Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Where's Hillary? Not in Charlotte

By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN
September 5, 2012 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the annual Pacific Islands Forum in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, on August 31.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the annual Pacific Islands Forum in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, on August 31.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hillary Clinton, the most popular Democrat in the U.S., is in Asia tour during convention
  • It's customary for a current secretary of state to stay above politics, avoid election season
  • Frida Ghitis: Being removed puts her above it all, positioned for a 2016 run for president
  • Ghitis: Hillary insists she will not run, but Democrats are hoping fervently she will

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer/correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." Follow her on Twitter: @FridaGColumns

(CNN) -- Where's Hillary? Where did she go?

Don't bother looking for her this week on the podium of the Democratic National Convention. Don't try to catch a glimpse of her in the backrooms where the powerful gather or on the convention floor where delegates wave signs proclaiming their love for Obama or Clinton (the other Clinton; the husband).

No, while Democrats try to stoke the troops with passion for their party and excitement for Barack Obama's re-election, the most popular member of the Democratic Party, possibly the most popular major politician in America, will stay far away from the national spotlight, about 10,000 miles away.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is occupied with other matters, serious matters of state. No time for cheering or voter-rousing. She's keeping her distance from politics, and that might work out just fine in a few years. As Democrats started streaming to North Carolina, she jetted off to the middle of nowhere. Or, more precisely, to the Cook Islands in the Pacific. Look it up. It's far away.

Frida Ghitis
Frida Ghitis
Land disputes await Clinton in China
Hillary Clinton 'does not sweat'

By now, Hillary -- as everyone calls her unofficially (and we're speaking unofficially) -- has moved on in her busy Asian itinerary. As you read this, she may be in China, or in Timor-Leste, or perhaps Brunei. The official explanation is that she had important business and as a sitting secretary of state, she is supposed to stay above politics, above the partisan fray. Indeed, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it is customary for the current secretary to avoid the political season, as she did in 2008.

Hillary, however, is not just any secretary of state. She is the woman who almost beat the current president for the nomination. She's the one millions hope will lead the ticket in 2016.

She is the one Democrat on everyone's mind this week even if she made it a point to move her operations to the other side of the world. Journalists will find it difficult to ask her opinion about the convention or ask the real question, the one people have not stopped asking in four years: Will she run for president in 2016?

The standard answer is that she has no interest in running again and looks forward to private life after Obama's first term. But few people believe she has made that decision. The reluctance to take her at her word stems partly from the stunning phenomenon of worldwide popularity that Hillary Clinton has become.

For every one of the past 10 years, Americans have ranked her the Most Admired Woman, ahead even of Oprah when she had her show. Hillary is probably among the most popular women in the history of the United States, having won the title 16 times, more than any other woman.

She consistently scores the highest approval ratings of any top member of the Obama administration, and she has developed an extraordinary level of personal rapport with the masses, with the millions who have never met her but have seen her evolve over the decades.

People feel an emotional connection after having witnessed the visible pain she endured during her husband's public cheating scandals. They watched her raise her chin, battle adversity and come out ahead. Everyone knows it has not been easy.

Liberated from campaigning, she has relaxed. She has become more spontaneous and genuine, leaving behind some of the calculated deliberateness of the politician. Hillary's most private moments seem to fill her admirers with vicarious joy. When images surface of her dancing or drinking a beer during a break from work in Colombia, they immediately go viral. As if people felt glad that she's happy.

The Internet parody "Texts from Hillary" became all the rage, as it purported to show the ubercompetent SecState whipping the world into line. In one image, President Obama, stretched out on a couch, sends a text, "Hey Hil. Whatchu doing?" Hillary, looking stylish in shades, with giant briefing books before her, texts back: "Running the world."

It's a joke, but it's funny because it reflects an image that has taken hold. Hillary seems to work harder than anyone. She has traveled to more countries -- 108 so far -- than any of her predecessors. She's always at it. And it always seems important. The mere mortals, the regular politicians, are out campaigning, telling half-truths and slinging mud. Hillary's busy, working to keep the world running.

As secretary of state, she is in a perfect position to work on issues that are much less controversial than domestic dilemmas. She doesn't need to talk about tax increases, health care reform or the deficit. She doesn't have to spar with the Republicans and look petty or nasty in the process.

It makes her look superior to the others. It puts her in great shape for 2016, when she will be 69, not too old to run for president.

Hillary first electrified activists back in 1995, when she declared in her famous Beijing speech "it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights." And she has never let up on her efforts on behalf of women. But men, too, even the most rugged (even Republicans) have come to respect her.

Back in 2010, when a Rolling Stone reporter quoted senior military men in Afghanistan disparaging the Obama administration, he revealed that, "Only Hillary Clinton receives good reviews."

And she has not stopped getting great reviews. Staying out of the political mud-pit, she is the subject of popularity polls, breathless speculation and gushing profiles, like a recent cover story -- complete with photo spread -- in Conde Nast Traveler. In addition to the glamor and the competence, the writer revealed "one very intimate detail that most people still don't know about Hillary Clinton." The secret? "She does not sweat. Literally. She does not even glow. No matter how high the heat, not a drop nor a drip nor a bead ..."

The polls show voters want Hillary to run again. In Iowa, a look at presidential preferences showed Hillary beating Vice President Biden 60 to 18. No one else reached 5%. In New York, voters want Hillary to run even more than they want their very popular governor to do so.

So, while the Democrats shout themselves hoarse in Charlotte, Hillary will be far away, busy with affairs of state. But don't be so sure her absence means she's not interested in politics.

Like everyone in Charlotte, she too is probably pondering what Hillary will do in 2016. She may be absent, out of sight. But staying away only makes the Democrats' heart grow fonder.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frida Ghitis.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1516 GMT (2316 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 0105 GMT (0905 HKT)
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT