Ivanka Trump (Sunday Times Magazine, July 3, 2016)

I’m on the 25th floor of the Trump Tower in New York, sitting opposite Ivanka Trump. She’s a dazzling presence, tall and elegant.At 34, she is the eldest daughter of Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman and would-be president of the US, and his first wife, Ivana, the Czech-American socialite and former model. Ivanka’s skin is luminously moisturised. Her hair, though silky, golden and long, is contained; let’s not forget that in the world of hairstyles, few have had as much impact as her mother’s rock-hard beehive or Donald’s famous swoop-over lift-off. Ivanka looks more like her mother, but she has inherited her father’s superhuman work ethic. She sleeps, she says airily, only“about 4½ hours a night”.

In March this year she gave birth to her third child, Theodore, and only a week later was back on her father’s campaign trail, looking poised and super slim. What happened to the baby belly? What happened to exhaustion hormones? All in check. She said at the time: “As a young girl growing up, my father told me I could do anything that I set my mind to.”And that’s exactly what she did. She was briefly a model, before graduating with an economics degree from Wharton business school in 2004.Along with her two eldest brothers, Ivanka is an executive vice president of development and acquisition at the Trump Organization. She has her own successful fashion brand, and she is writing a book, Women Who Work.

Oh yes, and she and her siblings are increasingly influential in their father’s presidential campaign. Donald, 70, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, is now on his third wife. The real-estate tycoon who helmed the American edition of The Apprentice is taken far more seriously in the US than in Britain, where many see his utterances as unhinged. In America, people look up to the man who is not afraid to say what many think.Trump has five children — three from his first marriage and one each from numbers two and three, the youngest of whom is 10. But it is the elder three who wield the greatest influence over their father’s business ventures and political ambitions.

Ivanka and her brothers Donald Jr, 38, and Eric, 32, are all major players in the Trump presidential campaign, travelling on his campaign plane and sitting with him at his conference table.A few days after we meet, they successfully press him to sack one of his top aides, campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski, who they worried had become a control freak. Reports suggest it was Ivanka who delivered the ultimatum to their father, threatening to distance herself from the campaign if Lewandowski was not removed.

She was right, of course: people were starting to complain that Lewandowski was becoming too abrasive — particularly towards women.At an event in Florida, he was caught on video grabbing a female reporter by the arm. Ivanka is all about taking out the heat, rather than creating it.“Ivanka, Eric and I have the ability to be very candid with our father,” Donald Trump Jr has said. All three children work at Trump Tower, on the floor below their father’s office. He has always involved them just as he was involved himself in his father’s real-estate business, making it an empire, going on to buy ever grander properties. Last week,Trump and his brood were on parade in Scotland boosting their brand at the grand reopening of the Trump Turnberry golf resort, where he hailed Brexit and congratulated Britain on “[taking] their country back”. He attributed the Leave vote chiefly to uncontrolled immigration, and said other countries would follow suit.

When we meet, however, it is clear Ivanka intends to remain above the fray. She is wearing a black and coral floral dress from her own fashion range: V-neck, slightly flared, feminine and in no way overt. Whereas her father thrives on the adrenaline of saying the first thing that comes into his head, Ivanka carefully manicures her thoughts. In person, she’s measured, impressive and athletic-looking.A giant desk separates us. It’s filled with books, notes, her magazine covers and a printed card with what appears to be the Trump manifesto: “We are Determined, Respectful, Engaged,Ambitious, Motivated, Dedicated, Optimistic.” I’m flustered as I grapple for my tape recorder. Ivanka’s voice is soothing as she recommends one of her own handbags with many compartments and a charger for your phone: “It’s coming in the new collection.”

The clothes line is only a small part of what’s occupying her time alongside the Trump campaign, the family’s real-estate deals and, of course, her three kids. She tells me she’s always literally running home to check on them.There’s a camera linked to the office, too, so she knows what they are up to. Ivanka recently tweeted that baby Theodore has started sleeping through the night at two months. How did she manage to get him to do that?

“With each child we got them on a sleep schedule in a quicker fashion,” she says.“However,Arabella [her oldest daughter, aged 4] was a disaster because we didn’t know what we were doing and it took a year. Joseph [aged 2] was half that, but with Theodore we’re learning how to do it.”

