary gave the perfect response. The question was humiliating and deserved to be answered with indignation, even from a secretary of state. I think very highly of Bill Clinton, but whoever is interested on what Bill Clinton thinks should ask Bill Clinton.

Posted by: R2D22 | August 13, 2009 2:54 AM | Report abuse

What an arrogant old bag

Posted by: capskip | August 13, 2009 6:36 AM | Report abuse

The issue is not whether the questioner (or the translator) was "sexist," and following from that, whether Hillary's answer was an appropriate response to a "sexist" question. The issue is whether her response was the right one coming from the United States SECRETARY OF STATE, representing this country.

The answer is clearly no. She eff'd up. Look, Johnathan, it's OK. Your girls can make a mistake now and then. They are only human.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | August 13, 2009 7:06 AM | Report abuse

You have to feel sorry for Hillary. She demands it. Look at her last few weeks. She calls the North Koreans a bunch of names, and they have the gall to call her some names. Then Obama sends Slick Willie hisself to North Korea and he succeeds in shaking a couple of reporters loose which she couldn't do. Joe Biden mouths off, undoing some Obama "nice-nice" in Holy Mother Russia, and Hillary is bypassed again. I don't know what the Obama foreign policy is, but I do know his agenda to give himself a cakewalk to the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2012 is to minimise Hillary every chance he gets, particularly by making her husband look better at diplomacy. That will work until Slick Willie's next adventure hits the news

Posted by: hyood | August 13, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Considering the "question" and where she was I thought her answer was appropriate.

Posted by: rlj1 | August 13, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse

If she would have listened to her husband, she would be President, not bopping around Africa...

Posted by: newbeeboy | August 13, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

The Secretary of State was absolutely right to respond as she did. No thinking, responsible woman is interested in being asked what her husband thinks about a particular subject that relates to 'her' job.
Tina Brown went off in yesterday's TDB and one has to wonder did her husband tell her how she should run Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and now The Daily Beast.
All the smart and successful women I know would have responded in a similar manner.
And lastly, nobody would ever ask a man what his wife thinks about his job.

Posted by: vjfevp | August 13, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

My husband and I saw Secretary Clinton in person during the 2008 campaign. My husband was skeptical about her at first, but after the rally, he totally changed his mind about this amazing woman. (He was a staunch Republican for many, many years) As our SOS, she deserves respect, and as Americans, we should be proud of her. She proved all of that during the campagin. As for her qualities had she been elected president, I don't think Secretary Clinton would ever bow or pander to any foreign head of state. She is tough, but she is also concerned and compassionate. Our vote went to our current president, but our hearts were with Secretary Clinton. By the way "capskip" she is not an arrogant old bag!!!! Bravo Secretary Clinton!!!!

Posted by: rheanellday | August 13, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

If this had been a man who responded the same way to a question asking what his wife thought, no one would have said a thing. Stop the double standard. Hillary Clinton is one of the hardest workers in the Obama Administration and there are many reasons to praise her. She does a fantastic job.

Posted by: FifthandLexington | August 13, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

When diplomat looses his/her cool that is nonprofessoinal. But do I blame her? No. Because of ever-life-long habit I have do not take female as severe as male.

Some will call me sexist for that, anothers will call me gentlemen. The difference is between these in paranoia level about sexism, racism, nazism and rest of -ism`s.

Searching that -ism`s in each over and in accidental remarks of unknown people gives to this -ism`s more weight and reality. Paranoia upholds and develops itself. Dragonfighters becomes dragons. And we have this endless story about undefeatable racism, nazism, sexism...

It is a shame and sad to see that paranoia in top level politics. A shame and sad. But nothing else.

Posted by: IWH_rus | August 13, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Her reply was certainly terse, but she did not cross any lines in my opinion. And when she realized that the question had been mistranslated she did acknowledge it.

I would have been proud of myself had I kept as cool a head as she did. (Likely I would have gone off on the person for asking me what my husband thought, as though I'm some sort of loudspeaker for him; this is also why I am not Secretary of State.)

Generally speaking I don't much like Mrs. Clinton, but in this particular case? You go girl!

Posted by: | August 13, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Her response was entirely appropriate to the question "What does Mr Clinton think, through the mouth of Mrs Clinton?" That was clearly an insulting question, asked in a country where women are treated worse than animals. Later we learned that the the question was mis-translated. How does that in any way reflect poorly on Mrs Clinton? Her critics must not have seen the video; if only people would listen to the question, they would understand her answer.

