Hillary Clinton's Secret Weapon

On a recent trip to Burma—where human rights have been crushed for half a century—Hillary Clinton shook hands with a young waitress who later sobbed to writer Lisa DePaulo, “She is our only hope.” What gives Clinton the power to connect so strongly with women in need? DePaulo wondered. In an inspiring and intimate conversation, Hillary reveals the answer

By Lisa DePaulo
hillary clinton in burma image
“This one Buddha looks like a woman,” Clinton observed during the traditional statue-anointing. After 11 pours, she asked, “Can I make 11 wishes?”
Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

She is nodding vigorously. “I heard that a lot. From so many women.”

Does Clinton think she had to lose to be loved?

A tight smile. “I don’t know. I don’t want to get too into the weeds on that.” I had been warned that she hates psychobabble questions. But I get the feeling she’s thought about this before. She says she thinks her surge in popularity had more to do with her decision to support Obama “wholeheartedly and then to join his administration.”

Clinton’s schedule as secretary of state is grueling. But won’t she miss it? “I’m sure I will. Every time the plane door opens and I’m walking down the stairs to another country representing the United States, I mean, it’s a thrill that I never get tired of.” It sounds hokey, but having seen her walk off those planes, I believe it.

Still, the time away from her family must be rough: “We’re like Talmudic scholars trying to figure out our respective [schedules],” she says. “Once a month, maybe more if I’m lucky, I go home.” To Chappaqua, New York. “And we talk every day. [Bill’s] travel schedule is intense.” But they figure it out. One time they got to have dinner together in Bogotá because their schedules miraculously coincided. And when they both went to Prague for Vaclav Havel’s funeral, they got to spend “about 20 hours together in the air and about four hours on the ground.” She laughs. “We just take whatever time we can.”

I tell her that though this might not be conventional wisdom, I always got the sense she and Bill were crazy about each other.

“Oh, well, I think that’s pretty clear,” she says matter-of-factly.

As we wrap up, I ask her what she really wants to do next. There’s been so much speculation. Does she want to run the World Bank? (While chatting one night in Burma, she shot that down.) Many expect her to start her own version of her husband’s Global Initiative, with a focus on women. Others feel she’ll never be content to just sit on the political sidelines.

But we know she’s not big on speculation.

“You’re probably going to just want to take a break first, right?” I ask.

“I think that would be an excellent idea! Yeah. Yeah. I would love that. Go for long walks, see all the movies that I want to see that I haven’t had a chance to see, go to some places that I touched down on for three hours but didn’t get to spend the night. I think there’s a lot to . . . ” She trails off.

But isn’t it flattering that so many want you to run again? “It is flattering,” she says, then instantly changes the subject.

“Remember when we stopped in Alaska [to refuel], and it was so cold and you were wearing—” Yes, an airplane blanket, so I could sneak a smoke on the tarmac. She had come over to tease me about it. Not the smoking, just the blanket. She stayed outside for a while, sharing a story about how, when she was a student at Yale, pre-Bill, she had a boyfriend who lived in Vermont, and she would drive up to see him every weekend, in a car that had no heater, so she would wrap herself in a big mohair blanket.

“No, it was horsehair,” she corrects me back in her office.“Horsehair? Gross.”

“Oh, it was gross.”

I tell her that one of my colleagues on the plane to Burma said Hillary sometimes wears a Snuggie while flying.

She laughs so hard, I think my tape recorder might rattle its way off the antique coffee table.

“I don’t think I’ve ever worn a Snuggie! You mean, like, with little feet?” More raucous laughter. I tell her it’s the big blanket with armholes—the one you can buy from an 800 number on TV. Uh, no, she does not have one. But “that’s hilarious!”

Originally published in the April 2012 issue

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