February 17th, 2009
09:32 AM ET

Hillary Clinton in Asia

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/16/us.clinton.asia.trip/art.clinton.japan.afp.gi.jpg caption="U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Haneda International Airport, Tokyo, Japan, Monday."]

Jill Dougherty
CNN Foreign Affairs Editor

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has a big plane, the official seal of the Secretary on the door, a bed and easy chair aboard. She doesn't appear to be sleeping much but she doesn't look tired. Aides say she's digesting more briefing books, in addition to the thousand of pages of backgrounders she boned up on for her confirmation hearing about a month ago. She also deliberately planned this trip to be intense, they say, that's how she likes to travel.

On this leg of the trip en route to Tokyo she came back to the section of the plane where the journalists sit (near the galley where the crew makes the meals) to take some questions. Planes are noisy places to talk so her aides set up a mini-speaker system with a microphone so that she – and the questioners – can be heard. We set our tape recorders in front of the speakers to make sure we get the quotes right. No one stumped her.

As one woman who knows Hillary Clinton well put it: "Wellesley girls know how to do their homework." Diplomats, experts and even cynical journalists I've talked with who have met with Clinton or seen her in action says she has an extraordinary ability to delve into the minutiae of a subject, from extraction industries to global warming's effects on the Arctic. She's also learned the diplomatic art of saying something – and not saying something.

I watched her hone some of these skills back in the 1990's when, as First Lady, she traveled to a number of countries in Asia, Latin America, Europe and the former Soviet Union. I was one of the White House correspondents covering what we dubbed the "Hillary trips." We traveled on the plane with her during those trips too and they were relatively informal affairs. We had a chance to have dinner with her and talk about subjects other than work.

Her speaking style at that time was a bit stiff but those trips, plus two years of running for president, seem to have helped her connect with people more effectively, in fact, she often comes across best in one-on-one conversations which she peppers with a surprisingly loud laugh.

Which is not to say that Hillary Rodham Clinton is not a wonk. She is; just listen to her delved into the issue of plutonium enrichment versus highly enriched uranium. It's enough to make a physicist jealous.

Running for office also teaches you to control your face. Try it – it's not easy. One yawn, one glance at a watch, one frown can be caught by a camera and become the story of the day. Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, stands erect, and wears the smile of a woman in charge.

Her fellow diplomats seemed charmed. Or have they simply mastered the art of looking enamored with someone? Who knows? Whatever it is, it seems to be working.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Hillary Clinton • Jill Dougherty
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Moje Ramos-Aquino

    you go, girl.
    you are an extraordinarily inspiring role model for all women in the world. more power!

    February 18, 2009 at 5:33 am |
  2. jb1879

    I wish they would offer her citizenship there and she would accept and stay.

    February 18, 2009 at 5:26 am |
  3. Riana

    Welcome to Indonesia Madam Hillary. Thank you for your visiting us in Indonesia. We must learn much from you how to practice democration here. You really walk your talk.

    February 18, 2009 at 5:14 am |
  4. Dean Musukwa-from Zambia

    Did you see her as 1st Lady? And as a Presidential racer? Oh she is an inspiration!

    All could see that both Obama and her were required for service to America and the World at this juncture.

    After Obama took presidency i never wished for anybody but Hillary for Secretary of State.

    And now it follows that;

    1. Bill sits back in his sofa a proud husband
    2. Obama works calmly for the team is strong in her.
    3. America is proud and the the goodwil she will establish to the world
    smells in the air.
    4. The rest of us in the world are glad and will follow her everywhere,
    she is our Secretary of state.

    Because of her great all-round qualities- somehow something feels like there is a good woman-president in her, Rodham.

    Best wishes to you madam Hillary.

    February 18, 2009 at 3:46 am |
  5. J.V.Hodgson

    Good for her meaning no one stumped her a real professional but she does need to relax on religion based solutions and some of the old Bushisms, of pre- conditions, that will only exacerbate the diplomatic stalemates in various parts of the world. Especially the Middle east and Islamic leaning states.

    February 18, 2009 at 3:44 am |
  6. lampe

    I think HRC, will do a wonderful job. That being said I hope she doesn't run for POTUS, simply because I don't want to see her abused by her own Party Again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 17, 2009 at 9:11 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    Hillary is very impressive and I think she would have made an extraordinary President so I hope she runs again too. I've never seen her stumped by a question and she always has an answer in sufficient detail to let you know what she would do about something. I'm glad Obama put her to work as Secretary of State – she should be very effective in getting the US back in the good graces of other countries which have viewed us as a bully since we went into Iraq. We need all the friends we can get going forward.

    February 17, 2009 at 7:43 pm |
  8. Ruby Coria, L.A. CA.

    Hillary looks real good, I know that her & President Obama can make a big change over seas.

    February 17, 2009 at 7:38 pm |
  9. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    rk said:
    "Why is Hillary not visiting India as part of her Asia trip??"

    Simply because the SOCIALIST Indians are technically considered part of Asia ..... AND ....... American corporations have been using them as a prime Cheap Slave Labor colony for exporting American jobs. all in the name of 'Free Trade'. India is neither a Capitalist Democracy with their 5 and 10 year Central Government Plans nor a true Ally of the United States in spite of what the Bush administration tried to propogandize them as.

    February 17, 2009 at 5:37 pm |
  10. Cal-G

    By the way, what IS a "wonk"?

    February 17, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  11. Cal-G

    I'd said a while back that if Obama hadn't been running, my vote would have gone to Hillary. But the opportunity to help make long overdue history was too great to pass up.
    Hillary has said she won't run for president again. I say "never say never", but if it's true, that would be a loss. I've already forgiven the harsh words she launched at Obama while both ran for the Dem nomination, because I find her an extraordinarily strong, poised, and knowledgeable woman. I'm quite happy she's on Obama team, I'm looking for her to make a strong difference in Asia ... and I'll be looking for her to change her mind and run again for the Oval Office.

    February 17, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  12. Robert H

    Great blog Jill.
    And your reporting has been terrific. Keep up the great work.

    February 17, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
  13. Charlotte D

    Go Hillary!

    February 17, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  14. rk

    Why is Hillary not visiting India as part of her Asia trip??

    February 17, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
  15. StevG

    I remember when they were saying ,she wasn't qualifed, and had no
    business, running for senator of the state New York. I would say she
    has proved her self, and has come a long way,in the eyes of the public
    and her fellow politicians.

    February 17, 2009 at 10:46 am |
  16. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    She’s also learned the diplomatic art of saying something – and not saying something--I could not have said it better myself-well put--an energizer bunny-–just keeps going-going-and going.

    February 17, 2009 at 10:09 am |