Posted by: 5232news | August 13, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Having watched the video of Secretary Clinton reacting and responding to the improperly-translated question requesting her husband's opinion (thanks to our MSM's laser focus on really significant events), I completely agree that "You go, Hillary!" Moreover, I did not see her really "losing her cool." She showed some irritation, yes, but she hardly "snapped" or "lost it" or "ranted" as some reporters have described. The ridiculous focus on this incident is typical of the anti-Hillary bias that is prevalent in some segments of the media, who cannot bear to admit that this intelligent, hardworking, capable woman is doing an impressive job.

Posted by: Lamentations | August 13, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Well maybe if she hadn't built her career on being Bill's wife (face it, that's what got her the senate seat). And maybe if Bill hadn't been the one to accomplish the most visible diplomatic achievement under the Obama Administration. Maybe then she'd have a right to be angry when someone asked what Bill thought.

Posted by: Dakota6 | August 13, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I did not think there was anything wrong with Mrs. Clinton's outburst.

This kind of rude and sexist question that was asked Mrs. Clinton is typical of the sentiment towards women in Southern Africa.

I know however, that Clinton is revered in Africa.

However, under the guise of fighting for cultural values and opposing American imperialism and feminism, many Africans

are perpetuating the right to demean women, to trivialize a women's academic and intellectual substance, and to sexually degrade women.

In Zambia, many of the Africans there call women "wenches".

Men in Zambia who set out to demean women, or sexually prey upon them are lauded - and only their so-called intellectual achievements or professional acheivements are focused on.

Yet - in Zambia, the career or professional acheivements of many women are ignored, trivialized or demeaned.

In much of Africa, character is not important - what counts is tribe and the male gender -

In places like Zambia and the Congo and South Africa - many Africans in fact support corruption and corrupt values.

Many Africans like to state that they themselves as if they are more cultured and have a superior, richer culture than that of Westerners - but this incident shows that this is not at all true.

In fact, I have found many Africans to be quite rude and condescending to women and especially to non-white racial minorities.

Many Africans are fighting for the right to dehumanize others, to rape others, and to call others "wenches" and to trivialize and devalue the intellectual contribution and depth of women, and to overemphasize the professional or intellectual contribution of men.

Posted by: QueenbeefromTakoma | August 13, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

"Diplomat: using or marked by tact in dealing with sensitive matters or people." [source:]

As Secretary of State,the highest diplomat of our nation, fourth in line to the Presidency, she should have responded (as opposed to reacted) to the question-- whatever the question was-- in a diplomatic way. It's as simple as that! Yes, she's human and a woman, but she is first and foremost, in that situation, representing US as Secty of State -- this is the point that is getting lost to many who are responding from the purely emotional/visceral as opposed to the logical/rational. Her job is to be DIPLOMATIC! Whatever the internal counter-transference issues needs to be dealt with privately (and not on the world stage). If she gets flustered by these kinds of questions by students, I'm afraid to think how she would react to a more serious issue.

I am not anti-Hilary, and in fact think that she is the best person for that job at this time, and thus I am disappointed on how she handled it. There were so many ways she could have addressed it, but her body language, tone, words and the length of the interaction left me embarrassed and disappointed. I expect the highest standard from my representatives, especially those on the international front.
Answer these closed-ended questions and have an internal discussion with yourself:

1) Do you think that Hillary was diplomatic in her response? (yes or no)
2) Do you think Hillary could have made her point by using different words, tone, and body language? (yes or no)
3) Would you you feel the same way if it were Sarah Palin who were Secty of State and dealing with similar issues? (yes or no)

Posted by: hawaiiboyinsf | August 13, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

However, Mrs. Clinton is not just an ordinary woman. she is the secretary of state representing the United States. Even if she were being condescended to (which apparently she wasn't since the translator got it wrong), there are still more polite and dignified ways to respond. She could have said, "Former President Clinton doesn't really have any official duties any more. But I am officially involved and I'd be happy to tell you what I think."

Posted by: adifferentpointofview | August 13, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Here is the literal question put to the Secretary of State:

"What does Mr. Clinton think through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton and what does Mr. Mutombo think on this situation?"

Here is her literal response:

"You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband."

I find it a completely reasonable reply--regardless of eye roll, shrug or whatever, as far as her body language. Which is all cable cares about: ginning up outrage. Just more nonsense from Hillary haters.

