Hillary Clinton: A Bad Idea Then, a Bad Idea Now
My first reaction on hearing that President-Elect Obama is supposedly considering Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was, “you’ve got to be kidding!” Here are seven reasons why she should not be, and probably won’t be, appointed to that or any other similarly visible Cabinet post:
1. Hillary Clinton is no diplomat. She’s a self-proclaimed “fighter,” a skilled legal advocate, and a superb self-promoter. Decorum, understatement, and subtlety—the traits of diplomats—are not her thing.
2. Hillary Clinton has no experience in diplomacy. Nothing but phantom “experience” emerged from her extended primary campaign, including her supposed landing in Bosnia under sniper fire. The closest she got to real diplomacy was some ceremonial work with women’s groups in Northern Ireland.
3. Hillary Clinton has terrible judgment on matters of foreign policy. She supported the War in Iraq without ever reading the key pre-war intelligence report. She failed to recognize the need for skepticism toward Musharraf’s military rule in Pakistan, or the desirability of pursuing Al Qaeda into Pakistan. Like John McCain, she failed to recall that negotiating with our enemies has been a feature of our diplomacy for half a century.
4. Hillary Clinton is not a team player. In her campaign and stump speeches, she used the first-person singular more than any politician I can remember. Both she and her husband have super-sized egos ill-suited to teamwork, let alone teamwork in diplomacy. Diplomats have to be willing to work for months in secrecy and obscurity, caring only about getting the job done, not who gets credit.
5. Hillary Clinton’s positions on foreign policy have been risky and dangerous. Remember her threatening to “obliterate” Iran during the presidential debates? Having her leading State would make us less secure. Among other things, it would risk squandering the extended honeymoon that global admiration for President-Elect Obama now promises.
6. Neither Hillary nor Bill ever had much interest in foreign policy. Domestic policy was their thing. Bill (like Dubya) missed a chance to get bin Laden, resolved too late to fight the genocide in Bosnia, and failed (despite valiant effort) to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. This is far from a stellar record. Hillary may cite it as vicarious “experience” (as she did during the campaign), but it is nothing to brag about.
7. Millions of voters, like me, supported Barack Obama because he has so much more to offer than either of the Clintons. We are overjoyed to have a true adult in charge of our nation—someone quiet, thoughtful, dignified, circumspect, self-effacing and self-restrained.
We have no doubt of Obama’s toughness, but toughness doesn’t require trash talk. We are tired of hucksters and self-promoters running and representing our country. We wanted to see the Clintons’ backs and still do. We want a fresh start, especially in foreign policy.
In his running mate, President-Elect Obama has one of the most experienced hands in foreign policy in all our national leadership. He doesn’t need the advice of someone who never negotiated with any foreign leader for real, i.e., while bearing responsibility for results.
He does need the help of patient, skilled, experienced international negotiators like Richard Holbrooke and Christopher Hill. They both have shown they can work tirelessly in relative obscurity for months at a time to achieve a limited but important result. Who would even think of Hillary Clinton for a post requiring those skills—after all we learned about her during the primary campaign?