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Hillary Clinton brings fresh talk and candor to U.S. diplomacy

February 22, 2009 | 12:28 am

Those who closely watched the hard-fought Democratic primary/caucus campaigns last year recall the, uh, candor with with which Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama addressed each other, especially the former toward the latter.

Remember: "Shame on you, Barack Obama?" And: John McCain "has a lifetime of experience he will bring to the White House and Sen. Obama has a speech he gave in 2002"?

So when that same Barack Obama won the Nov. 4 election and chose that same Hillary Clinton as his secretary of State, many wondered how Clinton's spoken manner would be changed as she learned to speak the nuanced (some would say, obscure) language of Diplo.

Secretary of State Jillary Clinton speaking on her current Asian trip, her first in the new job

As the ex-New York senator completed her first foreign foray (in Asia) this weekend representing the United States, there are signs that it's the other way around: The diplos will have to learn to speak her language.

To be sure, there were some intentional obscurities, especially early on in the weeklong journey to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and, finally, China.

At one point Clinton said that North Korea testing a long-range missile would not be helpful, which is elegant diplo for: That would be bad. However, you've not been supposed to say it that way.

But as ABC's experienced Martha Raddatz, among others, notes, Clinton has brought a refreshing new vocabulary to her diplomatic talk. As anticipated by her husband in his sales pitches for her, she smoothly used her long-running fame and recognition in public groups.

In Japan, she talked about playing baseball with boys. In Indonesia, she laughed and chatted with young women about her favorite music (the Beatles). And when someone in the audience cheered, the 60-year-old Clinton laughed comfortably and said good, then she didn't feel so old.

The new secretary also opined openly about the possible succession after North Korea's loony (our word), champagne-loving Kim Jong-Il passes from the scene. That's long been a whispered topic for some reason, as it was during the endless aging process for his father, the allegedly revered, much-statued Kim Il-Sung. (Remember that huge goiter he wore for all those years?)

Scroll down or click on the "Read more" line to view a good sampling of videos covering various aspects of her trip.

Clinton put it bluntly. "I don't think it is taboo to talk about the succession of the hermit kingdom," she said, adding, it's "worth being more straightforward and trying to engage on the reality that exists."

In Seoul on Friday she had an admission. "Maybe it is unusual," Clinton said, "but to worry about saying something that is so obvious is an impediment to clear thinking."

Holy smokes! Reality? Clear thinking? Diplomats of any nationality actually saying what they mean? In public?

This could be a very interesting secretary-dom.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Chung Sung Jun / Getty Images