In the Hillary section in the righthand links, I have posted a link to the State Department's unfortunately named Dipnote blog, which is offering some great commentary on Hillary's rock star reception overseas. I am savoring this reporting after all of the crap the Blogger Boyz (and others) threw at her during the primaries and immediately after her name was floated for Secretary of State.
Take a little time to read the various posts from State Department personnel (and a post from Hillary herself) as inside commentary on the trip. To me, what comes through is the joy people are feeling at her presence. (For more complete coverage of the trip, be sure to check out the official news and transcipts on the State Department's site.) The other thing that comes through is the way in which Hillary is able to be both a formidable diplomat (see her responses to North Korea's blustering) and a very public ambassador, representing the nation to the world simply by who she is. She can go appear on the Indonesian youth TV show "Dahsyat", walk in a poor neighborhood of Jakarta, do many public appearances and private meetings in Tokyo, and make China absolutely giddy over her impending arrival. That post intrigued me the most, in great part because of the ever-so-diplomatic comparisons being drawn between our new Secretary and those before her:
Ben Moeling, the post's author, serves as the Deputy Political Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China and Overall Control Officer for Secretary Clinton's Visit.
Secretary Clinton arrived in Beijing on a cold February night after a full day in Korea. Two senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were on hand to greet her officially, but hundreds of millions of Chinese people were also eagerly tuned in. The Secretary, or "Xi-la-li" as everyone in China refers to her with a tone both of familiarity and respect, is famous in China. Speculation about her visit has been intense. Almost every Embassy officer, from vice consuls to the Charge d'Affaires, has received inquiries about her upcoming visit. Our Political, Economic, and Environment, Science, Technology and Health sections have been working for weeks with our Chinese counterparts on the arrangements. Finally, it's game day. The Embassy is ready. Press from all over the world have gathered. The Chinese government is giving her an exceptionally warm welcome, and tomorrow she will meet with the President, Premier, State Councilor and Foreign Minister.
The warm response to Secretary Clinton's first trip to China is literally overwhelming. Already, we've had to improvise. Our carefully arranged plan for her to meet the staff and families of U.S. Embassy employees had to be scrapped just yesterday because the number of RSVPs shot past the maximum occupancy of the venue we'd selected for the event. Despite the fact that the Secretary's only available window is late on a Saturday afternoon, 430 people have already said they plan to come back to the office to see her.
I have noticed an incredible energy in the team that has come together to plan and execute this visit. This is not my first "S visit," and I am used to working with dedicated and professional colleagues, but this is somehow different. Everyone is so deeply invested in the success of this visit, no matter how big his or her job. Dozens of people have come up to me and volunteered to assist. I am excited, proud (and a little awed) to be part of it myself. Tomorrow is going to be a big day in U.S.-China relations.
The embassy staff is turning out en masse to see her. She is called by her first name with endearment by ordinary people (and not just in China, I might add). The government is responding positively to her visit. They want her there. High and low alike are straining for an opportunity to see her.
And this is what sets her apart from previous secretaries. It is almost too easy to compare Hillary's ecstatic reception to the lack of such reaction to Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell, but Madeleine Albright could not generate this response either. Bush had tried to use Karen Hughes as some kind of public figure for outreach, but only managed to demonstrate the moral black hole at the center of his regime.
This buzz, this palpable anticipation over Her arrival is what I was trying to identify in my posts from last November, The Politics of States and Against Conventional Wisdom. This is what I expected to see and why I wanted her to take the position.
No need to rely on hope here. This dame has got the goods and she delivers.