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First Lady talks it over with the nation

Washington - There has been Hillary the baker of cookies, Hillary the social crusader, Hillary the health care reformer and of course Hillary the demon trader of cattle futures, writes Rupert Cornwell.

Now America's First Lady has acquired on a new persona: Hillary the hotshot syndicated newspaper columnist.

Last weekend the first of what will be a regular series called "Talking It Over" appeared in scores of papers across the country - a slightly syrupy 750-word rumination on the privileges and problems of being the best known woman in America. The privilege, she says, is "going to places and meeting people totally out of reach for most men and women". The problem is celebrity's eternal downside: the loss of anonymity and privacy. Occasionally, as with a recent visit to a museum, she succeeds. But even then she was recognised: "You sure look like Hillary Clinton," said a woman. "So I'm told," Mrs Clinton replied, without revealing her identity.

As the White House is at pains to point out, she is receiving not a penny for her labours, whose proceeds will go to children's charities. Very different from that notorious 1978/79 foray into the Chicago commodities market, when - with or without a little help from wellplaced friends - she parlayed $1,000 into more than $100,000 in the space of 10 months.

In sharing her thoughts in print, Mrs Clinton is following the example of the predecessor she most admires, Eleanor Roosevelt, who for 20 years wrote a column called ''My Day''.