Her husband, Jared Kushner, is also involved with Trump’s campaign. He is another American businessman — the publisher of The New York Observer and heads his family’s real-estate development company, Kushner Companies.They married in 2009 after she converted to Judaism for him.“I’m incredibly in love with him and he’s my best friend,” she says. He was raised Orthodox. She is observant of the Sabbath and has even learnt to cook kosher.“I was a terrible cook. I’ve always loved entertaining and having people in my home but I would normally order food.When I got married I decided that was something I would learn how to do,” she says.

As well as an apartment in Manhattan (on the Upper East Side) they have a cottage at one of the Trump golf clubs in New Jersey, next to her father’s. She and her family escape there at weekends. How is Donald as a grandfather? “Excellent, excellent. My kids love him and we spend a lot of time together, especially during the summer. It’s very cute that my daughter has picked up little things from him. A couple of months ago we were walking down the street in New York City and she spotted a pothole in the road. She points at me and looks at it and says,‘Mom, Grandpa would not like that.’

We laugh and then she goes,‘You know, that sort of meticulousness that he has.’ He is incredibly close with my children.”Her eyes light up when she’s talking about her dad. “My father has tremendous warmth,” she continues. “He is a fiercely loyal person to his family and friends. He has an amazing — and albeit sometimes wicked — sense of humour. He has been an unbelievable father to me and my siblings.” Trump is a man who doesn’t think before he speaks and doesn’t realise that his “jokes” can often be taken out of context — and she hasn’t always been shielded from them herself. A former Miss Universe contestant recalled the time Donald called his own daughter“hot”, asking: “Don’t you think my daughter’s hot? She’s hot, right?” Ivanka was 16 at the time. Does she think his sense of humour has been taken in the wrong way? “Potentially,” she says cautiously. Perhaps he shouldn’t joke so much in public, I suggest. Ivanka demurs, as she does about all his controversial politicking. Rather than try and defend his divisive views, she says: “He is also authentic.A component of his success has been that people respect the fact that he’s incredibly honest with his opinions, and in politics that’s remarkably rare, if not unheard of. So I think that’s a refreshing quality. Regardless of whether people agree or disagree with a certain political stance, I do think there’s an appreciation that he is not afraid to say where he stands on a given issue.”

So,Team Trump.Would she, could she, be a running mate? It has been suggested she would be his perfect foil.“Oh gosh, he’s keeping me busy here at Trump. I also have my own business and a young family. Quite a few things on my plate and I’m very happy.” It’s not exactly a denial. Of course, everyone has been asking me: what does she think about Trump’s plans to build a wall to keep out the Mexicans, and banning Muslims from entering the US? What does she think about profiling? But of course she’s not going to tell me — those questions are off limits. She sails on unruffled, super-controlled, immune to his turbulence.The best I can do is ask her how things would change if she was to get the title First Daughter? “You’ll have to ask me in a year from now. I’m trying not to think too far ahead of myself. I’m an adult now, so obviously it would be a different experience

than if I were a child. But I’m still a daughter.” I read that she was close friends with the former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton.“Yes, we’ve known each other for years and she’s a wonderful person and a very good friend.” So despite their parents running against each other, their friendship remains. Ivanka is very much a feminist.“I 100% believe in gender equality so by definition that makes me a feminist, which I’m very proud of.” Surprisingly, she also thinks her father is a feminist — despite many accusations against him of misogyny, objectifying women and generally cussing them out (but who does he not cuss out?).“I do, yes and it’s a big reason I am the woman I am today. He always told me and showed me that I could do anything I set my mind to if I married vision and passion with work ethic. He’s also surrounded me with strong female role models who have done just that since I was a little girl. People talk about gender equality. He has lived it, he has employed women at the highest levels of the Trump Organization for decades, so I think it’s a great testament to how capable he thinks women are and has shown that his whole life.” I think she’s always been a daddy’s girl. She used to watch Donald in the office and on construction sites when she was little, just to observe his process. She becomes a little more hesitant at this; you can see her choosing words carefully.“Yes I did. I think there’s a genetic component as well as an experiential component to my love for real estate. Both my parents really loved what they did professionally and shared their passion with us starting from a young age. It’s no coincidence that my brothers and I like showing up for work.That’s what they modelled for us.”

