“You’ve dealt with some fairly strong personalities—” policy wonk Richard Haas began his question to Hillary Rodham Clinton.        

 “I’d like to think the same is true,” America’s 67th Secretary of State interrupted, pointing with both hands at herself and getting a big laugh from the overflow crowd at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Clinton punctuated her hammy gesture with a deep, throaty chuckle.

Thus the 66-year-old former first lady and United States senator from New York—modeling a tailored taupe pantsuit, a simple black blouse, and a power-helmet of blond hair—dropped by the council’s Upper East Side headquarters Thursday on Day 4 of her pre-presidential campaign juggernaut that is masquerading as a book tour for her memoir Hard Choices.

With her very pregnant daughter Chelsea in attendance, along with a praetorian guard of security types, and loyal aide Huma (Mrs. Anthony Weiner) Abedin sitting close by, Clinton gave council president Haas and her adoring audience an exhaustive travelogue of the planet’s hot spots.

Surveying the Earth from the stratosphere when not getting down in the weeds, she talked about China, North Korea, the Arab Spring, Afghanistan, and the disintegration if Iraq. She drew policy distinctions between herself and President Obama, her erstwhile political rival and former boss, assessed the damage done to U.S. foreign policy by Wikileaks’ release of sensitive diplomatic cables, and stressed the importance of establishing personal relationships with sometimes obstreperous foreign leaders.

“When we’re running into obstacles we could fall back on those relationships,” Clinton said. “There are obvious exceptions. It’s very difficult to build relationships with some people. I’m talking about you, Vladimir!”

As political performance art, it was authoritative and commanding, lightened every so often by a soupcon of humor—like a mischievous shout-out to Russian President Putin—and that deep, throaty laugh.  

Haas—who wisely didn’t bother to ask Clinton if she’s running for president, knowing he’d get her standard boilerplate evasion—also showed his guest some hospitality by not mentioning Benghazi.

Unlike Clinton’s much-discussed television interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, in which she claimed absurdly that she and President Bill Clinton were “dead broke” and financially “struggling” when they left the White House, Thursday’s appearance was gaffe-free.

She definitely seemed ready to take that 3 a.m. phone call. 

Here are some points of interest:

  • On the impact of the embarrassing Wikileaks cables: “What happened was [foreign] leaders said they would meet only with me—no note-takers—and would clear the room. That’s a little challenging. I’ve got a good memory, but not that good a memory…I went on an apology tour.
  • On Obama’s decision to throw embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, a longtime U.S. ally, under the bus: “I had a lot of apprehension, both just throwing Mubarek out of office and not knowing what was going to come next, and not preparing a more orderly transition.” When Mubarek refused to promise that neither he nor his son would run for president in the next election, “at a certain point the president and other leaders said he had to go. I remained apprehensive about what would follow.”
  • On Iraq: “It’s a dreadful, deteriorating situation.”

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