Political Hay

Hillary on the Move

The secretary of state may be angling for a promotion. Does she deserve one?

By 6.28.10

Sally Quinn was the first to raise the intriguing possibility: Let Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton trade jobs in '12. Why? Well, according to Quinn's Washington Post column, Hillary has been doing a "terrific job" as Secretary of State. She would therefore add strength to the national ticket.

Is that the way Sally Quinn sees it? Where, precisely, are American interests abroad being better served today, American principles more honored, than under previous administrations? The Pew poll shows that one year after President Obama's Cairo speech, the U.S. is more hated in Cairo than ever before.

That was Mr. Obama famous outreach to the Muslim world, however. What about Hillary? Have we forgotten her famous "Re-set" button, the one she hauled out for her first well-publicized meeting in March 2009 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov? That was the meeting where we were going to let bygones be bygones. No more rude U.S. interference with Russians ripping off chunks of the Republic of Georgia. Hillary was going to put into practice Vice President Biden's promise to "re-set" relations with the former Soviet superpower.

Well, the big red "re-set" button -- printed in Russian in the Cyrillic alphabet -- used the wrong word. Peregruzka actually translates as "overcharge." Hillary tried to laugh it all off. "We won't let you 'overcharge' us," she cackled. But Russians take such gaffes seriously. It was an early indication of incompetence at the highest levels. If a Russian foreign minister had made such a big public blunder, he'd soon be named ambassador to South Ossetia and never be heard from again.

We're more forgiving, thank goodness. Hillary followed up stepping on Russians' toes in her diplomatic dance with another gaffe -- this time in Canada. She went to Ottawa and publicly scolded Prime Minister Harper's Conservative government for its failure -- in Hillary's eyes -- to include abortion in Canada's new humanitarian efforts in Africa. The Canadians want to fight maternal mortality and think that killing unborn children should not be included. That was the U.S. position under President Reagan and both Presidents Bush. But now, Hillary tongue-lashed our northern neighbors for daring to exclude abortion. Is that how she makes abortion "safe, legal, and rare"? That was the Clinton administration's mantra. Few of us believed the "rare" part then, but how can even Hillary say it with a straight face now?

Let's move on. She recently reported -- from Ecuador, of all places -- that the Obama administration will go into federal court to sue the state of Arizona over its newly passed law on illegal immigration.

This is a first. Never in U.S. diplomatic history has a Secretary of State chosen a foreign venue to attack one of our own United States. Question: Whatever happened to "politics stops at the water's edge"? It seems under Hillary Clinton it starts there. Question: What is the Secretary of State doing making such an announcement, anyway? Shouldn't such an announcement -- if it is to be made -- come from the Justice Department? That is, if you think the U.S. government should be suing Arizona for attempting to pass and enforce a law that merely replicates the current U.S. law that the Obama administration is not enforcing.

It would be difficult to find an area of the world where the U.S. is more powerful, more respected, or where American might is more feared today than it was before this administration took office. We are leaking world respect faster than a BP blowout.

Peggy Noonan is not persuaded by Sally Quinn's call for Biden and Hillary to swap jobs. Noonan thinks Hillary will hear a siren song in '12 and listen to unhappy Democrats. Miss Noonan thinks "sooner or later the secretary of state is going to come under fairly consistent pressure to begin to consider 2012." What? A Hillary challenge in the Democratic primaries to President Obama?

If things continue to go south for the Obama administration, she'll be urged on, and urged out. Cooler heads will tell her that if she only remains loyal, she could be the Democrats' savior in 2016. She would still be about the same age then that Reagan was in 1980, they'll tell her. Still, there will be the temptation: It's now or never, they'll say to her.

Fortune favors the bold. Barack Obama is nothing if not bold. He dared to take on Hillary when most pundits thought she had a lock on the nomination. She fought back with her famous TV ad about the White House telephone ringing at 3 a.m. Her message to voters then: Would Barack Obama be ready to take that call? With her record of foreign policy failures, however, it would be a fair question to ask: Would she?

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About the Author
Ken Blackwell, the former mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio is Vice Chairman of the Republican National Committee's Platform Committee. He also serves on the boards of the Club For Growth and the National Taxpayers Union.