Hillary Clinton managed to convince most of the chattering class that she was not only a good secretary of state, but a great one. Some of this stems from the media’s own desire to rush to her aid and to fawn over her purported achievements. Part of this stems from political reporters who know little about foreign policy drooling over atmospherics and Clinton’s daunting travel schedule. But much of her free ride owes to the time delay between errors and consequences.
In the case of Benghazi, she didn’t quite make it out the door unscathed. Her plaintive cry in response to queries about the phony cover story for the attack in Libya (“What difference does it make?“) might be answered: “It matters to your legacy, for one thing.”
And with each passing week since her departure, more and more consequences of her entirely reactive and ineffectual tenure come to light. Take the pledge she continually reiterated that the Obama team would “restore” U.S. stature in the world. The Pew poll reports, “Confidence in Obama in Muslim countries dropped from 33% to 24% in his first term. Approval of Obama’s policies declined even further, from 34% to 15%. And support for the United States in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan is lower today than it was in 2008 in the closing year of George W. Bush’s administration.”
In other words, as much as Obama’s standing has collapsed, the policies Clinton presumably had something to do with did even worse. In showing fecklessness with regard to Iran, doing nothing to end the suffering in Syria and embracing Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohamed Morsi, the Obama administration did little to show strength or show support for or purported values.
On Clinton’s watch, a U.S. ambassador was killed, the first such occurrence in more than 30 years. Meanwhile, diplomacy and sanctions failed to halt Iranian progress toward nuclear weapons. The administration was largely mute at a critical time in the Green Revolution. Elsewhere, the entire “peace process” crumbled. The Palestinian Authority, against our express wishes, went to the United Nations for a declaration of statehood, while we were able to round up fewer than 10 “no” votes. Syria’s chemical weapons were not secured, and the humanitarian crisis poured into neighboring countries. Russian reset was such a bust that Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, was compelled to dump it as he was taking office. The “pivot” to Asia was widely ridiculed. Clinton didn’t obtain a status of forces agreement in Iraq, a tragic failure that has let the country fall into strife.
Where is the record of accomplishment, let alone greatness?
If Clinton’s defenders were honest about her record, they would say that none of that is her fault since she really didn’t have any authority. I’m sure she could relate when the hapless Chuck Hagel said his job wouldn’t involve “running anything” and would not be a policy-making spot. The same, I suppose, could be said of Clinton’s years at State.
If Joe Biden runs against Clinton in 2016, he will have the same difficulties. But at least Biden will have domestic accomplishments, such as they are. Clinton remains the favorite Democrat in the country, but if performance count for anything, she starts without much of a record to commend her.