Published Thursday, April 10, 2014 | 2:38 p.m.
Updated Thursday, April 10, 2014 | 6:30 p.m.
Hillary Clinton, addressing the annual Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries convention at Mandalay Bay Thursday, knew she would be following in the footsteps of George W. Bush, who spoke at the convention two years ago, but she was surprised to join the former president as the target of a shoe attack.
A few minutes into her opening remarks to the crowd of more than 1,000, a woman with long platinum blond hair threw multiple objects at Clinton. Several people in the audience saw papers thrown, and Clinton had to dodge at least one projectile near her head.
Clinton, the former secretary of state and presumed Democratic front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination, was momentarily startled, and at first wondered aloud if it had been a bat.
The woman did not yell anything out, and immediately walked briskly to the ballroom exit.
Clinton was unharmed and handled the situation with aplomb, quickly getting back on track.
“Thank goodness she didn’t play softball like I did,” she quipped to loud applause.
The thrower declined to give her name, but said she threw her shoe and "dropped" some papers. She was escorted out of the convention by convention center security and Secret Service officers, and convention organizers said police would be called. The shoe thrower was wearing sandals.
In December 2008, a man threw a show at George W. Bush while he held a press conference in Iraq.
Mark Carpenter, a spokesman for the recycling institute, said the woman dodged security to get inside.
“The woman interrupting the speech was not affiliated with our organization and was not credentialed for this event. Our staff denied her access before she later rushed past security,” Carpenter said in a statement after the event. “An ISRI staffer then stopped her as she approached the stage. She was then handed over to law enforcement. We are grateful that Secretary Clinton continued in a professional manner to share her firsthand knowledge and experience of how the recycling industry has a positive impact on the economy and environment.”
The rest of Clinton’s address went smoothly. She did not use the stage to announce her plans for the 2016 presidential race, but did mention her book due out this summer chronicling her four years as secretary of state.
Clinton was the keynote speaker for the closing ceremonies of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries annual convention, which drew approximately 6,000 people. The institute is a trade organization that represents businesses in the recycling field, and has 1,600 companies on its roster.
In her speech, and question and answer session with the recycling institute’s chair, Jerry Simms, Clinton touched on the recycling industry, international trade, the civil war in Syria and U.S. relations with Russia.
“(Scrap recycling) offers a chance to improve the environment and stimulate the economy at the same time,” she said before discussing the Clinton Foundation’s various projects involving sustainable waste management.
“We can be the clean energy superpower for the 21st century as American innovation unlocks new supplies, pioneers new technologies, and gives us new tools to lower carbon emissions,” she said.
While Clinton has said she will not announce if she will run for president in 2016 until the end of this year, at times she waded into stump-speech waters.
“We have to tackle the problems we have. We have nearly 6 million young people in America out of school and out of work,” Clinton said. “We’re not making the investments in public infrastructure and science that will keep us ahead of the curve. Washington too often seems to be operating in what I like to call an evidence-free zone, where ideology trumps data.”
Many of the scrap recycling companies rely on international trade, and Simms asked Clinton about preventing protectionist trade policies of other nations.
“We have to be stronger about going after countries in the WTO, like China, now like Russia, like any others who try to put those barriers up,” Clinton responded. “We have to be tougher in bringing trade action against them. We have to threaten reciprocity, because they love to get into our market while they block their markets.”
On Russia’s military incursion into Crimea and annexation of the region, Clinton said the U.S. and other nations should provide economic support to Ukraine and help ensure fair elections.
“What we’re watching is a naked, unlawful annexation of Crimea, and a continuing effort by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to undermine and destabilize the rest of Ukraine,” she said. “What Putin has to understand is this action he took against Crimea will cost him economically and will undermine his energy income.”
Simms also asked Clinton about dysfunction in Washington and how to improve the atmosphere in American politics.
“People in politics are like people in any profession — they do what they think will be rewarded,” she said. “I’m concerned about the attitude and atmosphere of politics and how people are being pushed to the extremes on all sides of the political spectrum. And, I think it’s a very serious problem when people run for office proudly claiming they will never compromise.”
After the speech people in the audience said they were surprised to see a disturbance at their event, and praised Clinton for her poise.
Don Pittman, who works in metal recycling in Vancouver, British Columbia, said he appreciated Clinton’s comments on free trade and promotion of scrap recycling materials.
“In Canada we follow what your leaders, and perhaps future leaders, have to say on these issues because they have a big impact on us,” he said.
Others appreciated that Clinton tackled some complicated issues of economics and foreign relations.
“She was very knowledgeable and didn’t skip a beat on a broad range of questions,” said Rajesh Agarwal, who was attending the conference from Miami. “She was very cool when that woman interrupted, super cool.”
The Las Vegas appearance was part of a cross-country tour in which Clinton is giving paid speeches to industry organizations and appearing before key Democratic Party constituents.