Taken from here.
JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to young women at a Saudi women’s college here on Tuesday, the site of a spirited exchange five years ago with a female official of the Bush administration over the rights of women in Saudi Arabia.
But despite Mrs. Clinton’s invitation to raise the issue, none of the women in the audience asked her about it. The discussion, while lively, focused on the same foreign-policy and security themes that have dominated her visit to the Persian Gulf, notably Iran and the Middle East peace process.
Mrs. Clinton said she wanted to hear the views of the students on women’s rights, noting that “American media presents a very unidimensional portrayal of Saudi women,” focusing on the black veils most wear.
She called for women to get better access to education and to play a bigger role in society. But she avoided criticism of Saudi Arabia, instead praising King Abdullah for his support of coeducational and women’s-only institutions, like the one that played host to her visit, Dar al-Hekman College.
None of the students picked up on Mrs. Clinton’s observation about how the American media portrays Saudi women, which had been a point of contention when Karen Hughes, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy in Bush administration, visited this college in 2005.
In that session, Ms. Hughes raised the hackles of some in the audience when she said the image of Saudi Arabia in the United States had been tarnished by the country’s refusal to allow women to drive.
On Tuesday, the students responded enthusiastically to Mrs. Clinton, though afterward, some expressed confusion about why women’s rights did not come up, given Mrs. Clinton’s iconic status.
“Maybe because it was Hillary Clinton, people wanted to ask her about issues bigger than whether Saudi women can drive,” said Duaa Badr, 18, a freshman management student from Jidda. She noted that many young women wanted to ask questions, but did not get a chance. The college appeared to exert tight control over who was handed a microphone.
Among the questions asked was why the United States was putting so much pressure on Iran not to make a nuclear bomb when other countries in the region, like Israel, possess nuclear weapons.
Mrs. Clinton did not answer directly about Israel, which has never confirmed its nuclear-weapons status. But she repeated the sharp criticism of Iran she has voiced at every stop on this three-day trip, saying the Iranian government was the world’s largest supporter of terrorism and backed radical Islamic groups that threatened its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia.
A young woman asked Mrs. Clinton to explain the debate in the United States over reforming the health-care system. Mrs. Clinton offered a short tutorial about the political complexities, and expressed sympathy that President Obama and his White House advisors were still grappling with it.
The earnest tone of the gathering was broken somewhat when a young man asked Mrs. Clinton whether she was horrified by the prospect of Sarah Palin becoming president, and if she were elected, whether Mrs. Clinton would consider emigrating to Canada or Russia.
“The short answer is no, I will not be emigrating,” she said with a laugh, before ducking the rest of the question.
“I’m not going to speculate on who might or might not be nominated by the Republicans,” she said. “I am very proud to support Barack Obama and I will continue to support Barack Obama.”