Hillary Rodham Clinton says that although much criticism of her is politically motivated, she also made mistakes early in her husband’s presidency because of unfamiliarity with Washington.
“I suddenly came to a place where perception is more important than it had ever been in my life - where I was being, I thought, painted in ways based almost on tea-leaf reading,” Mrs. Clinton said in a lengthy magazine article in The New Yorker magazine, on newsstands Monday.
“But I finally realized that this was serious business for the people who cover politics in this town and think about it, and so I had to pay at least some attention.”
As an example, Mrs. Clinton mentions her health care task force’s decision to keep reporters in the dark about the details of the plan the group was developing in 1992. She now feels she should have been more open with the press, she said.
Criticized also for failing what The New Yorker calls the “charm offensive” required of first ladies, Mrs. Clinton said her duties as a mother come first.
“I think that’s one of the reasons people say, ‘Well, who is she? We don’t know her.’ I don’t get out as much as many people do, because these years of child-rearing go by so fast - I mean, Chelsea’s going to be gone,” the first lady said. “I can go to dinner parties from now to kingdom come when she’s in college and when she’s grown.”
The article does not examine the legal questions surrounding the Whitewater and travel office controversies, but focuses on Mrs. Clinton’s role as first lady and the dislike some feel toward her.
In an article published last week, The Washington Post quoted anonymous advisers as saying that Mrs. Clinton’s stubbornness and distrust of outsiders had contributed to the Whitewater and travel office affairs.
Asked to explain the animosity toward her, Mrs. Clinton said: “I apparently remind some people of their mother-in-law or their boss, or something.”
In the article, Mrs. Clinton said she likes the description a “family feminist … because if you are a human being, one of your highest responsibilities is to the next generation.”
But she also remembers a time when women had to push for basic rights.
When she went with a friend to take her law school admissions test, Mrs. Clinton said, she was harassed by some young men sitting near her: “They started to say, ‘What do you think you’re doing? If you get into law school, you’re going to take my position. You’ve got no right to do this. Why don’t you go home and get married?”’
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