DOWNTOWN — In an appearance with Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the Harris Theater Downtown on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton took a couple of shots at Russian President Vladimir Putin, and called equal rights for women not a U.S. civil-rights issue, but a global economic and political issue.
Talking about her new book, "Hard Choices," released this week, Clinton said, "There will be some world leaders who might not be happy when they read my book. And I'm talking to you, Vladimir."
The former U.S. senator, secretary of state and first lady specifically called Putin's crackdown on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community "a cynical political ploy" meant to appease Russian conservatives.
She called the rights of "women and girls ... central to our foreign policy," maintaining that countries that give more opportunity to women are more successful economically and more stable politically, "less likely to breed extremism."
She defined being a "feminist" as favoring equal rights for women, adding, "I don't see anything controversial about that at all." She told those who think of feminism as a relic from the past: "I don't think you've lived long enough."
On the hot topic of income inequality, Clinton declared it "a real problem," adding, "The debate should be over in this country. Trickle-down economics does not work."
Clinton pushed for immigration reform and cited U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), the House majority leader defeated in a primary Tuesday by Tea Party conservative Dave Brat, who Clinton said "basically ran against immigrants." She urged, "Don't vote for anyone who proudly says they're against compromise," calling it "a fundamental principal of a democracy."
Clinton quoted Eleanor Roosevelt in saying, "You have to grow skin as thick as the hide of a rhinoceros" to survive in politics, adding she was still learning to accept criticism without taking it personally.
The Chicago native, who grew up in suburban Park Ridge, recalled visiting her father at his office in the Merchandise Mart in the days before air conditioning, and said he kept her from leaning too far out the window by telling her a "giant dragon" lived below in the Chicago River.
Clinton, wife of President Bill Clinton, has been mentioned as the leading Democratic candidate in the 2016 presidential race, but says she is still weighing whether to run. Emanuel did not raise the topic in interviewing her before a packed-house audience at the Harris Theater in an hourlong event Wednesday morning.
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