>By Don White
I have written about an AP article describing Hillary Clinton’s appearance before a congressional hearing. The more I looked at the result, the more this became an article full of clichés – mine, Hillary Clinton’s and the AP writer’s — and common phrases, which I have highlighted in red for your edification.
I hope the color isn’t distracting from the message. It’s about Clinton describing what she intends to do to save the world. While re-reading I discovered the article was full of those nasty clichés and one-liners and the commonly-used and smart-sounding phrases of a nominee trying to impress a dour and witless Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
After proofreading, I found Hillary wasn’t the only offender. I had also cracked off a few blunderous clichés that, if I were writing merely to assail the Democrats, I would have removed. I leave them for emphasis – to say everyone thinks and talks in thee crazy little sayings, so why not me? Perhaps everyone except Abraham Lincoln and …Barak Obama?
Can we take a leap of faith and buy into Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ability to bring positive results with her “smart power” strategy in the Middle East? If so, she may accomplish with absolutely no foreign policy field experience where distinguished and experienced leaders have failed miserably.
We can only hope that she is an anomaly and possesses the ability to quickly master what must be done in a terribly difficult assignment, given the parameters which America’s new president will thrust upon her.
Quick study or not, the many difficult Middle-East imbroglios Clinton will encounter seem all the more insoluble as the years fly by. We must hope she is not only well advised and “smart” as she goes about her work, but resilient. Her marathon campaign for the presidency proved she is tough. But Barak Obama outsmarted her at every turn, but at State it will be her ability to work out difficult outflanking maneuvers together with other Western countries to: contain Iran’s nuclear abilities; bring peace to Israel; destroy the Hamas; keep the oil flowing this year from a recalcitrant Russia; tame Vladimir Putin of his revanchist tendencies; unsnarl the Israeli-Palestinian mess; untangle the constant warring, mistrust, and enmity between two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan; stop terrorism; and clear away some of the political clutter left by both Bush and husband Bill.
Something bothering me is her use of generalities, when massive problems require specifics. What exactly does she mean by smart power strategy, or is it another term like “Obama change about which we’re not supposed to discover fully the meaning until it happens?” Isn’t advertising lingo, smart power conduct, precisely what all her predecessors intended?
It is intentionally broad – just like most of the “change” initiatives Obama promises — leaving a clever Obama wiggle room to claim some political capitol without sharing in the failures that surely must come during Hillary’s service. Again, exactly what is meant by smart power strategy? When does America bomb, when does it negotiate?
Turns out, Bush had some of that right in his refusal to help Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert bomb Iran’s nuclear enrichment plant.
The term “smart power strategy” is so broad that it could have been used any time in the last 70 years; so, basically, while it sounds good it means nothing.
One must hope Clinton is a quick study and that she will leap barriers former secretaries of state have been unable to master, especially considering that they had experience when she trots to the starting gate as an untested filly.
She offers no specific or new peace proposals, it’s OJT for both of them, but speaks confidently of President-elect Barack Obama‘s intentions to “renew” American leadership in the world and to strengthen U.S. diplomacy. One must wonder how Obama can lead differently without giving in to every proposal that would delimit Israel and America and make our country look weaker rather than stronger?
In view of Hillary’s desire to appear the new expert on the block, she comes off without anything new to add. Can you read into the following comment a ridiculous feeling that she has about how tough the job will be because Bill didn’t accomplish the task, but that she just has nothing except will power to offer?
“As intractable as the Middle East’s problems may seem and many presidents, including my husband, have spent years trying to help work out a resolution, we cannot give up on peace,” she told her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The President-elect and I understand and are deeply sympathetic to Israel’s desire to defend itself under the current conditions, and to be free of shelling by Hamas rockets.”
“However, we have also been reminded of the tragic humanitarian costs of conflict in the Middle East, and pained by the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians,” she said. “This must only increase our determination to seek a just and lasting peace agreement that brings real security to Israel; normal and positive relations with its neighbors; and independence, economic progress, and security to the Palestinians in their own state.”
The panel’s ranking Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar, praised Clinton, calling her “the epitome of a big leaguer” who is fully qualified for the job and whose presence at the State Department could open new opportunities for American diplomacy, including the possibility of improving the United States’ image in the world.
But Lugar also raised questions about the issue of former President Bill Clinton‘s fundraising work and its relation to her wife’s new post. Lugar said that the only way for Clinton to avoid a potential conflict of interest due to her husband’s charity is to forswear any new foreign contributions. The Indiana senator said the situation poses a “unique complication” that requires “great care and transparency.”
“The Clinton Foundation exists as a temptation for any foreign entity or government that believes it could curry favor through a donation,” he said. “It also sets up potential perception problems with any action taken by the secretary of state in relation to foreign givers or their countries.”
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the new chairman of the committee, pressed Clinton on whether Obama sees a nuclear-armed Iran as unacceptable at any cost, or merely undesirable.
Clinton responded: “The president-elect has said repeatedly it is unacceptable. It is going to be United States policy to pursue diplomacy — with all of its (tools) — to do everything we can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state. As I also said, no option is off the table.”
She said the new administration would pursue a broader approach to the problem of Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What does that mean?
“We must also actively pursue a strategy of smart power in the Middle East that addresses the security needs of Israel and the legitimate political and economic aspirations of the Palestinians; that effectively challenges Iran to end its nuclear weapons program and sponsorship of terror, and persuades both Iran and Syria to abandon their dangerous behavior and become constructive regional actors; that strengthens our relationships with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, other Arab states, with Turkey, and with our partners in the Gulf to involve them in securing a lasting peace in the region. “
Clinton also promised to push for stronger U.S. alliances around the globe.
“America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own,” Clinton said, “and the world cannot solve them without America.”
She credited Secretary of Defense Robert Gates with stimulating debate about the role of diplomacy and other civilian institutions’ role in fighting the global war on terror, endorsing his call for providing the State Department with more resources and a bigger budget.
She assured the committee that if confirmed, the State Department “will be firing on all cylinders” — applying pressure when needed and looking for opportunities to advancing U.S. interests.
There were more clichés in the AP article than in Clinton’s remarks. I’ll color them red for you:
The AP said Clinton spoke in a clear, unhurried voice and looked at ease as she read a long introductory statement. She sat alone at a small, black-draped desk, with daughter Chelsea and a retinue of advisers behind her. Her husband was not present. Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said the former president was watching the hearing elsewhere with his wife’s mother.
“President Clinton wanted to make sure the attention was focused on Sen. Clinton,” Vietor said. “They will be together as a family later today.”
The Senate hearing room was packed with ambassadors, current and former diplomats, supporters and aides sitting cheek by jowl. Dozens of photographers ringed Clinton as she spoke.
Clinton appeared set to sail smoothly, aptly clothed in a world of cliché, toward confirmation, despite concerns among some lawmakers that the global fundraising of her husband could pose ethical conflicts for her as secretary of state.