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Hillary and elephant

Mrs. Clinton on way to Bosnia front line

March 23, 1996
Web posted at: 11:10 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Jill Dougherty

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- She has ridden elephants in India, dined with families in Mongolia, and promoted computer literacy in Chile. But on her trip to Europe, Hillary Rodham Clinton will do what no first lady has done since Eleanor Roosevelt: Make a "solo" visit to U.S. troops at the front line of a military operation.

On her fourth major international trip without the president, Mrs. Clinton heads to Tuzla where the heavily armed, 20,000-strong American element of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission is headquartered.

Soldiers

She will go to Tuzla after visiting families of the troops on Sunday in Baumholder, Germany, the American base that is the permanent duty station of many of the U.S. peacekeepers.

At Tuzla, she will also meet Bosnian government officials and religious leaders and is expected to stress the need for civilian reconstruction.

Mrs. Clinton, accompanied by her 16-year-old daughter Chelsea, was scheduled to leave on the nine-day, five-country trip Saturday.

The trip may well be a welcome respite for the first lady as she leaves behind political baggage, notably Whitewater and its unflattering media images.

But first lady historian Carl Anthony says he believes any such high-profile visit is unlikely to have immediate results.

Carl Anthony

"I think you don't change an image by one trip, nor do you expect to," Anthony said. "I think what you do is you slowly evolve, and hopefully people's understanding of you evolves as well."

Still, aides hope this trip will prop up Mrs. Clinton's image. In Istanbul, Turkey, she will visit a family-planning clinic. In Athens, she will meet with a Greek family.

Although Mrs. Clinton's focus on the family may look traditional, historian Anthony says it allows her to send a message on a subject she feels strongly about.

At some public engagements, Mrs. Clinton has sought to make her identity separate -- both from the White House and her husband.

Hillary Clinton

"I am not here as a foreign policy spokesperson for the White House or the Clinton administration or even for my husband, but as a person who cares deeply about our nation's engagement in the world," she said in a recent speech to the Council on Foreign relations.

On this trip, the first lady will also talk on two other pet topics: women's and children's issues.


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