Posted by: merelymyopinion | August 13, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Secretary of State Clinton's response is no big deal like the news media is making it to be. She went to the Congo to help women in that country who are continually violated in every conceivable manner and who are treated as shattles. The news media should concentrate on those issues instead of stupidity.

Posted by: Listening2 | August 13, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Well done, Jonathan, yet again. I had an email exchange with you during the campaign for the nomination when you clearly subscribed to what I think of as the D.L. Hughley position: "I dug Hillary and I dug him," Hughley said. "I didn't have to not like her so I could like him, and not like him so I could like her." I preferred her & you preferred him but you never "...not liked her" publicly and I always have liked you for that, and this, and lots of other of your opinions.

Posted by: gailinpb | August 13, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I liked her response just fine. On behalf of the women of America, I'd be more upset if she allowed herself to be insulted without comment. Those who think she should have smiled and explained President Clinton's opinions must think all women are second class auxiliaries to men without worth in their own right. Once she learned it had been a mistranslation, she attempted to smooth things out with the questioner. Bravo.

Posted by: SarahBB | August 13, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I think her response was totally appropriate to the question given.

Posted by: sed81650 | August 13, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

The manner in which members of the media seized on Clinton's comments/reaction was very revealing of just how arbitrarily they choose to apply their scrutiny, as well as how different the standard still is for women.

Posted by: AnotherHagman | August 13, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Bravo, Jonathen!

And, after seening Mama Capehart on Morning Meeting, we all KNOW how she would have handled the situation! ;)

Posted by: JoeCHI | August 13, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

In the video of the event linked below, from Britain’s Channel 4 News, Mrs. Clinton can be seen listening and then responding to a simultaneous translation as the student asked: “We’ve all heard about the Chinese contracts in this country — the interferences from the World Bank against this contract. What does Mr. Clinton think, through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton, and what does Mr. Mutumbo think on this situation?”

Hillary's response was the correct response!

Posted by: tinkabell1 | August 13, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

"Should she have used her diplomatic skills to conceal her anger? Of course, that's the meaning of diplomacy, as I blogged earlier this week. But are her media critics making way too much of this? Yes, that's true, too."
By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog


Posted by: hawaiiboyinsf | August 13, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Clinton's response was entirely appropriate, and VERY diplomatic. In fact, it might even have been calculated (to send a CLEAR message as to the inappropriateness of the question).

Diplomats often show irritation as one form of "message passing".

As a WASP 65 year old male, I agree with Capehart, "You go, Hillary!"

Posted by: briansnow | August 13, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Wrongly interpreted or not, the question was pretty bizarre, to say the least, and the Secretary of State's reaction was appropriate. However, Mrs. clinton is not a career diplomat, otherwise she would have known how to handle the situation just as firmly, but with more dignity and tact.

Posted by: lallabatiti | August 13, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA - love it Hillary jumps out there and sticks her foot in her mouth not once but twice. Then her supporters come out and tsk, tsk in support of her completly embarassing performance.

Yes ladies and gentlemen of the world welcome to the Hillary traveling circus. Personally, I wish she would just shut up already and go back into hibernation. This country has enough problems without the ole strong governmental employee gone wild vacation schemes.

Actually, she is upset that ole Nan P is making a bigger @ss of herself than billary is.

Posted by: zendrell | August 13, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA - love it Hillary jumps out there and sticks her foot in her mouth not once but twice. Then her supporters come out and tsk, tsk in support of her completly embarassing performance.

Yes ladies and gentlemen of the world welcome to the Hillary traveling circus. Personally, I wish she would just shut up already and go back into hibernation. This country has enough problems without the ole strong governmental employee gone wild vacation schemes.

Actually, she is upset that ole Nan P is making a bigger @ss of herself than billary is.

Posted by: zendrell | August 13, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Hillary is not a diplomat, which makes her entirely unsuited as Secretary of State, a position which is all about diplomacy. She needs to learn how to deal with others in a more reasoned way. She lost her cool when she should have used it as a teaching moment. Now the student and spectators probably think she's nothing but an overly emotional, unconrolled woman -- only giving strength to their biased arguments that women should remain in the home.

Posted by: TwoEvils | August 13, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm just thankful that when Ms. Clinton shoots off her mouth like this, that's she only secretary of state and not the President. I feel the same way about Mr. Biden, so I'm not being sexist when I say that about Ms. Clinton.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | August 13, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Oh come on! Hillary is jealous of her own husband. He's everything that she's not, especially in the "good looks" department.

Bill is the diplomat, he's well respected and well loved around the world, and I bet he had to remind Hillary, more than once back in the 90s, that he was the president and not her.

Posted by: lindalovejones | August 13, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

The question by the Congolese male student was clearly demeaning to ask what "Mr. Clinton thinks through the mouth of Mrs. Clinhton and what would Football star Mutambo think as well"! Incredible!

Hillary's response was not only appropriate, nor merely justifiable. It was the BEST TEACHING MOMENT FOR AFRICA'S RAPISTS and a a WARNING on some Tough Diplomacy from the new Administration.

Having spent her day visiting Congolese Hospitals viewing the damage done by these professional rapist-soldiers to girls as young as 6 months and women as old as 85, and listening to their holocaust stories....and to come to this meeting and hear this young (probably planted) guy ask this deeply ignorant and misogynist question....


Posted by: MSakel | August 13, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

A public figure showing mild irritation is NOT news. I have no opinion - it's boring!!!
If there's nothing more important to talk about, maybe it's time to do a sudoku!

Posted by: rdrey001 | August 14, 2009 1:13 AM | Report abuse

How creative we are in trying to justify the poor performance of Secretary Clinton. A "teachable moment"? Outrage against rape in the Congo? "Show me a male asked such a question" (show me a male married to an ex-president)? Nonsense! She failed to react in a diplomatic manner, which matters when you are the country's chief diplomat, and the media jumped all over it. She is human and should be excused this minor error, but it was an error. As to the media coverage, are we really surprised? It is not because of her gender or anti-Hillary bias, it is because she is Hillary Clinton of "the Clintons". In light of the decades-long soap opera that is the Clinton marriage that we have been subjected to, it should come as no surprise that any drama between these lovely spouses is treated as breaking news.

Posted by: craigjjs | August 14, 2009 4:54 AM | Report abuse

The extraordinary double standard of how people judge men and women that so many of the posters here demonstrate is grossly evident in the comments.

If a man representing the US was dissed to his face in a foreign country he would be respected for firing back with appropriate anger. If he wimped out he would be excoriated for weakness, and his ability to get his job done would be in great question.

Hillary doesn't wimp out, she gets the job done, and she does it with uncommon grace. The US has a treasure in that she continues to work for our common good, despite all the pathological woman haters she contends with. She just ignores you all, and couldn't care less what you say. Neither could I. Hypocrisy and the bigoted demeaning of women, and unfairly judging them isn't worthy of respect. People who do not take women seriously don't deserve the respect of others in return.

People don't disrespect men because they could get their faces smashed in if they do. The days are ending when brute physical force is the reigning power. Watch out, there are other ways to enforce respect that are gaining ground, and women won't take the disrespect anymore.

Posted by: Firstresponder | August 14, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

I love how desperate the wingnuts are to attack her response, even when she's received nearly universal acclaim for it. Nice try, guys. GO HILLARY!

Posted by: NYC123 | August 14, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Secretary Clinton's response was perfect. She thinks on her feet. In a country where women are second class citizens, if that, she asserted herself not only for her office but for all the women of Africa. No one would ever ask a man what his wife thought.

The only travesty for us is that she is not the president of the United States.

Posted by: Kansas28 | August 17, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

You go Jonathan. Great column and right on!

Posted by: Kansas28 | August 17, 2009 12:58 AM | Report abuse

just amazing that some people would apparently prefer our top American diplomat be insulted than surrender a single iota of their personal dislike for Mrs. Clinton. When the spokesperson for my country is demeaned in a country known for demeaning all women, I for one am a patriot first and a party member second. Secretary Clinton stood up strongly and calmly to this condescension and I applaud her--as indeed I would have applauded a Secretary Palin in the same circumstance. You betcha! Go Hillary! and if you make it someday, go Sarah!

Posted by: donald169 | August 18, 2009 1:18 AM | Report abuse

In a few more months many of you Obama cheerleaders will be crying in your beers because you chose him over Hillary. Hows that Hopey-Changey workin out for ya ? Did you get your stimulus check yet? I'll bet you even believe tha the stimulus is working and Obama saved millions of probably also believe that he doesnt plan to insure ALL illegals or rig the Census. Time for you to wake up...The fairy tale is unfolding ..... We wouldnt be in this huge mess if you had not fallen for the glitz of Obamas campaign BS. Hillary lay low and watch the country realize what a huge mistake they made in bashing you during the primaries. This certainly isnt the chaneg that they were expecting but you reap what you sow.

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | August 18, 2009 7:39 AM | Report abuse

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