The Margin: Memorable Madeleine Albright observations of Putin, Trump, Clinton and herself

As the world learned after midday Wednesday of the death at 84 of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, some of her more noteworthy past remarks were being shared on cable news and online.

A onetime newspaper intern in Denver and editor at Chicago-based Encyclopaedia Britannica, she provided memorable quotes over the years on such topics as her surprise upon learning as an adult of her Jewish heritage, the imperative for ambitious and successful women to support one another, the Russian invasion of Ukraine launched just last month, and former U.S. president Donald Trump’s political posture.

Asked in 2018 whether Trump had been a direct target of her book “Fascism: A Warning,” Albright responded: “He is not a fascist. I do think he is the least democratic president of modern history.”

The following year, noting that she took great care with her use of the terms fascism and fascist, she explained that the then-president did not, to her mind, qualify, as “he isn’t violent.”

She noted that her mind remained open on the matter, should, for example, an emergency be cynically declared at the southern U.S. border.

She endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in 2020, noting that she fretted that Washington was becoming perceived under Trump as an unreliable ally.

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Of democracy, Albright, born Marie Jana Korbelová in Prague less than two years before then-Czechoslovakia fell to the Nazis, Albright made this allowance: “While democracy, in the long run, is the most stable form of government, in the short run, it is among the most fragile.”

She came with her family to the U.S. at age 11, studying at Wellesley and later, as young mother, at Hofstra, Johns Hopkins and Columbia, going on to positions at the National Security Council, Georgetown University, the Woodrow Wilson Center and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton. Albright was named Time’s woman of the year for 1999, two years after she became the U.S.’s first woman secretary of state.

Backing Hillary Clinton, Albright’s fellow former secretary of state and Wellesley alumna, for the presidency in 2016, Albright opined that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

When Albright, who was raised Catholic and became an Episcopalian at the time of her marriage to newspaper-publishing heir Joseph Medill Patterson Albright, learned at the age of 59 of her family’s Jewish origins, and then only gradually if publicly, eventually synopsizing: “I am about to be 75. I am an American, I was born in Czechoslovakia, I’m a small ‘d’ and a big ‘D’ Democrat, I have been a Catholic and an Episcopalian and found out I am Jewish, I am a mother and a grandmother and I, like America, am indivisible.”

Putin, whom she was widely quoted as having assessed two decades ago as “cold-eyed” and “almost reptilian,” was, she wrote in an op-ed published late last month, guilty of an epic miscalculation in Ukraine, where Russian blood would be spilled and Russian resources drained.

Key Words: Putin ‘making a historic mistake,’ says former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

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