“But they didn’t force it upon us,” she adds.“The number one thing my father said to me my whole life was that you need to find what you’re passionate about, because life is too short to do something you don’t love and if you are not passionate you will never be great.And I’ve noticed that to be true. People who are the most successful are the most passionate. It’s much easier to cut corners if you care less deeply.”

Born and raised in New York, she was a straight-A student and responsible for earning her own spending money, which is why she took up modelling in her teens. In her book The Trump Card, she wrote: “It’s as ruthless an industry as real estate… models were the meanest, cattiest, bitchiest girls on the planet. Entitled, unsupervised, under educated and pampered teenagers whose every success came as the direct result of someone else’s disappointment.” She got out of that fast,went to university and worked for other companies before joining Trump.

She’s not someone who thinks that famous parents are a curse — despite what she went through when her parents,who were very much the New York power couple, divorced in 1992. She learnt all about her father’s mistress, the actress Marla Maples,who became his second wife. Reporters would ask her about her father’s sexual prowess and she was hounded by paparazzi.

Yet, the Trump name is, she says,“a tremendous blessing. I look at the great fortune I’ve had my entire life.There are people starving around the globe. Some people think having a successful or famous parent can be paralysing in that they feel they could never live up to what was accomplished by the generation before them.The flip side is that it can be a great motivator if you harness that energy and use it productively.”

She’s close to both her parents and said in the past that the divorce “brought me closer to my father, not because I was taking his side but because I could no longer take him for granted”. So she supported him, a week after giving birth, on that podium in New York. Was that not hard? “I try to live my life in accordance with my priorities. My family is always my first priority.”

She believes her attitude to raising children is very different from that of her mother’s generation.“There used to be a work life and a home life. Now there is one life,” she says.“No one I know has a work wardrobe any more, or an area of their closet that’s designated for work.We transition through roles more fluidly.

Technology has been a huge enabler of that because it became normal to respond to work emails at 11 o’clock at night and therefore permissible to pick up the phone when your child was calling at the end of the school day.” She adds: “I don’t do it all myself. I’m very fortunate to have childcare to help me while I am at work.” In fact, she rejects “the concept of ‘having it all’ because that’s the wrong way to look at things. It implies there’s one definition for personal and another for professional success and I don’t believe that to be true.And I think people are trying to cast women as uniform and one-dimensional.A better way to look at it is, you are the architect of your own life and you have to live in accordance with the things you prioritise.”

She has recently started to enjoy running.“I absolutely hated it, then my team here and I trained for a half marathon in Central Park. Now I run with my husband on Saturday mornings. I’m probably the only person who runs without music, without a phone. It’s just great to be able to talk to him.”

Every year, she and Kushner like to go to Turnberry, which she says “is without doubt the greatest golf resort in the world”. She thinks the only way to reallyget to know someone is during four hours on a golf course. She claims not to be a “particularly good” golfer, though I doubt there’s much in her life that she’s not exemplary at. She disagrees, and worries that I might think she’s too perfect.“You know, I get very messy. I don’t want to project an image that everything is simple and easy, because that’s not helpful to women, because raising children is really tiring and exhausting. I sleep very little, and I don’t advocate that, but there are things that I want to accomplish. I will leave the office early to have dinner with my kids, put them to bed and get back to work rather late. It’s a choice that I feel good about. I’m OK about losing a little bit of sleep to create a schedule that works for my life.” “I’m also of my generation,” she says,“a millennial woman who is ambitious. I have a lot of things to accomplish professionally.And I swing for the fences.” What does that mean? “It’s a baseball expression. It means I dream big.” And live big? “No I don’t. I don’t live to excess.”

Indeed. Everything about her mindset and physical appearance is contained, balanced, the antithesis of her father. I like her, but I still don’t feel I know who she really is. I put it in another way: if she were a shoe, what kind would she be? “Oh, I would be my Carra pump from my own range.” She takes off her coral-coloured stiletto and shows it to me for inspection.“It’s my go-to. Remarkably comfortable, but I could run a marathon in these.” But that heel is four or five inches high.“They’re comfortable. I would never wear a shoe that would require me to teeter around.” Mystery still unsolved.A woman in 4½in stilettos can only run a marathon if she’s Ivanka Trump.

