On Tuesday, on a sultry summer evening, she was in Philadelphia, where she received the Liberty Medal during a ceremony at the National Constitution Center. On Friday, she was in Scotland, where she received an honorary degree from St. Andrews University, which was marking its 600th anniversary with all appropriate academic pomp.
Tuesday’s ceremony in Philadelphia concluded an hour before Obama addressed the nation on the Syrian issue. On Friday, Clinton spoke in Scotland as Kerry was in Switzerland negotiating with his Russian counterpart on eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons stocks.
As both a former secretary of state and the prospective favorite for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton enjoys the freedom to operate in an almost idealized world. She is still in the public eye but mostly not in the line of fire. For now, the hard decisions are someone else’s responsibility.
Circuit of accolades
This fall, Clinton will maintain this circuit, receiving awards from civic and other organizations while delivering paid speeches to private audiences along the way. She is already a draw on the strength of her impressive résumé and her achievements during decades in public service. That she might also become president makes her all the more irresistible to organizations looking for someone to honor.
Clinton may be a year or more from a formal decision about running, but among those who are turning out to hear her, there already is an assumption that she will be a candidate, if not a winning candidate. It is never far below the surface when she appears and is sometimes explicitly stated.
In Philadelphia, Amy Guttman, president of the University of Pennsylvania, told the audience, “A few decades ago, when I was a child, it would have been unthinkable for a woman to be president of the University of Pennsylvania, let alone secretary of state of the United States, and something many of us can’t wait to celebrate — the first woman president of the United States.”
The Philadelphia ceremony included elements that might have been scripted for the 2016 Democratic convention, with a highlight reel of Clinton’s life and video tributes from people such as former British prime minister Tony Blair and tennis star and women’s rights advocate Billie Jean King. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R), who serves as chairman of the National Constitution Center, gave a warm introduction that included teasing references to possible competition with her in 2016.