Worth reading: Hillary Clinton in the December issue of Vogue

Clinton with the president. Photo by Annie Leibovitz for VogueClinton with the president. Photo by Annie Leibovitz for VogueThere's an in-depth interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the new issue of Vogue and--though we haven't always been the former senator's biggest fans--in this story, we were mightily impressed. Clinton comes across as a woman who's strong, independent, well-prepared, fair, deeply knowledgeable, thoughtful, and good at her job. Much of the article takes place behind the scenes, as writer Jonathan Van Meter follows Clinton through last summer's weeks-long tour of Africa. The result is a fascinating, West Wing-ian read, a window into the lives of high level public officials abroad. But it's also worth picking up for Clinton herself, who seems a very different, more genuine, relaxed, and candid politician than the one who was dodging fake bullets and fighting dirty with Obama just last year.

Here, a few of the most compelling quotes from this new and improved Hillary, whom Bill Clinton calls "the best public servant our family has produced":

On why she's such an inspirational figure to so many women:
"Well, I don't really understand it myself. But it may in part be because people feel like they know me; they have watched me on the world scene for seventeen years now. They've seen my ups and my downs." She lets out a dark little chuckle. "They've seen my best and my worst. They've seen my public and my private-they've seen everything...So many women feel like I'm on their side... And I think it's also that, whether I am meant to or not, I challenge assumptions about women. I do make some people uncomfortable, which I'm well aware of, but that's just part of coming to grips with what I believe is still one of the most important pieces of unfinished business in human history-empowering women to be able to stand up for themselves."

On how being a Clinton helps her do her job:
"It helps enormously. Around the world, people will say, 'I remember when your husband came' or 'We haven't really made any progress since your husband was here.' There's just a lot of very positive feedback. It's a great door opener. And I have political experience that enables me to look at a leader and say, 'I understand your political problems. I've been in politics. I've had to run for election.' So when a leader tells me that he can't do something because a certain group wouldn't like it, I say, 'But that's what politics is about.' Look at what President Obama did. He organized from the grass roots; he created a political organization. That's what you have to do."

On being told she's "warmer" than former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
"I don't know," she says with a look of distaste at the whole concept. "I think it's important in these jobs to be yourself."

On the now famous "My husband is not secretary of state, I am!" outburst:
"Well, it was a very aggressive mood in that auditorium," she said, surprising me. "The looks on people's faces. . .But on the one hand, I got it because they are so despairing. On the other hand, I just sensed a real disappointment in everybody, including the United States. Forget it. There's nothing anybody can do. Why are you even here? It was a very intense experience." I tell her that the question from the student made me cringe. "I'll tell you, it made me cringe. As you saw. And the actual text of the question was pretty clear in the way it was translated. But, you know, it was just one of those moments."

On how she almost turned down the SOS job:
"I was stunned after the election when President Obama asked me to consider this...I was very unconvinced. I did not think it was the right thing to do. I didn't want to do it. I just really had a lot of doubts and I kept suggesting other people...But then a friend of mine called me and basically said 'How would you have felt if you'd been elected and you'd called him and asked him to do this?' And that really made a big impression on me. How do you say no? And so...I said yes. And here I am."

Read Jonathan Van Meter's full article on the Secretary of State here

See Jonathan Van Meter's photo diary of Hillary Clinton in Africa

Hillary Clinton in the December 1998 issue of Vogue

Photos: A slideshow of political women featured in Vogue