Hillary is not going to President Barack Obama’s Democratic convention in Charlotte. Evidently, she’s going to wait for her own.
There were intriguing developments on the presidential trail Tuesday, and I don’t mean Rick Santorum dropping out.
Hillary Clinton cemented her newly cool image and set off fresh chatter about her future when she met at the U.S. State Department with two young men who created a popular Internet meme showing photos of the secretary of state on a military plane, wearing big sunglasses, checking her BlackBerry and looking as if she’s ready to ice somebody.
The pictures, as Raymond Chandler would say, make Hillary look as innocent and inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.
The meme, which exploded on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, was dreamed up last Wednesday by Hillary fans Adam Smith and Stacy Lambe, communication specialists here in Washington, at the gay sports bar Nellie’s.
It features invented tongue-in-cheek texts between the don’t-mess-with-me Hillary in dark shades and other famous people pictured on their gadgets.
When Mitt Romney texts “Any advice?” to Hillary, she replies: “Drink.” She rejects a “friend” request from Mark Zuckerberg, cuts off Joe Biden when he tries to tell a bar joke, instructs a cooing Ryan Gosling to call her “Madam Secretary,” blows off Jon Stewart by saying she’s already booked on Colbert, and wields a put-down from “The Devil Wears Prada” on Anna Wintour.
When the president asks, “Hey Hil, Whatchu doing?” she ripostes: “Running the world.” And when a young woman texts, “It’s 3 am and I think something’s happening,” Hillary snaps: “On it.”
I asked the dazzling Diana Walker – the Time magazine photographer who took one of the totemic pictures of Hillary on a C-17 flight last fall from Malta to Tripoli for a cover story on “Hillary and the Rise of Smart Power” – what made her black-and-white shot such a sensation.
“I don’t think she was meaning to be cool,” Walker said. “She just reached in her bag to get some glasses to read her BlackBerry before the plane took off for Tripoli.”
Walker told me she got a letter from a young woman, a friend of her son’s, who said she stared at the image for a long time.
“It truly sent chills down my spine,” the woman wrote, “and I immediately shared it with my daughter because of the power it portrayed.”
With women under attack, that sense of serene toughness has strong appeal.
The Hillary flurry is telling.
During the 2008 Democratic primary, Barack Obama had a lock on young people, technology chic and the press. Hillary was regarded by kids as the lady who’d been around a long time, wearing headbands and pantsuits. She had a paranoid relationship with the press and an antiquated take on technology.
Now she’s quick to laugh at herself and take advantage of the positive buzz, even posting her own captions with trendy argot on the “Texts From Hillary” site.
As Jonathan Darman, who covered Hillary’s campaign for Newsweek, noted: “The speed with which she’s embraced it suggests something has really changed in her. If this were 2008, the conversation around her would have been: 1) What is Tumblr? 2) What is Facebook? and 3) How do we get them to take down the Tumblr and/or how do we destroy Facebook?”
Hillary has a history of being more popular when she seems less in control. The Monica fiasco made her such a sympathetic figure that she glided into a U.S. Senate seat. Losing to Obama and becoming his hard-working subordinate has, at times, won her higher approval ratings than the president’s.
Her savvy public image gambit Tuesday sent a signal she may not be leaving the stage forever. She has not only shored up her techie cred and popularity with young people. Hillary, who kept the press at a distance in 2008, is now well-liked by the press corps traveling with her around the world. Unlike Obama, she seems to enjoy going out with reporters and having a cocktail after a hard day of trilats.
In another sign she’s in vogue, she’s the model for a character, Elaine Barrish Hammond, a defeated presidential contender and divorced former first lady who becomes secretary of state, in a new TV show called “Political Animals” scheduled to air this summer on the USA Network. Hillary will be conjured up by Sigourney Weaver, wearing a ruby-red pantsuit in the first scene and described in the script this way: “Even in the pantsuit she’s breathtaking. Brilliant and indefatigable – Elaine is a force and a beauty. ... she has a regal countenance. If America had a queen, it would be Elaine.”