‘My husband is not secretary of state. I am’

Associated Press / August 11, 2009

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KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo - Hillary Rodham Clinton has a message for the world: It’s not all about Bill.

The secretary of state bristled yesterday when - as she heard it - a Congolese university student asked what her husband thought about an international financial matter.

She hadn’t traveled to Africa to talk about her husband the ex-president. But even there, she couldn’t escape his outsized shadow.

She abruptly reclaimed the stage for herself.

“My husband is not secretary of state. I am,’’ she snapped.

Clinton’s presence, so bold in her historic presidential candidacy against Barack Obama, has sometimes been hard to see in the months she’s served as the face and voice of US foreign policy.

The president’s ambitious travels have overshadowed her, heavyweight special envoys have been assigned to the world’s critical hotspots, Vice President Joe Biden has taken on assignments abroad - and then last week her husband succeeded in a North Korean mission to free two journalists as she landed in Africa on a seven-nation trip.

“You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?’’ she asked incredulously when the student raised a question about a multibillion-dollar Chinese loan offer to Congo.

“If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion,’’ she said. “I am not going to be channeling my husband.’’

The moderator quickly moved on.

State Department officials said the student approached Clinton afterward and told her he had meant to ask what Obama, not Bill Clinton, thought about the Chinese loan. It was unclear whether the French-speaking student or translator had erred.