Hillary Clinton (July 20, 2014)

It has been said many times that Hillary Clinton’s lack of warmth and empathy cost her the 2008 Democratic candidacy. A friend of mine who is a respected editor in Australia told me she finds her smug and cold.
Before I was to meet her I watched her appearance on The One Show which has been described as ‘Einstein doing Play School’. I’d go one step further: it was Einstein loving every second of being on Play School – laughing at the frivolity and making everyone else laugh to. Everything she was asked she responded to with fire cracking wit and political diplomacy that was charming and at the same time revelatory.
When asked if she prefers the dress sense of Dolly Parton or Angela Merkel she replied, ‘Dolly for night time, Angela for day.’ And when asked who was her favourite President, Bill Clinton or Barak Obama, she said that she was glad to serve Obama who had taken the worst global recession since the Depression and turned it around and created healthcare for everyone in the US, and glad to be married to Bill who rebooted the economy and created 23 million jobs.
When Rylan Clark greeted her on This Morning referring to her as ‘babe’ she beamed with delight. She can take anything in her stride. But strength doesn’t mean froideur in her case.
I wait for her in her empty suite at Claridges. There’s none of the rude, pushy sullen security that has been described in the Press and on Twitter.
She arrives with her aide smiling. She is wearing black trousers and a jacket that is white, patterned with tiny black and yellow flowers, pointed flats. She is so much smaller than you expect. Her presence is so big you expect her to be.
She is curious: Why is Seven called Seven? Why have I flown in from LA? It’s as if she’s trying to feel her way around me, make a connection, which his easy. She admired my necklace, a gold chain with charms, and while you could think that this was a politician’s ploy to create empathy, she is wearing a more dainty version of the same necklace herself. She has huge eyes; blue, round, enquiring, searching, missing nothing.
She is here of course on a book tour to promote her memoir Hard Choices where she chronicles the exhilarating and gruelling life of being Secretary of State, the world’s number one diplomat covering over a million miles, visiting 112 countries. A life of tough decisions, very little sleep, and endlessly on the road.
She tackled it with gusto and seems to have derived great satisfaction, no longer just Mrs Clinton a woman in her husband’s shadow but a woman who learnt from the best and used it in her own hard graft.
In person she is much more fun and funnier than the book and that you’d ever expect her to be. David Milliband, when he was Foreign Secretary, said, and I paraphrase, that Hillary was great, that you could have a laugh with her and tease her. She laughs a big booming laugh.
How important is that to her? To bring fun into an agenda which is incredibly serious? ‘Oh Chrissy, it’s so important, I mean really. So many of the issues you deal with when you are in Government these days, and particularly when you do foreign policy. National security is serious and dangerous. If you don’t have time to be a human being and let your hair down, have a joke, tell stories, you can lose perspective on what you are really doing. And so I have had fun with David, and others. ‘
She seems relaxed, sparkling, fluid. I wonder if she has grown into this person or this was just the person people didn’t see?
The most moving part of her book is when she talks about her mother Dorothy Rodham who had a cruel, abusive and neglected upbringing. Dorothy, who died in 2011, was rejected by her own parents, sent from Chicago to California when she was eight the sole carer of her three-year-old sibling to live with strict disciplinarian grandparents who didn’t know the meaning of love.
Dorothy went out trick or treating one Halloween without permission and as punishment was confined to her room for an entire year. Yet Dorothy took solace in the comfort of strangers and any small acts of decency. She became a lifelong campaigner for social injustice and a woman who knew how to love.
How did Dorothy affect Hillary and formulate the person she became? ‘When I was a very little girl all I knew was that she was my mother. As I got older, probably into my teen years, I could reflect. She was devoted and she was fun. She loved sports. We would go swimming. She loved to play golf. She was an active involved person in our church and in our school. When I learned about the terrible set of issues and challenges she faced as a child my admiration for her grew. I couldn’t imagine – I had this very stable, loving, supportive family – I didn’t know how she did it; how she came from what she experienced to be what I experienced. It was extraordinary.’
What stayed with Hillary Rodham Clinton was the notion you respect someone getting up after they have been knocked down. No matter how rejected, betrayed or mistreated you feel, you don’t become a whiner because Dorothy never did. You don’t become a victim if you want to survive and enjoy your life. If you are a victim you never move on.
