Last night around midnight California time, the most popular story on CNN was Hillary Clinton’s diplomatic faux pas in Africa. You know, the press conference in Kinshasa where she glared at a questioner for apparently asking what Bill – not Hillary – would think about a matter. It was all unscripted and all so ugly. To watch Hillary is to see a woman angered at being slighted. Was it a case of “spousal penis envy,” to use the headline from a posting by True/Slant colleague Rick Ungar? Did it “give us insight into the mind of the Secretary of State,” as CNN wondered in its televised analysis of the episode?
Perhaps. But it definitely gives us insight into what matters the most to CNN’s audience: The theater of politics, and the theater of Clinton herself. Around midnight California time, Clinton’s flare-up was outranking CNN’s story on the sentencing of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi (this was the network’s second-most popular story) – and Clinton’s trip to the war-torn part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (this was No. 10 on CNN), where she was going to meet with rape victims and others who’ve suffered in one of the world’s most volatile regions.
If Clinton could, she’d probably take back her reaction in Kinshasa, which overshadowed her bigger mission in Africa. The exchange (which was prompted by an interpreter’s error) shows that she is learning on the job. In a way, it also humanizes her – even as it takes away the focus from more important matters like Aung San Suu Kyi’s ongoing travails.