Hillary Rodham Clinton spent 12 years living in the South, and in those Arkansas years, learned that the heart of any home is its breakfast table. In homes across the South, including my own, guests gravitate toward the kitchen table, a place for conversation, comfort and conciliation.
As first lady, she carried this tradition to the White House family living quarters, where, as Carl Bernstein wrote, guests gathered around the breakfast table to discuss, over coffee, issues of moment.
Personally, I believe it was in this setting that Hillary Clinton picked up the grit, grace and gravitas which has made her a favorite of foreign heads of state and will serve her, her president and her country well as secretary of state.
I have heard so many persons of opposing political persuasion talk about how much they liked Hillary – once they met her personally.
A lot of folks love to hate this woman, but if she had a singular archenemy it was one Richard Mellon Scaife.
During Bill Clinton’s administration, billionaire Scaife spent the collective GDP of four or five Third World countries and a couple of South American Banana Republics on a one-man campaign to destroy the Democratic president and first lady.
Here, borrowed from my archived “I See My Dreams” blog, is what happened to this archenemy once he sat down at the table with this woman. I reprint it here, because I think it has much to say about her readiness to fill her new role:
On Sunday, 30 March 2008, Scaife wrote the following editorial in his newspaper, the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Tribune-Review:
Hillary Clinton walked into a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review conference room last Tuesday to meet with some of the newspaper's editors and reporters and declared, "It was so counterintuitive, I just thought it would be fun to do."
The room erupted in laughter. Her remark defused what could have been a confrontational meeting.
More than that, it said something about the New York senator and former first lady who hopes to be America's next president.
More than most modern political figures, Sen. Clinton has been criticized regularly, often harshly, by the Trib. We disagreed with many of her policies and her actions in the past. We still disagree with some of her proposals.
The very morning that she came to the Trib, our editorial page raised questions about her campaign and criticized her on several other scores.
Reading that, a lesser politician - one less self-assured, less informed on domestic and foreign issues, less confident of her positions - might well have canceled the interview right then and there.
Sen. Clinton came to the Trib anyway and, for 90 minutes, answered questions.
Her meeting and her remarks during it changed my mind about her.
Walking into our conference room, not knowing what to expect (or even, perhaps, expecting the worst), took courage and confidence. Not many politicians have political or personal courage today, so it was refreshing to see her exhibit both.
Sen. Clinton also exhibited an impressive command of many of today's most pressing domestic and international issues. Her answers were thoughtful, well-stated, and often dead-on.
Particularly regarding foreign policy, she identified what we consider to be the most important challenges and dangers that the next president must confront and resolve in order to guarantee our nation's security. Those include an increasingly hostile Russia, an increasingly powerful China and increasing instability in Pakistan and South America.
Like me, she believes we must pull our troops out of Iraq, because it is time for Iraqis to handle their own destiny - and, more important, because it is past time to end the toll on our soldiers there, to begin rebuilding our military, and to refocus our attention on other threats, starting with Afghanistan.
On domestic policy, Sen. Clinton and I might find more areas on which we disagree. Yet we also agree on others. Asked about the utter failure of federal efforts to rebuild New Orleans since the Katrina disaster, for example, she called it just what it has been - "not just a national disgrace (but) an international embarrassment."
Does all this mean I'm ready to come out and recommend that our Democrat readers choose Sen. Clinton in Pennsylvania's April 22 primary?
No - not yet, anyway. In fairness, we at the Trib want to hear Sen. Barack Obama's answers to some of the same questions and to others before we make that decision.
But it does mean that I have a very different impression of Hillary Clinton today than before last Tuesday's meeting - and it's a very favorable one indeed.
Call it a "counterintuitive" impression. - RMS
On Sunday, 20 April 2008, Scaife’s newspaper endorsed Clinton. The headline on Editor & Publisher’s report on the endorsement said it all: “Hell freezes over.”
Congratulations, Hillary. I like your warmth. I want my America once more to be a beacon for the world. Let the thaw begin!