The myths and mysteries of Hillary Clinton

Those who seek sainthood - or a Nobel Peace Prize - for Hillary Clinton should look more closely at her record. Photo: Hillary Clinton / Associated Press

NEW YORK, January 27, 2013 – Despite lingering questions over Benghazi, Secretary Clinton closes yet another chapter in a storied political career.

Premature Canonization?

This morning on MSNBC’s What’s Up with Chris Hayes, the left-leaning host and several guests placed Secretary Clinton on the same pedestal as George Marshall. Some even suggested she deserves serious consideration for a Nobel Peace Prize.

A Peace Prize despite the fact that there is no peace regarding terrorism?

Al Qaeda and its adherents have not laid down their arms or rejected militant Islam.

On CBS Sixty Minutes, the dynamic foreign policy duo of President Obama and Secretary Clinton will have their moment, during which the show will coronate Secretary Clinton as frontrunner for the 2016 Presidential Election.

A woman certainly will be President some day soon in America. Early odds favor Hillary Clinton by more than a country mile. Should we simply prepare now for what seems inevitable?

The mainstream press loves its leftists. So Michael Kelly’s cover story for The New York Times Magazine titled “Saint Hillary” on May 23, 1993 was unsurprising. Hillary had been First Lady for 123 days at that time, surely long enough to work her miracles. Besides, everyone knows rules concerning canonization followed by The Roman Catholic church do not apply to progressives.

Twenty years have passed since then, yet a passage in the Kelly piece attributed to Hillary Clinton jumps off the page now as we take stock of America’s foreign policy.

“I can remember sitting in a law school class years and years ago in which a hypothetical was being discussed about terrorists. And I remember sitting there listening to the conversation as so many people tried to explain away or rationalize their behavior. And I remember saying there is another alternative. And the other alternative is that they are evil….There are evil people in the world. And they may be able to come up with elaborate rationalizations to attempt to explain away their evil and they may even have some reasonable basis for saying their conduct needs to be understood in the light of preexisting conditions, but their behavior is still evil.”

Has the passage of time dulled Hillary Clinton’s capacity to see evil even when it stands in plain sight?

The Trouble with Retreating from in Front

Back in 2009, President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton were at a foreign policy disadvantage not of their making.  Though each had served in the United States Senate helping to shape American foreign policy, neither deserves much blame for their starting point.

Furthermore, America has had so many miss-adventures abroad since 1991 that it is tough for even the staunchest patriot to suggest our recent history leading a “uni-polar” world intimidated our dread enemies or cultivated our true friends.

The wider world must have imagined that Captain Peter “Wrongway” Peachfuzz was skippering America’s foreign policy at significant moments. 

As junior partner to President Obama, Secretary Clinton certainly did not have a free hand everywhere to practice her brand of diplomacy. In Africa and in the Middle East, President Obama took particular interest, and American military forces remain engaged many places in that region.

This brings us to Benghazi. One winning argument in the 2012 Presidential campaign was that, with Bin Laden gone, Al Qaeda is on the run. On September 11, 2012, apparent reality of radical militants in Libya and the circumstances surrounding the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi must have seemed an inconvenient truth. Motive was missing for the horrible deaths of an Ambassador and three Americans as well as the destruction of our compound.

Who to blame?

As Senator Ron Johnson sought answers, Secretary Clinton’s plucky performance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee misdirected many in the media.

“With all due respect, the fact is that we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

Bravo roared the mainstream press.

Not so fast say the better informed.

The French playwright Moliere observed: “Unreasonable haste is the direct road to error”.

Since January 2009, the winds of change known as the Arab Spring roared from North Africa right across the Middle East, carrying the United States and some prestige along in the wreckage of historical relationships.

Under Secretary Clinton, at the direction of President Obama, America moved quickly in all too real life out of Baghdad and soon will exit Kabul. As Vladimir Putin cautioned, American foreign policies in the Middle East are heightening risks of “blowback” from militant Islamists.

America has been in a similar situation before. War-weary in 1933, far out over a terrifying economic abyss, Americans did not sufficiently appreciate the existential dangers then posed by National Socialism and Adolf Hitler. As we note the 80th anniversary of Hitler’s disastrous rise to power in Germany, are we troubled by what is happening now in Egypt? Do we truly believe the Muslim Brotherhood is a secular organization, or that President Mohammed Morsi is a reliable ally and force for lasting peace?

Protected Legend or Ordinary Leader?

For her many sacrifices, does Secretary Clinton deserve to wear a cloak of invulnerability when it comes to assessing her actual record?

In a sense, Hillary Clinton is indeed a martyr.  She is still married to America’s most affable rogue whose rambles and foibles have acquired mythic proportions.

However, Hillary and her husband are the first modern Americans to earn accolades and a veritable fortune through “service” to we, the people.

As I assess Secretary Clinton’s tenure, tears start to run as I think how many lives will be shattered until we realize that evil flows fastest into the power vacuums America is creating in a hasty, ill-constructed retreat from enemies and allies alike.

In the Middle East, I think of ordinary people. I think of the decision to intervene, peremptorily in countries like Egypt and Libya while standing pat in Iran. I think of Neda Agha-Soltan, killed in 2009 during a protest in Iran. I think of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. I think of our loyal friends in Israel and wonder who truly pulls the important strings regarding America’s foreign policy. I know that we all will bear the consequences for their mistakes.

The myth of Hillary Clinton’s prowess is legend. She deserves some time to re-charge her batteries and re-connect with her family in the elite world she inhabits.

Hopefully, however, the cloak of insensibility worn by her fans will shield not voters from eventually realizing just how poorly served in foreign policy we have been by America’s most recent Team of Rivals.

Instead, I suspect the charms of more ordinary people will seem refreshing and far more attractive as soon as 2014. Learning from the mistakes of legends will soon seem more sensible than electing them as leaders.

Haste does make waste.

Follow Charles Ortel on Twitter at @CharlesOrtel


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Charles Ortel

Charles Ortel became a lapsed member of the silent majority in August 2007 when he began alerting the public to dangers posed by structural changes in the global economy. Since then, Charles has appeared in the print, radio and television media with increasing frequency. Brass Tacks will attempt to offer non-partisan perspective on factors contributing to the unresolved, burgeoning crisis and discuss potential solutions. Graduated from Horace Mann School, Yale College and Harvard Business School, Charles tries to learn each day.  

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