Clinton Tells of Why She Took the Job


Mast Irham/European Pressphoto Agency

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday in Jakarta, where she pushed for broader relations with Indonesia.



Published: February 19, 2009

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited a development program in a working-class neighborhood here and spoke about her decision to work for the man who defeated her for the presidential nomination, on her second day in Indonesia before flying to Seoul.

“It was not anything I had any reason to expect or had even thought about,” Mrs. Clinton said of President Obama’s offer to her to be the nation’s chief diplomat. “I had to make a hard decision.”

Mrs. Clinton said she put aside the disappointment of the election to take Mr. Obama’s job offer because, she said, “We have so many of the same views of what we should do in the world.”

Touring a neighborhood where a third of the residents are below the poverty line, Mrs. Clinton spoke to women making handbags from wastepaper and purifying water with chlorine drops.

Appearing on a popular Indonesian television show, Mrs. Clinton was asked to name her favorite music artists — she said The Beatles and The Rolling Stones — but politely declined to sing.

In a light-hearted visit to Mr. Obama’s boyhood home, Mrs. Clinton paid tribute to Indonesia’s thriving democracy.

“If you want to know if democracy, Islam, modernity, and women’s rights can coexist, go to Indonesia,” she said at a dinner with scholars, environmentalists and women’s rights advocates.

After Mr. Obama’s highly visible appeal to the Islamic world, and similar overtures by Mrs. Clinton, she seemed careful not to single out Muslims at the expense of other religious groups.

“There is no pigeon-holing, there is no exclusivity,” she said. “We are reaching out to the entire world.”

She announced that the Indonesian government had agreed to negotiations to allow the Peace Corps to return to the country after a 43-year absence. The volunteers were forced out of the country in 1965 in the turmoil that culminated in a military coup by General Suharto.

Mrs. Clinton was greeted by friendly crowds, though she acknowledged being a warm-up act for Mr. Obama, who lived in Jakarta from 1967 to 1971. “I’ve already been asked, over and over again, ‘When is he coming?’ ” Mrs. Clinton said at the dinner, with mock exasperation.

She suggested that Mr. Obama might save the visit for a time when he was beleaguered in his job and needed a morale boost. That suggests he may not be visiting anytime soon.

Shortly after noon, Mrs. Clinton left Jakarta for Seoul, where, after a short respite in Southeast Asia, North Korea’s threats to test a long-range missile were likely to return to her agenda.

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