In a softball “60 Minutes” interview in January 2013, President Obama referred to Hillary Clinton, his outgoing secretary of state, as one of the great secretaries of state. (Considering the post was held by people such as Thomas Jefferson, William Seward, Elihu Root and George C. Marshall, it’s hard to see how she even makes the top half.) When you recall even a couple of her debacles, this was, even then, a jaw-dropping assertion. As the disasters left in her wake surface one by one, the perception of Clinton’s incompetence (Or is it ineffectiveness? Or both?) now deepens with each new revelation.
Ambrose Bierce once cracked, “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” The same can be said of Hillary Clinton, who has prompted ordinary Americans to go look up Syria, Libya and Nigeria on the map. Indeed, one could travel the globe simply landing in places where Hillary Clinton messed up badly — Honduras (recall the coup), Cuba (where Alan Gross still lingers in horrible health), Egypt, Iran, Iraq (no status of forces deal), Israel, Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic (whom she told at the last moment would lose the U.S. anti-missile sites). I’m sure I’ve missed a few.
Clinton, however, seems serene, even smug, these days. She pronounced herself “absolutely” content that she knows all that needs to be known about Benghazi. Does she know how she missed the influx of jihadis in the months before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack? If so, she should share her insight. Does she know how it was that no one flagged those urgent cables from Ambassador Chris Stevens to send more security? Maybe she can justify her management style. Given that her own department was saying one thing about the killings (it was an organized attack) and the president and his spokesman were saying another (the video, the video!) up through Sept. 25, I wonder how much she does know, or cares to know, about the White House’s spin just weeks before a presidential election. At the very least, it is hard to see how the unnecessary deaths of four Americans and the failure to apprehend those responsible could engender anything approximating contentment.
Then there is Nigeria. We now know, thanks to Josh Rogin:
The State Department under Hillary Clinton fought hard against placing the al Qaeda-linked militant group Boko Haram on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations for two years. And now, lawmakers and former U.S. officials are saying that the decision may have hampered the American government’s ability to confront the Nigerian group that shocked the world by abducting hundreds of innocent girls.
In the past week, Clinton, who made protecting women and girls a key pillar of her tenure at the State Department, has been a vocal advocate for the 200 Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, the loosely organized group of militants terrorizing northern Nigeria. Her May 4 tweet about the girls, using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, was cited across the media and widely credited for raising awareness of their plight.
It is ironic that the great feminist defender of women and children should have done so little for them. Even the New York Times concedes the problem: “The abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria has led to new scrutiny of the United States’ counterterrorism strategy toward Boko Haram during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.” Her department rejected the recommendation of the “Justice Department, the F.B.I., American intelligence officials and counterterrorism officials in the State Department [who] favored the designation because of Boko Haram’s role in the growing violence in Nigeria and because of intelligence reports that some of its members had links to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.” In retrospect, is Clinton content with that decision?
In Syria, she memorably referred to President Bashar al-Assad as a “reformer” and seemed convinced that the way to end the violence was to plead with the Russians. The total death count now is 150,000 to 200,000; the number of dead children is in five figures. It will be interesting to learn in what ways Clinton tried to respond to the carnage and what alternatives she recommended to the president. Is she content she did everything humanly possible?
Even now, she continues to rack up errors. She has vouched for Obama’s Iran policy, which many now suspect is a thinly disguised attempt to craft either a bad deal or allow Iran to stall, thereby lessening pressure on Obama to act. When the July 20 deadline comes, will she be content with a plea for more time or a deal that simply codifies Iran’s status as a threshold nuclear state?
Clinton’s supporters whine that this is all political. Sure it is. She wants to be president, and those who think she would be a disaster point to loads of evidence to support their misgivings. It’s politics. It’s democracy. And if she thinks no one is going to hold her accountable for a record of gross incompetence, she’s kidding herself.