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Profile: Hillary Rodham Clinton

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton had hoped of a return to the White House

Senator Hillary Clinton has been chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to be America's top diplomat.

In order to take up her position as Secretary of State, she will have to step down as a senator for New York, a post she has held for the past eight years.

It will not be the kind of return to government that Mrs Clinton, a former first lady, had envisaged.

She had set her sights on becoming the first female president of the United States, campaigning in an often bitter battle against Mr Obama to win the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008.

But at the end of her thwarted campaign she called for party unity, appeared alongside her one-time rival and indicated she would be ready to run for vice president if asked.

She was to be denied that opportunity as well when Senator Joe Biden, himself well versed in foreign policy, was selected.

During her presidential campaign, Mrs Clinton attempted to define herself as the candidate of experience, who would be ready to lead from the start.

KEY FACTS
Born 26 October, 1947 in Chicago
Attended Wellesley College
Graduated from Yale Law School in 1973
Married Bill Clinton in 1975
Campaigner for expanding health insurance coverage and woman's rights
Elected New York senator in 2000
Re-elected as New York senator by wide margin in 2006

But critics pointed out that she had served only as a senator and has held no executive role. They also questioned her electability - she is a divisive figure - and ability to engage with voters.

A campaigner for women's rights, universal healthcare and job creation, Mrs Clinton has a high profile both at home and internationally.

As a senator for New York, part-way through her second term, she has tried to position herself in the centre of the Democratic Party.

She voted for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 but distanced herself from what she termed President George W Bush's "escalation" of the conflict and called for the withdrawal of US troops.

Personal storms

One of the things to note about Mrs Clinton is that she always uses the family name of Rodham as well as her married name.

She is perhaps making a statement about her independence, rather like President George Bush junior who added the "W" from the family name of Walker to distinguish himself from his father.

But the fact that she still carries the Clinton name as well shows that she values its connections.

Mrs Clinton is perhaps also fond of the name Rodham because by all accounts she is very much her father's daughter.

Hillary Rodham Clinton developed the iron exterior which has served her so well in the political and personal storms through which she and her husband have travelled.

But if she is independent, she is also tied to Bill Clinton.

Twice she has shown that she will not leave her husband, whatever he has done.

Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in 1996
Hillary stayed with Bill Clinton despite the Lewinsky scandal

In 1992, when Gennifer Flowers revealed that she had had an affair with him (which he admitted to only years later and then claiming it was confined to one encounter), she uttered the famous words on CBS's 60 Minutes programme:

"I'm not sitting here as some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I'm sitting here because I love him."

She had to apologise, of course, to Tammy Wynette who wrote and sang the song but was not the character in it, but Hillary had made her point.

The second time was in January 1998, when the Monica Lewinsky story broke.

Mrs Clinton declared in an interview with NBC's Today show that it was all politically inspired by "this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president".

Hillary, Chelsea and Bill Clinton with Buddy the dog; August 1998
Troubled times: At the height of the Lewinsky affair in 1998
She had a difficult moment later that year when her husband admitted to certain contacts with Monica Lewinsky, and nobody will forget the sight of the two of them walking across the White House lawn to the helicopter waiting to take them on holiday.

Their daughter Chelsea walked between them holding their hands. Hillary was angry but she was still there.

Strengths and weaknesses

As the 2008 presidential campaign began, Mrs Clinton began raising sums of campaign cash that dwarfed those of previous elections - though Mr Obama overtook her.

She proved a match for Mr Obama in many of the televised debates.

Asked if she was playing the gender card at one held in Las Vegas, she responded: "People are not attacking me because I'm a woman; they're attacking me because I'm ahead."

Hillary and Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton said his wife was the best candidate for the job of president

Nonetheless, critics - some within her own party - continued to put forward arguments against her running in the general election race.

She was repeatedly said to be a divisive figure for whom some Americans would never vote.

But now that she has been named as Mr Obama's choice for Secretary of State, it could to heal the rift inside the Democratic party caused by a bruising primary campaign, says the BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington.

By giving Mrs Clinton a top cabinet job, Mr Obama has shown that he is not afraid to reach out to rivals and surround himself with strong personalities.

Questions have been raised about the curious position which Bill Clinton will occupy, with some suggesting that his business connections and the donors to his charitable foundation could prove embarassing for his wife in her new role.

But Mr Clinton has agreed to submit his wide-ranging charity roles to scrutiny to ensure there is no conflict of interest.

Although America's voters decided not to fulfil Hillary Rodham Clinton's wish to become president, she will now become a key part of the country's leadership.

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