Much has been made of the fact that Monica Lewinsky’s visit to London briefly coincided with HRC’s. In a recent Vanity Fair article Lewinsky described herself as ‘arguably the most humiliated woman in the world.’ That is taking the victim role by storm. One could argue in that particular three-way it was HRC who was the most humiliated. The man she stood by and loved cheated on her and it all played out in public.
How did she take that humiliation and turn it round so dramatically? Her huge eyes widen. How did she come from being that humiliated person to the respected Secretary of State? How did she turn that around?
‘I moved on,’ she says simply and profoundly. And that doesn’t make he cold. It doesn’t mean it was easy.
Lewinsky couldn’t move on. Does she feel a little sorry for her? ‘I think she is someone who has to express her own feelings. I can’t characterise her, that wouldn’t be right. I’m just grateful that I made the choices I made, to move forward and from that I’ve had an extraordinary set of opportunities and experiences that I’m very grateful for.’
In her book she also talks about the necessity of forgiveness. Most religions talk about it as liberation. Did she find it easy to forgive? ‘NO, NO,’ she says loudly, emphatically and with a vulnerability that moves me.
‘Forgiveness is a hard choice. It’s empowering and liberating to be able to reach the point in your life where you feel you can forgive. Everybody feels they have been trespassed upon and nearly everybody has trespassed on somebody else, maybe not intentionally…
‘I’m inspired by the example of Nelson Mandela who led a country to a new future through the example of forgiveness and reconciliation. That doesn’t mean you forget – it’s truth and reconciliation. You have to be honest, face the truth about whatever your situation personally or nationally might be, but he often made the point that if you carried bitterness and anger around with you for whatever reason, you would remain in prison. You would in fact be imprisoning yourself and be unfair to yourself because you can’t get beyond what happened to you.
‘I think about my mother and what happened to her when she was growing up – the abuse, neglect and meanness she was subjected to – and she had to find it within herself to rise above it, to keep going or she would have been miserable. Or she might have got married and had kids and been miserable to them. But she didn’t.’
Did you find that after that, I mean Lewinsky but I don’t say the word, it made you and Bill stronger and closer? ‘I feel that we always had a close relationship. It doesn’t mean that we haven’t disappointed each other or fallen short in some way because of course we each have in everyday life. There are things that you do or fail to do. I feel very blessed to have a partner in life who supports me, who is enthusiastic about what I want to do, who has been a great father and who will be a fabulous grandfather. I feel very lucky.’
Throughout the interview there is direct and indirect clucking about the advent of her being a proud grandmother. Chelsea is to give birth in the autumn and you sense the conflict. Of course she wants to enjoy that time of being with her daughter and the baby. She says she hasn’t made up her mind yet if she will run. I feel her sense of injustice is too huge and passionate to allow her not to.
In the book you feel the adrenalin, the fear she refuses to take on, when she writes about her role in Bin Laden’s capture and demise. National security was paramount. She had to keep the operation secret from her husband. How did that make her feel? Was it hard? She is so direct and thrives on the bravery of honesty I imagine it would be.
She nods. ‘It was hard in two ways. Hard because I had to keep it from everybody. I had to do the work, the analysis and the recommending based on my own efforts and I had to keep it from my husband because of the admonition we couldn’t tell anybody. I would have loved to have talked it over with him because I value his advice and experience, but I didn’t. And when President Obama called him and the other living presidents about what had happened, he said to Bill, “I assume Hillary has told you.” He said, “No, she hasn’t told me anything.” And I laughed about it with him later and he said, ”Well good, people will know you can keep a secret.”’ And she laughs now.
Did Bill keep secrets from her when he was in office? ‘Yes, he did. I don’t think very many, but there are some things that you are expected to keep secret. Even though in our cases we could add value in thinking through these decisions together we didn’t.’
