Hillary returns to the public eye

Hillary Clinton has made herself scarce since she abandoned her campaign for US president earlier this month, but she reunites this week with ex-rival Barack Obama as part of her return to the public eye.

Clinton, who has been largely under the radar since June 7, was glimpsed at the funeral for NBC political journalist Tim Russert in Washington on Wednesday, accompanied by her husband former president Bill Clinton, but she did not speak to reporters.

She made her first public speaking appearance on Sunday, at a high school graduation in New York, and is to return to the Senate on Tuesday for the first time since losing to Obama in the Democratic presidential nominating race.

"No one four years ago could have predicted that an African-American and a woman would have been competing for the presidency of the United States in 2008," she said at the graduation ceremony Sunday.

The former first lady urged the graduating class, which included a longtime volunteer to her campaign, to use their "God-given talents and abilities" not only for themselves "but for all of us to make this world a better place."

On Thursday she will address a meeting of close to 1,000 elected and appointed Latino officials at a luncheon in Washington. The same day, she is to meet with campaign donors, together with Obama.

On Friday she and Obama are to appear jointly at a campaign stop for the first time, but the time, place and even the purpose of the appearance have remained a closely kept secret.

The meetings could shore up reconciliation between the two politicians, who clashed for months during the party’s longest ever spate of primary nominating contests but generally were able to mask their antagonism for one another on the public stage.

Still, aides are making it difficult to discern what Clinton is up to.

Her Senate spokesman Philippe Reines denied that she would be taking a vacation until next month, but revealed no details about the New York senator’s plans in the meantime.

On June 3, when Obama claimed enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination for the White House, Clinton signaled she intended to press on, saying in a speech that night that the voices of the 18 million supporters who voted for her should count for something.

Four days later, she lent her support to Obama’s bid for president, though she did so in a speech during which she was alone at the podium, contrary to US political tradition by which the conquered typically appears next to the rival for such an announcement.

This past week, she held a teleconference with major campaign donors, during which spokesman Doug Hattaway said she asked them to support Obama.

During a debate with Obama in January, both the former first lady and the Illinois senator seeking to become America’s first president professed their friendship for one another.

And after their performance in Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre, they grasped one another in an extended embrace, and laughed as each whispered into the other’s ear.

Even though the four months that followed were more antagonistic, Clinton took pains to urge supporters to work hard for Obama to make sure he wins the presidency in November.

The same day, Obama said he looked forward to campaigning with her, highlighting her swell of voter support and her immeasurable value to his quest for the White House.

But while Obama rarely misses an opportunity to show his respect for Clinton, he has let no hints slip about what role she may play in his campaign or if he wins, his future administration.

His hiring of former Clinton campaign manager Patty Solis Doyle, an estranged Clinton advisor, was widely viewed as a sign that he did not intend to offer the vice president’s post to Clinton.

Yet the Democratic Party is quickly reconciling, less than three weeks since the primaries ended and presumptive nominees Obama, and on the Republican side John McCain, secured their party’s support to face off in the White House race.

A Fox News poll on Thursday suggested that 17 percent of Clinton supporters would vote for McCain in the November 4 election. The number who said that in April was 32 percent — nearly double.