For this administration, failure is always the result of a “communications” problem. Otherwise, failure might be taken as evidence of misguided ideology and incompetent execution, right? It’s a weird excuse for the president who fancies himself to be the most eloquent man on the planet. And it is equally weird when someone whose job it is to communicate U.S. policy makes that excuse.
Which brings us to Hillary Clinton. She had this bit of mumbo-jumbo for the chattering class: “We have not been telling our story very well. We do have a great story. We are not perfect by any means, but we have a great story about human freedom, human rights, human opportunity. And let’s get back to telling it to ourselves first and foremost and believing it about ourselves and then taking that around the world. That’s what we should be standing for.”
Hmmm. Taking that story around the world would seem to be the president’s job, and thus hers as well as secretary of state, but the president was fond of obsessively reciting American shortcomings, making amends for them and accusing his predecessor of subverting our values. Was this not the theme of much of President Obama’s first term? It’s hard to continually lambast your predecessor and then complain the world isn’t getting a good story about the United States.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to 2010:
The administration created a stir in April, when a spokesman for the National Security Council reported on a meeting between Obama and Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev: “Both presidents agreed that you don’t ever reach democracy; you always have to work at it. And in particular, President Obama reminded his Kazakh counterpart that we, too, are working to improve our democracy.” Despite pleas from groups like Human Rights Watch to use the meeting as an opportunity “to raise concern about Kazakhstan’s disappointing human rights record and to press for immediate improvements,” Obama viewed this as simply one more chance to confess America’s sins.
Likewise, the administration last month presented its “Report of the United States of America” to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. This exercise is overseen by the infamous U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC), whose main preoccupation is vilifying Israel. The Obama administration confesses to such offenses as the disproportionately higher rates of unemployment in America among minorities. Are we to round up the president’s economic team for permitting such “human rights” abuses to continue?
It also didn’t help to tell America’s story when Clinton went to China in 2009 and told the regime we shouldn’t let human rights get in the way of the Sino-U.S. relationship. We didn’t do much for the U.S. storytelling project when, in response to signs in English in Tehran imploring us to help, we remained tight-lipped during the Green Revolution. And when we dubbed Bashar al-Assad a “reformer,” that told the world our secretary of state was clueless.
It’s nervy, really, for Hillary to plead that we haven’t done a good enough job promoting the U.S. Like Obama, she has adopted the tactic of viewing her own record with detachment.
But of course communication was just one of many problems. It wasn’t communication but lack of preparedness that allowed jihadists to kill American officials in Libya. And it wasn’t communication but arrogance about a “light footprint” and then neglect that allowed Libya to devolve into chaos. Communication wasn’t the problem when the administration couldn’t manage to leave a stay-behind force in Iraq. Then Obama was communicating a different message — he was “ending” wars.
If nothing else, Clinton’s book tour has previewed the sort of pathetic responses Hillaryland must think will suffice in 2016. For the nomination, that might be the case. But even a semi-competent Republican nominee should be able to shred her litany of excuses and her shabby record.