Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Experience
Hillary Clinton’s constant touting of her vast foreign policy experience is finally starting to get examined. Suddenly, the scales are falling off the eyes of a willing press corps who are saying, Oh, that’s right, she actually doesn’t have any foreign policy experience. I’m reminded of the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes although one would hope the parallels stopped short of Clinton parading around in public naked; nobody wants to see that.
At any rate, Clinton’s most recent statement on the matter is finally raising eyebrows:
You know, I was involved for 15 years in, you know, foreign policy and security policy. You know, I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland. I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo. I’ve been standing up against, you know, the Chinese government over women’s rights and standing up for human rights in many different places. I’ve served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And I was the only senator of either party asked to be on an important task force put together by the Pentagon under this administration to figure out what to do with our military going forward.
Lord David Trimble, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in Northern Ireland, calls these claims “silly.”
“I don’t know there was much she did apart from accompanying Bill [Clinton] going around,” he said. Her recent statements about being deeply involved were merely “the sort of thing people put in their canvassing leaflets” during elections. “She visited when things were happening, saw what was going on, she can certainly say it was part of her experience. I don’t want to rain on the thing for her but being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player.”
Another source who should know, albeit one with an obvious agenda in downplaying Mrs. Clinton’s accomplishments, piles on:
“She was never asked to do the heavy lifting” when meeting with foreign leaders, said Susan Rice, who was an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration and is now advising Obama. “She wasn’t asked to move the mountain or deliver a harsh message or a veiled threat. It was all gentle prodding or constructive reinforcement. And it would not have been appropriate for her to do the heavy lifting.”
Several other observers say much the same thing in that piece. An exception:
Former Sen. George Mitchell, who was the lead U.S. negotiator, said Clinton’s visits were “very helpful.” “She was especially involved in encouraging women to get involved in the peace process,” which was a “significant factor” in the agreement, Mitchell said in an interview.
Josh Marshall‘s post on the subject is entitled “Please.”
These are the sorts of puffed up claims that get other candidates held up to mockery and derision. But Clinton is using them as cudgels in her effort to portray Obama as a lightweight with no experience dealing with foreign policy crises. And basically she’s getting a pass. I guess it speaks to the advantages of staying on offense, which can never be gainsaid. But she’s still getting a big pass on this and a lot else.
Ultimately, I more-or-less agree with Steve Benen on this.
Clinton, as far as I’m concerned, is qualified to be commander-in-chief. She’s been a senator for eight years; she’s a bright and creative thinker; she’s served on the Senate Armed Services Committee; and she’s seen various foreign policy failures and successes up close over the last 16 years. If she were president, she’d have my full confidence.
Which is all the more reason that I’m puzzled by the style and substance of her campaign pitch. Clinton simply isn’t a Joe Biden-like candidate. Why pretend that she is? And should she get the nomination, won’t this mistake be magnified by an opponent whose background is more extensive than her own?
At the very least, she’s making John McCain’s job easier in November, especially if Obama is the candidate. And, even Clinton pulls off the upset, she has bolstered McCain’s premise, that experience in matters of international security is the top voting issue by which a president should be judged, very nicely.