February 6 2013
Maybe with all the serious issues in the news today—including what may turn out to be a cavalier attitude at the highest level of government towards using drones to bump off people—it may seem frivolous to put up another item on our outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But it is not.
This is the woman who was at the helm of our diplomatic apparatus at a time of great peril (think Arab “Spring” and Benghazi), and it is important to assess her legacy before it becomes submerged in the frequent flyer myth.
We linked to Lisa Schiffren’s fine piece on Clinton yesterday, and this morning two other fine female writers are out with articles summing up Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State. Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute was besieged with calls from reporters doing summing up pieces on Clinton. Most hemmed and hawed and gave the impression that Clinton had not really achieved much in the job:
Yes, o’ lords of the conventional wisdom, ’tis true. “Not much” pretty much sums it up. Now, I suspect I am among those secret Hillary fans that believe she coulda woulda done much more if it hadn’t been for a White House that runs national security out of its back pocket. Her instincts seem hawkish but compassionate, committed to American values and American leadership. Of course, what do I know. Maybe she secretly thought something else. Emphasis is on the word “secret.” Because if she thought anything momentous about the great questions that affect us — terrorism, Islamist extremism, the rise of China, the failed reset, the failing economy — you’d never really know it. Instead, she talked a lot about “first lady” hoohah like “women,” as if, somehow, the success of the Muslim Brotherhood, the return of the Taliban, the disaster in Mali, or the genocide in Syria really was, er, good for women.
In fact, what Hillary Clinton really did, and did a lot, was travel. She went here, she went there. Anywhere but home, it seems….
Is this the stuff of history books? Perhaps not. But it does tell us one thing: Match up the list of accomplishments with the frequent flyer miles, and Mrs. Clinton didn’t get much done for all that flying.
Noemie Emery’s piece is headlined “A Life in the Theater,” and it begins by noting that Hillary Clinton’s public life (so far) is bookended by two appearances on “60 Minutes:”
In her life on the stage, she has had a career framed by two episodes of "60 Minutes" that aired 21 years apart. The first took place in February 1992, when she appeared with her husband to help him deal with the mess made by Gennifer Flowers. The second occurred Jan. 24, 2013, when she appeared with Barack Obama (her office husband), where they giggled and laughed like an old married couple as they tried to deal with the mess made by the unresolved murder of four Americans in Libya on Sept. 11, for which no coherent explanation has been given to this day.
Between points one and two, she had been first lady, senator (from New York, of all places) and secretary of state, but she is best defined by a series of tableaux played out one by one on the screen. There was "Pretty in Pink," the Whitewater press conference in 1994; the "Today" show in 1998, where on a cold winter's day she traced tales of her husband's fling with an overweight intern to a sinister right-wing conspiracy; the walk across the White House lawn to the Vacation From Hell on a hot August day, when the stories proved accurate; the nest-building tableau in Chappaqua in 2001; the many Vogue covers and sittings; and finally last month's congressional testimony, where, like Meryl Streep playing "The Iron Lady Wears Prada," she wept, shrieked and pounded the table, screaming that the question of whether or not the administration lied about the cause of the riots that killed four Americans was of no importance at all.
Dean Acheson she wasn't.
Emery entertaininly provides a capsule of the former secretary’s career, which includes a string of Vogue covers and lots cleaning up messes for powerful men. It is interesting that this particular woman has become a feminist icon. Emery says that this speaks of movement feminist values in all their “logic and elegance” and is an issue worth pondering as the Good Ship Hillary “heads temporarily, perhaps, into dry dock, or into some still deeper seas.”