Hillary Clinton sidesteps Monica Lewinsky to meet British fans and hint presidential ambition


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The Independent US

They queued up from the early hours to meet the “inspirational” woman they believe will be the first female US President.

But with her notional candidacy faltering back home, Hillary Clinton must wish the British fans she signed books for all had a vote in the 2016 election.

Mrs Clinton arrived in London for a two-day media blitz to promote her memoirs, "Hard Choices".

Back home, gaffes about being “dead broke” unlike the “truly well off” - her speech fee is $200,000 and Bill and Hillary have raised more than $1 billion from corporate sources over the past two decades - have damaged her claim to be in touch with ordinary Americans and knocked her poll ratings.

Yet the queue of adoring fans, which formed at Waterstones’ Piccadilly branch three hours before her arrival, suggested a political superstar in our midst.

Aurora Maley, 13, at the front of the line, had travelled down from Glasgow overnight to meet her idol.

“She’s such an inspiration to me,” Aurora said. “Hillary is a great person to look up to. I’m only young but everything she’s done in her life shows that women can do it. She’s inspired me to maybe go into politics too.”

Dominic Howard left with his signed book and a renewed acquaintanceship. “I met her 20 years ago when I worked for her brother Hugh on his senate campaign in Miami,” he said. “I got to know her mother well. We talked about that. I think she would make a great President.”

Presidential-style security accompanied the signing session, for a crowd of around 200 purchasers, with a team of be-suited heavies keeping undesirable elements, including the media, away from their charge.

London felt the full force of “Hurricane Hillary” as Mrs Clinton shuttled between Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and a slot on the BBC1 One Show sofa. She attended a private “pre- 4 July” dinner with Democrat supporters in London and tomorrow Mrs Clinton, 66, undergoes trial by Holly Willoughby on ITV’s This Morning.

There was, of course, one question on everybody’s lips – would the former Secretary of State be making nice with Monica Lewsinky, who has suddenly become the toast of the Mayfair party circuit?

“That’s something we have moved beyond and our country has certainly moved beyond. I have wished her well,” Mrs Clinton, speaking on Woman’s Hour, said of Lewinsky, who was the star guest at a Marie Curie charity party held at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on Monday night. “It’s important to stay focused on the here and now.”

She added: “Forgiveness is a choice. But I fully respect those who don’t make that choice in their personal or professional lives.”

Asked, over and over again, if she would run for the White House in 2016, Mrs Clinton claimed to be undecided. “I am of course pondering alternatives on my return to public life. It’s a profoundly important decision for me and for the country. As I say in the book, the right question to ask is ‘what’s your vision and can you lead us there’?”

She acknowledged that the election of America’s first female President is “unfinished business. I’m probably the best known because I’ve done it [high office] before. 49 other countries, including yours, have had a woman in the highest government position, so the sooner the better, certainly in my lifetime. If I make that decision, I’ll do my very best to break that highest and hardest glass ceiling.”

That would be a “yes”, then.

If Americans are getting what Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus calls “Hillary fatigue”, many Britons remain under her spell. Mrs Clinton was quick to describe the “special relationship” as “so special to me personally, it’s not just a common set of values to fall back on”, a blandishment only those running for high office offer.

That relationship survives whether working alongside “Conservative or Tory governments”, Mrs Clinton said, which could either be considered another gaffe or a suggestion that she does not see Ed Miliband as a likely international partner should the Clintons return to the White House.

Elizabeth Warren, the populist Massachusetts Senator, is emerging as a potential rival for the 2016 Democrat nomination and Mrs Clinton’s lead over Republican contenders has shrunk according to recent Zogby polls.