Lanny Davis, longtime confidant and incessant spinner for Bill and Hillary Clinton, has unintentionally done Hillary Clinton’s critics a great favor in the hilarious, jaw-dropping defense of Clinton’s “smart power” tenure at the State Department.
It’s significant that most of it is devoted to what she said rather than what she did. That is because Davis omits nearly every significant event in Clinton’s tenure at State, providing a sliver of a sliver of her record.
He notes that in “a recent op-ed, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton wrote about Clinton’s tough words and attitude concerning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions — calling him a ‘KGB agent,’ defined as someone who ‘doesn’t have a soul.’ Shelton also reminded us of Clinton’s use of effective diplomacy with Putin, identifying common interests with an adversary — incenting Russia to agree to new United Nations sanctions on Iran, as well as cooperation on anti-terrorist efforts, including reaching a historic ‘lethal transit’ agreement, which allowed U.S. military planes to transport lethal materials over Russia to Afghanistan.” Oh, really? Was it smart diplomacy to pull our anti-missile defense units out of Eastern Europe? Was it smart diplomacy to look the other way when Russia violated an arms agreement? How smart was it to try to slow down the Magnitsky Act? It’s downright bizarre to call “smart” the policy that misread Russia’s appetite for cooperation and set a pattern of appeasement that has resulted in the invasion of Ukraine.
Davis is on firmer ground when he argues that it was smart to help “the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to implement tough economic sanctions against Iran.” He doesn’t mention that Clinton supports, as does Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the decision not to enact sanctions conditioned on failure to reach a final deal or violation of the interim agreement. That is allowing Iran’s economy to bounce back and has given Iran cover to continue its ballistic missile development and advanced research in centrifuges.
He also quotes her as saying, “We want to give space for diplomacy to work. If it does not, then we can always and we will, put on additional sanctions . . . and yes, we will explore every other option. And let’s be clear, every other option does remain on the table.” Sen. Robert Menendez (R-N.J.), head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, begs to differ and has pointed out that it will be too late to enact sanctions once the six-month period has lapsed.
What would have been smart diplomacy?
• Supporting Iran’s Green Revolution.
• Putting human rights front and center with China, not putting it on the back burner, as Clinton explicitly did during her 2009 trip.
• Championing the middle class, churches and businesses in trying to prevent a stooge of Hugo Chavez’s grab power in Honduras (rather than backing the stooge, as she did).
• Following up in Libya after the war to ensure a functioning central government and prevent the influx of jihadists.
• Granting security requests from our ambassador in Libya or pulling him out when European countries and the Red Cross pulled out their people.
• Being clear with the American people from the get go that this was a terrorist attack.
• Coming up with a policy to address the Arab Spring.
• Refraining from making a mountain out of a molehill of building (in Israel’s capital no less) and recognizing the agreement between President George W. Bush and the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to allow building up within existing settlements but not out.
• Cultivating good relations with Israel rather than condemning it publicly for its Jerusalem apartment permits.
• Being clear with Mahmoud Abbas that he was not going to gain (e.g. a housing freeze) by staying away from the table or threatening to stay away.
• Never ambushing our ally as we did with Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu on the “1967 borders” announcement.
• Refusing to butter up Bashar al-Assad with unctuous visits from then-Sen. John Kerry and calling Assad a dictator and killer, not a “reformer.”
• Acting sooner and more forcefully to help oust Assad so a bloody civil war killing close to 200,000 did not drag on.
I could go on, but you get the point. Former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, tells me, “Hillary Clinton’s grasp of national security has always been only as deep as bumper-sticker concepts like ‘smart power.’ This article proves the point.”
No matter how hard her admirers try to convince us that her experience at the State Department is an argument for her presidency, it is a damning indictment of her judgment and a major reason why she shouldn’t be president. Davis would have been better to have opined that Hillary Clinton argued against all of these “dumb power” moves (after all, the White House always ran the show) rather than try to rewrite her record. Ironically, one of the administration’s toughest critics, former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams, offers a more credible defense: “It is difficult to know much about Clinton’s foreign policy views from her time at State, because Obama held her on a short leash and important decisions were all made at the White House. She was not a consequential secretary of state; he did not permit her to be one.” It seems, however, her ego (the most powerful woman in the world!) simply won’t permit her or her allies to make this case.
Davis’s spin does illustrate how essential it will be to have a GOP nominee who knows something about national security and can slice and dice her record. Abrams warns that the Clinton campaign will claim that “all good things were her doing, and all failures were Obama’s.” Giving her an opponent who isn’t up to speed on national security or, worse, is largely in agreement with the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy would be tossing away a huge and decisive advantage in 2016 for the GOP.