Observers of the Obama White House know that this president, to a greater extent than any in recent memory, creates and controls foreign policy himself and through close aides in the executive office. Clinton was on the periphery, lacking much influence (as she admits, she couldn’t move the president on Syria) and devoid of creative policy-making abilities. The e-mails reflect that. Comically, Clinton hears on the radio that there is a Cabinet meeting and e-mails to find out why she is not invited. (“I heard on the radio that there is a Cabinet mtg this am. Is there? Can I go? If not, who are we sending?”) She shows up at the White House to find another meeting canceled. She is the third wheel, the least important person in foreign policy making.
She is, however, immersed in a web of cronies and hacks. She solicits Sid Blumenthal for advice, and not just on Libya. (“[T]he newly disclosed emails show he also acted as an intermediary with officials involved in the Northern Ireland peace process and shared advice with Clinton on issues from Iran to British politics to how to blame China for the breakdown of global climate talks.”) That she should be getting advice from a political hatchet man — one whom the White House banned from the administration — tells us something about her judgment and her insularity. David Axelrod, who claimed ignorance of her private e-mail, is in frequent communication, too.
Clinton’s enormous wealth and the people who helped make her wealthy make an appearance. Clinton and Huma Abedin discuss what sort of private jet she will take and her trip to the Hamptons. Just like “everyday” people! And most troubling, her e-mails are filled with discussions of corporate cronies whom she was more than willing to assist:
Clinton says that Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman “wanted help on a visa” and asked for a status report. The name of the potential recipient was redacted by the State Department. She then says that Honeywell CEO David Cote “complained about export control regs that interfere w sales.”And when Terrence Duffy, executive chairman of derivatives trader CME Group, asked her to stop by a Washington dinner he was hosting for “150 or so folks from the exchange,” Clinton asked an aide to try to find time for the group to visit the State Department. Duffy is a major political donor who generally backs Republicans (in one e-mail he conveyed greetings from Senator Lindsey Graham, one of this year’s Republican presidential candidates) but he did give the maximum contribution of $4,600 to Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. In another e-mail, Duffy asked Clinton to deliver a keynote address in 2010 when he was to be honored by the American Friends of Hebrew University. . . .Clinton exchanged e-mails with Stanley Roach of Morgan Stanley, a donor to her Senate and presidential campaigns, about China economic policy. “Delighted to hear from you,” Clinton wrote after Roach apologized for a “rambling” e-mail. In a later message she asked an aide to make time for her to see Roach when he was in Washington.The secretary of state also wrote an encouraging note to Bill Owens, chairman of AEA Holdings Asia, about an effort he was pushing to open a dialogue with retired Chinese military official.
Favors for donors? Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell is facing jail time for much less.
And then — this is the supposedly nonpolitical secretary of state whose portfolio is strictly foreign affairs — there is her fixation on news reports, interest in domestic politics and outreach to labor unions. The Wall Street Journal observes: “While serving as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was keenly attentive to domestic political issues—following the gay-rights debate, staying in touch with Democratic allies and keeping tabs on her public image—a batch of emails released by the State Department Tuesday shows. . . [She] received numerous updates from her department advisers about the changing politics of gay rights and activists’ frustration with the Obama administration. . . . The emails show Mrs. Clinton engaged with domestic political figures.” Why is this so significant? Aside from using the taxpayers’ provided office and staff to attend to her political aspirations, it is evident that while in office Clinton was planning ahead, greasing the wheels for her campaign. That puts her receipt after leaving the State Department of outlandish speaking fees and foundation receipts in a clear light: Both she and the donors correctly figured this was cash flowing to a future presidential candidate.
And the e-mails are interesting for what they don’t include. Where is Hillary Clinton the wonk? Hillary Clinton the master of policy? Maybe there will be more of that to come. But she comes across as many critics have long surmised — vain, small-minded and, above all, politically calculating in everything she does.