How does she think the dynamic of their relationship has changed since she has become more powerful and a more public figure and he less? ‘I don’t think he will ever be anything but a public person, especially in our country. He has his work with the foundation; his special envoy work with the UN, some of the work that President Obama has asked him to do, and he has an enormously high profile. So I view it as a conversation we started many years ago in law school (they both went to Yale) where we each tried to support and really listen to each other and provide our best advice.
‘So although he ended his public electoral office in 2001 and I began mine, we never quit sharing views and ideas. When I was a senator for New York and he was one of my constituents, I used to tell him I represented him.’ She laughs, almost conspiratorially.
‘When I was Secretary of State there were many things we could talk over, and we did. We view ourselves as being very much partners in our marriage.’
Bill Clinton is hugely charismatic. I interviewed him once briefly. His voice was mesmerising and he was electric. What’s he like around the house? Is he electric all the time? Now she guffaws. ‘I know that when I see it. No. H e is very much an around the house husband; let’s clean up the kitchen, let’s take the dogs for a walk, what are we going to do with our garden? Very matter of fact everyday issues.’
I have to say I thought Bill Clinton was very nice. ‘Yes,’ she considers. He is very nice. Yes.’ We laugh again.
One of the most amusing photographs in her book is where she is playing the piano with Bono and they are singing. It takes guts to sing with Bono. It takes guts to send in helicopters with Navy Seals to Bin Laden’s lair. It takes guts to stay human when you are in power.
Because of that and her ability to triumph over tragedy, she has become a gay icon. ‘Really?’ she purrs. ‘That is so touching to hear that. I have a chapter called Unfinished Business about women’s rights and gay rights. To me you cannot be fully human, fully civilised, unless you recognise humanity in everyone. Our country has made a lot of progress in issues of racism and sexism and homophobia, but many places around the world are dangerous for women and dangerous for gays and we have to keep working.’
As a feminist she is unswerving. On Twitter she describers herself as ‘wife, mom, lawyer, women and kids advocate, US senator, Sec. State, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD.’
She says she was thinking of naming her book The Scrunchie Chronicles because of the amount of attention that gets paid to her hair, especially when she pulls it back in a scrunchie.
Does she feel being a woman in power she has to modify the way she dresses, for instance be more masculine, more conservative, play down a girlie side of herself? ‘When I was younger and women first started to get in public positions, in my case the law, we went through a period where we wore those little ribbon ties, little bows. We tried to figure out what was our appropriate dress. Now it is sorted out. Women can express who they are more. You are running up against conventional expectation and your personal identity. It doesn’t mean to say you can wear a bathing suit to court. You can be aware of conventions but not be a slave to them. I wear pants of various kinds because it solves a lot of problems. Different jackets, heels of different heights, but I also like to ear something that is more fun, more happy, not be so predictable.’
Her coat today is a happy coat. If it were a cocktail it would be margarita. ‘Yes, thank you. I happen to love margaritas and it was my mother’s favourite drink. It’s a happy drink.’
Her clothes in the past have been criticised. She has been criticised for her hair and basically every move she’s ever made. She says she has developed the skin of a rhinoceros. She takes criticism seriously, but not personally. Especially when it’s about the double standards applied to a woman in the public eye.
Is there any criticism that still hurts her? ‘I feel like I’ve run the gauntlet of criticism. When somebody is saying something about another person that is unfair, it’s not that it’s about me so much as the meanness that can be displayed towards people. I don’t like that.
‘It used to bother me and I would get frustrated and then I didn’t have the energy for it any more. And I also thought if I’m spending energy worrying about what somebody is saying about me, then how am I ever going to make the point I want to make. So now I wear my hair how I want it. I’ll wear my glasses if I want to. Women should not be entrapped by those expectations. This book is to encourage young women in particular to find their style, their identity and their voice.’
I wonder if she is referring to what has been dubbed ‘the Beyoncé voters’ the single ladies, which have been categorised as a new demographic of potential voters who Clinton will need if she were to run.
‘Yes, I read the article to which you are referring to. I think what you have to do is make the case that Congress has an enormous impact on matters that are important to you. If you are worried about your student loan, saving for a house, worried about the conditions in the workplace, it’s not just the president you elect, it’s who you elect to Congress. Single women have not been a target for that kind of message and I think they should be because they deserve to hear that.’
