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Monday, October 24, 2016

By Marc Caputo, The Miami Herald

MIAMI — Hillary Clinton, the once and current Democratic front-runner for president, spoke Wednesday at the University of Miami, in an appearance where she touched on the chaos in Venezuela, climate change and the traps of partisanship.

One topic she conspicuously avoided: whether she’ll officially run for president in 2016.

When asked about her future plans — noted in her Twitter bio as “TBD,” or to be determined — Clinton slipped the question.

“Well, I’d really like to. But I have no characters left,” Clinton said with a laugh, referencing the 140-character limits of Twitter.

“I will certainly ponder that.”

But earlier, in addressing the 6,000 or so students and guests, Clinton might have given a hint about her future plans.

“No one can or should sit on the sidelines,” said Clinton, who also noted the need to “get beyond the partisanship … beyond all the political dead ends and decide that that’s just not who we are.”

As with a September speech Clinton gave in Miami, her appearance was highly stage-managed and had trappings of a campaign event. There were no questions from, or nearness to, the press.

The main difference between Clinton’s address at the BankUnited Center and those given at the venue by President Barack Obama in the 2012 election cycle: Clinton stayed for a question-and-answer session.

The questions from students were pre-screened and asked by UM President Donna Shalala, who worked in Bill Clinton’s administration as health secretary. Shalala called Clinton her “friend and colleague in too many adventures to count.”

In a nod to the sizable number of Venezuelan students and residents in Miami-Dade, Shalala made sure to ask Clinton, the former secretary of state under Obama, about the chaos in Caracas under President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

Clinton acknowledged longstanding problems with Venezuela and Cuba and expressed a measure of regret that their respective leaders had no interest in truly normalizing relations and democratizing.

“We saw Venezuela, which is such a rich country — a beautiful country — going backward. First under President (Hugo) Chavez’s rule, now in the present day, with President Maduro,” she said.

“We tried. We tried to engage with President Chavez at that very first meeting,” Clinton said.

Clinton said Obama had hopes for a change.

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