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Hillary: I’ve Known Mrs. Bhutto Many Years

From a campaign press release:

Statement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Death of Benazir Bhutto

“I am profoundly saddened and outraged by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a leader of tremendous political and personal courage. I came to know Mrs. Bhutto over many years, during her tenures as Prime Minister and during her years in exile. Mrs. Bhutto’s concern for her country, and her family, propelled her to risk her life on behalf of the Pakistani people. She returned to Pakistan to fight for democracy despite threats and previous attempts on her life and now she has made the ultimate sacrifice. Her death is a tragedy for her country and a terrible reminder of the work that remains to bring peace, stability, and hope to regions of the globe too often paralyzed by fear, hatred, and violence.

“Let us pray that her legacy will be a brighter, more hopeful future for the people she loved and the country she served. My family and I extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the victims and their families and to the people of Pakistan.”

She just can’t help herself:

I came to know Mrs. Bhutto over many years, during her tenures as Prime Minister and during her years in exile.

Sure she did.

From Hillary’s (ghostwritten) autobiography, Living History, pp 322-4:

Silence Is Not Spoken Here

The contradictions within Pakistan became still more apparent at my next event, a luncheon hosted in my honor by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and attended by several dozen accomplished women in Pakistan. It was like being rocketed forward several centuries in time. Among these women were academics and activists, as well as a pilot, a singer, a banker and a police deputy superintendent. They had their own ambitions and careers, and, of course, we were all guests of Pakistan’s elected female leader.

Benazir Bhutto, a brilliant and striking woman then in her midforties, was born into a prominent family and educated at Harvard and Oxford. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s Populist Prime Minister during the 1970s, was deposed in a military coup and later hanged. After his death, Benazir spent years under house arrest. In the late 1980s, she emerged as head of his old political party. Bhutto was the only celebrity I had ever stood behind a rope line to see. Chelsea and I were strolling around London during a holiday trip in the summer of 1989. We noticed a large crowd gathered outside the Ritz Hotel, and I asked people what they were waiting for. They said Benazir Bhutto was staying at the hotel and was soon expected to arrive. Chelsea and I waited until the motorcade drove up. We watched Bhutto, swathed in yellow chiffon, emerge from her limousine and glide into the lobby. She seemed graceful, composed and intent.

In 1990, her government was dissolved over charges of corruption, but her party won again in new elections in 1993. Pakistan was increasingly troubled by rising violence and general lawlessness, particularly in Karachi. Law and order had deteriorated as the rate of ethnic and sectarian murders rose. There were also rampant rumors of corruption involving Asif Zardari, Bhutto’s husband, and supporters.

At the luncheon she hosted for me, Benazir led a discussion about the changing roles of women in her country and told a joke about her husband’s status as a political spouse. “According to newspapers in Pakistan,” she said, “Mr. Asif Zardari is de facto Prime Minister of the country. My husband tells me, ‘Only the First Lady can appreciate it’s not true.’”

Bhutto acknowledged the difficulties faced by women who were breaking with tradition and taking leading roles in public life. She deftly managed to refer both to the challenges I had encountered during my White House tenure and to her own situation. “Women who take on tough issues and stake out new territory are often on the receiving end of ignorance,” she concluded.

In a private meeting with the Prime Minister, we talked about her upcoming visit to Washington in April, and I spent time with her husband and their children. Because I had heard that their marriage was arranged, I found their interaction particularly interesting. They bantered easily together, and seemed genuinely smitten with each other. Only months after my trip, accusations of corruption against them grew more harsh, and in August 1996, Bhutto elevated her husband to a cabinet post. By November 5, 1996, she was ousted amid allegations that Zardari had used his position for personal enrichment. He was convicted of corruption and imprisoned; she left her country with her children, under threat of arrest and unable to return. 

I have no way of knowing whether the accusations against Bhutto and her husband are well-founded or baseless.

That’s it. An official luncheon and a little “private conversation” afterwards.

But it’s not quite the stuff of “I came to know Mrs. Bhutto over many years, during her tenures as Prime Minister and during her years in exile.”

Of course the Hillary camp has quickly rushed out a photograph of their (one and only) historic meeting:

U.S. first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with her daughter Chelsea, left, and Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, holding hands with her son Bilawal and daughter Bakhtawar, take a stroll in this March 26, 1995 file photo, in the garden of the prime minister’s residence, in Islamabad.

Still, now that Ms. Bhutto is dead Hillary will have no one to contradict her self-serving fantasies.

Speaking of which, this entire chapter in Hillary’s book is hilarious insofar as she tries to make her tour of five Middle Eastern countries with Chelsea (who was on spring break) sound like an important government initiative.

After a seventeen-hour flight, we landed in Islamabad, Pakistan, in the late evening in a pounding rainstorm. The State Department had asked me to visit the subcontinent to highlight the administration’s commitment to the region, because neither the President nor the Vice President could make a trip soon. My visit was meant to demonstrate that this strategic and volatile part of the world was important to the United States and to assure leaders throughout South Asia that Bill supported their efforts to strengthen democracy, expand free markets and promote tolerance and human rights, including the rights of women. My physical presence in the region was considered a sign of concern and commitment.

But Hillary and Chelsea didn’t go on their jaunt unprepared. Not by a long shot:

I had given a lot of thought to how Chelsea and I should dress on the trip. We wanted to be comfortable, and under the sun’s heat, I was glad for the hats and cotton clothes I had packed. I didn’t want to offend people in the communities I was visiting, but I was also wary of appearing to embrace customs reflecting a culture that restricted women’s lives and rights.

On Jackie Kennedy’s historic tour of India and Pakistan in 1962, she was photographed wearing sleeveless shifts and knee-length skirts―not to mention a midriff-baring sari that caused an international sensation. Public opinion seemed to have grown more conservative in South Asia since then. We consulted State Department experts, who offered tips on how to behave in foreign countries without embarrassing ourselves or offending our hosts. The South Asia briefing papers warned against crossing legs, pointing fingers, eating with the “unclean” left hand or initiating physical contact with the opposite sex, including a handshake.

I made sure to pack several long scarves that I could throw around my shoulders or put over my head if I entered a mosque. I had noticed the way Benazir Bhutto covered her hair with a light scarf. She wore a local form of dress called shalwar kameez, a long, flowing tunic over loose pants that was both practical and attractive. Chelsea and I decided to try out this style. For the extravaganza at the Lahore Fort that night, I wore a red silk shalwar kameez, and Chelsea donned one in a turquoise green that complemented her eyes.

Yes, Mrs. Clinton definitely has the experience it takes to be President.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Thursday, December 27th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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