Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton just finished yet another town hall meeting — her first in Europe as the nation’s chief diplomat. The participants were delighted to see and hear her, even though she was late more than half and hour.
Only one remark seemed to irk the audience a bit — that U.S. democracy is much older than European democracy. We in Mrs. Clinton’s traveling press corps think she meant pan-European democracy, but she was perhaps too tired to articulate it perfectly.
The questions she was asked during the meeting with young European professionals at the European Parliament in Brussels were much more serious than those we heard during similar town hall events in Asia last month. They ranged from the Middle East peace process to Russia to climate change to Darfur.
One young man in the front row, who wore an “I love Hillary” T-shirt, asked what the United States could do about the oppression of gays and lesbians in many countries around the world, as well as the lack of HIV/AIDS prevention among gay men in certain societies.
“Persecution and discrimination against gays and lesbians is something we take very seriously,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We haven’t done enough on prevention, testing and treatment” of HIV/AIDS.
Asked if the huge European Union bureaucracy is an impediment, rather than an asset, she said that “process for the sake of process in dangerous.” She added, however, that she often finds “Europeans confused about how the U.S. government works.”
“I never understood multi-party democracy,” she said jokingly in referrence to the many political parties in Europe. “It’s hard enough with two parties.”
The United States doesn’t have a universal health-care system, though “we’ve been trying for about 100 years,” she said. “Our political system is structured in such a way that it makes it difficult.”