Hillary Clinton in Malaysia.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Malaysia — US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday she
expects President Barack Obama to stay the course on domestic and
foreign policy even if Republicans make big gains, as expected, in hotly
contested congressional midterm elections.
On a visit to
predominantly Muslim Malaysia, where she was promoting religious and
political tolerance, Clinton told students and civic leaders that she
had spoken to Obama by phone on the eve of the vote, and joked that she
thought he seemed "a little envious" that she was abroad for an election
that may see Democrats lose control of Congress.
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think he was a little envious that I am here," Clinton said, describing
the phone call she and Obama had at 1 a.m. — midday Monday on
But she said that even if the Republicans win Congress, the Obama administration will pursue its agenda.
political winds blow back and forth but I think you will find that
President Obama is a pretty steady captain of the ship," Clinton said.
"No matter what happens in our election, you will see him ... continuing
to promote his agenda, which I think is right for America and right for
is barred from partisan political activity as America's top diplomat,
but said she personally thought Obama is doing an "excellent job" in
handling complex domestic and foreign policy matters.
president inherited a very difficult set of problems and has been
persistent and visionary in addressing" them, she said. She said she
thought his economic policies had prevented a global depression, praised
his vow to rid the world of nuclear weapons and celebrated the passage
of health care reform.
Despite those accomplishments, Clinton
explained to her audience that the American electorate can be fickle and
pointed out that it is not unusual for the sitting president's party to
lose seats in Congress after his first two years in office. That, she
noted, happened to her husband in 1994.
"If that happens in our
elections, and it may or may not ... it is sort of the way American
politics keeps itself in the center," she said. "A new president gets
elected, he usually does an enormous amount in the first two years, and
then everybody in America says that's either not enough or that's too
much. So they send a message to the new president by voting out members
of Congress of his party."
Turning to Malaysia, a Muslim-majority
nation that has made great economic strides, Clinton urged that the
country keep to its traditionally moderate roots and reject extremism
while opening the political arena to all.
"It is important for
countries to always keep an eye on the fact that unfortunately a small
minority can be disproportionately influential unless people of common
sense and shared humanity speak out," she said.
After the town
hall meeting, Clinton met with Malaysian leaders to boost
counterterrorism and security cooperation. Malaysia, which is providing
medical services in Afghanistan, has been supportive of those efforts
and U.S. officials say they are keen to expand its role.
is not a path to building sustainable prosperity, peace, stability or
democracy, it only promotes conflicts and hardens hearts," she told
reporters in a joint news conference with Malaysian Foreign Minister
Anifah Aman, who is promoting a Malaysian initiative to create a global
Clinton sidestepped a potentially volatile
political situation by deciding against having a face-to-face meeting
with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is currently on trial for
sodomy in what the U.S. and many others believe to be a politically
motivated prosecution. However, she said she had raised the case with
"The United States believes it is important for all
aspects of the case to be conducted fairly and transparently in a way
that increases confidence in the rule of law in Malaysia," Clinton said.
She added that the US would continue to follow the matter.
a former deputy prime minister, claims the government has concocted the
charges to thwart his political career after big election gains in
March 2008. The government has denied there is any conspiracy against
Anifah repeated that stance Tuesday and said Anwar would receive a "fair and open trial."
"It is in my interest and in our interest to make sure that Anwar gets a
fair trial," he said. "Because if there is such a thing as a political
prosecution, if it can happen to Anwar, it can happen to the rest of
Clinton is visiting Malaysia in the midst of a two-week, seven-nation
journey through Asia that already has taken her to Vietnam, China and
Cambodia. From Malaysia, she heads to Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and