Hillary in Turkey

March 7, 2009
Hillary Clinton is visiting Turkey for one day during the course of her eight day trip through the Middle East. Visiting Ankara, Clinton met with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan. During the course of the visit, Clinton announced that President Obama would be visiting Turkey in April of this year.
In the evening, the television network NTV broadcast a thirty-minute interview Secretary Clinton conducted with the panel and studio audience from "Haydi Gel Bizimle Ol" ("Come and Join Us"), an evening current events show hosted by four Turkish women representing different generations.

The first query posed to Clinton was a bit of a trick question: Do you see Turkey becoming a moderate Islamic republic?  Clinton handled it well, obviously having been briefed that such a term for Turkey--no matter how innocuous it might sound--is absolutely unacceptable to many self-styled "secularists" in Turkey, many of whom are convinced that this is what the American government wants Turkey to become. Hillary's answer was good, I thought: she said that she thinks there's a place in Turkey for modernization, democracy, Islam, and secularism. Maybe she wasn't saying anything terribly new, but it was clear she'd done her homework.
Clinton also said that increasing exchange programs between the United States and Turkey was a priority for the Obama administration, something that I was of course very glad to hear.
A few of the questions Clinton was asked were personal, even a little embarrassing, but Hillary was very diplomatic and clearly seemed to have won over the audience by the end of the show. When offered a cup of Turkish coffee and then asked how she liked it and why, Clinton responded "with medium sugar," before adding a riff on how this was a reflection of her moderate (some would say 'triangulating') approach to politics.
All in all, I thought she put in a good performance. 

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