As President Obama’s competence and reelection chances sink, the Hillary Clinton 2016 buzz intensifies, which Anne Kornblut lays out in fascinating detail today. But supporters and opponents of a Hillary 2016 run ignore the 800-pound gorilla: She has been a poor secretary of state.
Now, before we can even delineate the basis for that conclusion we can anticipate the objection: “Well, Obama was really running things.” There is a measure of truth to this, especially with a president who regards himself as the greatest living authority on most topics. But that is an excuse in the presidential context she can’t use. An errand girl for Obama?! Perish the thought.
The one significant achievement of the Obama presidency, the killing of Osama bin Laden, can’t rightly be called a State Department triumph. Despite her transfixed look in the situation room, captured in the iconic photograph, this was a military and intelligence victory. She was there literally for the applause.
As for the rest of the Obama foreign policy, the wins have been extensions of Bush-era policies ( e.g., Guantanamo remains open, Khalid Sheik Mohammed wasn’t tried in public, drones are widely used) while the varied and substantial errors are the Obama team’s doing. Reset with Russia — in light of the stolen Russian presidential and legislative elections, its worsening human rights, its blocking action against Syria and its nefariousness assistance to Iran’s nuclear weapons program — is a failure.
The Middle East “peace process” is in shambles. Clinton’s role in publicly hectoring Israel on settlements is a central feature of that abysmal record. The one aspect of Iraq policy for which she was responsible, negotiating the ongoing presence of U.S. troops, was botched.
Iran? If and when “engagement” and sanctions bring Iran to its knees she will be feted. But the chances of that happening are slim to none. Her own leisurely approach to sanctions and her obliviousness to their failure are, again, at the heart of this policy flub. As for the administration’s skeptical, if not hostile, reaction to the Green Revolution, Clinton was a major player in one of the most egregious policy misjudgments in recent memory. If Iran does get the bomb or Israel is forced to act on its own because of American paralysis, she will be as much to blame as Obama.
The litany of Hillary-isms is long and painful. She declared Bashar al-Assad to be a “reformer.” She told China at the onset of her tenure that human rights should not get in the way of the U.S.-Sino relations. She bizarrely backed Hugo Chavez’s stooge in Honduras’s popular revolt and tried to strong-arm the democratic majority into giving back the presidency. She called the Poles and the Czechs in the wee hours of the morning to plunge the shiv, telling our allies to forget the anti-missile sites we promised. In a bad remake of a bad movie she deployed the clueless Wendy Sherman to make a deal with North Korea, which the gulag-state promptly repudiated.
Her achievements — progress in Burma and and division of Sudan — are dwarfed by her inability to devise a coherent approach to the Arab Spring. Her strong suits, namely the mastery of minutia and her ability to charm the foreign press, are not strong selling points for a presidential candidate.
That she retains her popularity is a function of the public’s inattentiveness to the particulars of foreign policy and left-leaning political pundits’ general ignorance of or disinterest in foreign policy. But all of her flubs, policy debacles and misjudgments would become front and center in a presidential campaign. If she is shrewd, she will get off the stage before more critical scrutiny is directed her way.