Last night at midnight, Russia finally got to see Vladimir Pozner, its Larry King, sit down with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (The show is normally live, but this was taped right before Hillary’s Friday night departure from Moscow.)
Pozner is a fairly controversial figure in Russia, who is seen by the intelligentsia as a Kremlin mercenary. Born abroad to a Russian father and a French mother, he attended Stuyvesant High School in New York. The English he perfected there served him well: he spent much of his career (and the Cold War) as the voice of Radio Moscow, which, like Voice of America, beamed news about Russia into the West. (He was also a regular on Nightline in the 80s, and, in the 1990s, worked regularly with Phil Donahue.)
Sitting in a studio that resembled a wood-panneled amphitheater, subjected to Who-Wants-to-be-a-Millionaire lighting and camera work, the pair sometimes looked like a Western Cold War propaganda reel: the peppy, honest, idealistic blonde facing the hunched and scowling bald man with the precariously perched glasses.
But the exchange, which took place in English, was mostly friendly. For an hour, Hillary fielded fielded questions from Pozner and his viewers on motherhood, her Iraq vote, feminism, the politics of double standards, as well as her decision to work for a former rival. Asked who her political role models were, she said her husband first, followed by the hero of every politician who wants to give the predictable and inoffensive answer, Nelson Mandela.
There was, of course, the occasional idealistic wiggle from Hillary — she wouldn’t think twice, she said, about choosing to be mother of the bride over Secretary of State — and the much-discussed Hillary laugh.
There were also Pozner’s amazingly Russian questions. Like, how is Kosovo different from Abkhazia or South Ossetia? (No mention, of course, of Chechnya.) Or, who controls the American media? (If Russian media is overtly controlled by the Kremlin, ergo…)
The best moment came when Pozner asked — second part, 4:20 — “Is the Monroe Doctrine still alive in your mind?”