The Date: 1997.
The Event: Visit by First Lady Hillary Clinton to attend the Conference of Spouses of Heads of State and Government in the Americas (AKA, First Ladies of the Americas Summit).
Holding the Bag: The Diplomad
It's Saturday, and my dog is waiting for his driving lessons. I will make this short and mean spirited.
|He needs some work on shifting from first to second; still a bit choppy, spills my coffee|
I was reminded of the above event in Panama by a news story out a couple of days ago reporting on a Hillary Clinton event in Miami. It seems that her security personnel seized the camera from a member of audience and deleted a picture taken of her. It reminded me of the sort of demands we got from Hillary's staff.
First Lady of the USA (FLOTUS) Hillary Rodham Clinton was coming to Panama to participate in the First Ladies of the Americas Summit. The Embassy, of course, got tasked with working with FLOTUS staff to prepare her visit. Yours truly, at the time, Minister Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs, got tagged with taking the point in dealing with that staff.
Her staff proved unbelievably arrogant and ignorant. They had zero interest in Panama, and only went along to see some sites because they had to do so. We had been told FLOTUS wanted activities after the "summit" that would strengthen US-Panama relations. The staff had no interest in the long US-Panamanian relationship, had no interest in the Canal, or in the very well run Panama Canal Museum. In the end, they decided that FLOTUS should do "something with Indians, you know, Indians." They decided that she should have a photo-op at an Indian village reading to the kids and telling them about the importance of an education. The whole silly thing nearly came off the rails when the staff insisted that FLOTUS have secure telephone communication everywhere she went, including in the Indian village. I remember asking one staffer, "Why does she need secure commo? Is she going to be calling in the B-52s?" That did not endear me to the staffers, but in the end they had to give up the demand because of cost.
We set up an absurd visit to a semi-fake Indian village just outside of the capital. Her people decided that the village, located in the jungle, did not look "jungly enough." They went and rented huge numbers of big plants and had them trucked into the village to make it look more "jungly" for the video of Hillary reading to Indian kids.
Now, what reminded me of all this when I read about her security grabbing a camera in Miami? FLOTUS staff made it clear to us, and the Secret Service agents confirmed, that Hillary did not want anybody getting closer than ten feet to her -- including her security--and that nobody should ask for autographs. I took offense at that, and noted to her staffer, "Our people are professionals. They see a lot of celebrities. Nobody is going to ask for an autograph."
Well the visit happened; Hillary decided to have a "rope line" at the airport so that as she was leaving she could shake hands with some of the people from the Embassy who had made her visit possible. A female staffer approached me the day before, and sheepishly began talking about the "sort of people" Hillary wanted in her pictures. She said that the pictures should have a "certain look." She kept beating about the bush re the rope line, and suddenly a light went on in my dim brain, "She doesn't want fat or ugly people in her pictures, right?" The staffer nodded. I said, "OK, I'll be sure to pass that on."
Of course, I didn't, but I did make sure one old ugly guy was not at the departure ceremony, me.
OK, more serious stuff a bit later on.