Of course if she did run, much has been made that she would be an old president (She would be 69). She’s been dubbed a Golden Girl. But retorted that that was a very popular TV show. These days she loves House of Cards but hasn’t seen Scandal or Game of Thrones.
She had a health scare – a concussion, had to take blood thinners. Today she is glowing, energetic, relaxed. Does she have a fitness regime other than the yoga I’ve read about? ‘Clearing closets clears my head. It makes my head fitter and I love a project that has a beginning, middle and end. I love organising, going to the container store. When I got out of the State Department I promised myself I would do it and I have.’ She beams. She feels liberated from the throwing away of old clothes. ‘I love the letting go,’ she laughs.
What will she do if she’s not going to run? ‘Work in the foundation that Bill and I started and that my daughter is also a member of, the three of us together. I’m going to keep fighting for women’s full participation, their equality and opportunity in every society. I have more than enough to do, it’s just a question of making these hard choices of where I want to put my energy and emphasis.’
Does Bill want her to run? ‘He wants me to do whatever I decide to do.’
Having seen the job first hand, what is the best and worst thing about being President. ‘The best thing is you can help people solve their problems and manage difficult situations. The worst thing is it’s a never ending daunting set of responsibilities that 24/7 is not enough time to deal with.’
She described her campaign for Democratic candidacy as physically and emotionally exhausting, which is surely nothing to the stress of being the actual President. Hasn’t she noticed how quickly and dramatically they age? ‘YES. Just look at them, they go in young and vigorous and…go grey.’ Does that worry her? ‘No, because I can colour my hair. They don’t.’
She looks good for her 66 years. Her face is lined but not excessively. Her face is kind and un-botoxed. Overall you sense strength and huge warmth which is an impressive combo.
She caused brouhaha by announcing how when they left the White House at the end of the Clinton presidency they were completely broke and hugely in debt. Yet she makes vast amounts from public speaking and book deals. Can she remember what it was like to really have no money?
‘Absolutely, yes. Bill and I started off scraping our way through law school. We each had to work several jobs to get through and each had student loans to pay off.’
When they got married there was no money for a proper wedding reception. They had a do at home and she wore an off the peg dress she bought the day before the ceremony. What does she like spending her money on these days?
‘Experiences. Going to the theatre. Going on vacations to new places.’
What keeps her awake at night apart from jet lag? ‘I sleep very well. But I do worry about violence from extremists, rogue states that have nuclear weapons. We all worry about that.’ I wonder if she has a recurring nightmare about how to stop this. She might just have to be President to try to have a full night’s sleep after all.
Does she feel that men and women wield power differently? ‘Yes. I have observed differences. You can’t generalise but in general women have a more collaborative collegiate style and women may be attuned to what I call kitchen table issues, what’s happening in families, the stresses they’re under, how difficult it is to make ends meet.’
Towards the end of the book when she talks about her mother’s death she is reminded of the quote: ‘I have loved and been loved. All the rest is background music.’ This seems to ring true. And that’s how she would like to be remembered.
In a relationship does she like to be the person who loves most or is loved most? ‘It goes back and forth. That’s why I loved that quote. I have loved and I have been loved. I think it describes any long-term relationship because clearly sometimes you are in greater need than your partner and sometimes it is reversed.’
You don’t think that women love doing the loving? ‘That’s not been my experience. I think there are different phases in men’s and women’s lives. I know a lot of men who are now retired who are much more loving now than when they were working 16 hour days.’
I don’t think she’s referencing Bill, but part of me would like to think so because even women who are strong need nurturing.
We have already gone over our allotted time and now I want her aide to take a picture. We stand together. She is not afraid of arm to arm contact. We smile. We look united, side-by-side. I examine the picture afterwards. Both wearing black trousers, patterned tops, many bracelets, and a gold charm necklace. Both the same height. Both unnatural blondes. We could be sisters and that makes me feel strangely pleased.
Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Simon & Schuster, is out now.