Earlier this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech the Slowacki Theater in downtown Krakow in which she praised Poland as a model of European democracy and express alarm about a growing crackdown on citizens and human rights groups around the world.  The Washington Post reported that she singled out Russia in the speech, saying: 


“We must be wary of the steel vise in which many governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit,” Clinton told an international meeting of democracies. In her speech, Clinton bluntly accused U.S. adversaries such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran of pressuring or outlawing civil-society groups. But she also chided Russia and China, with whom the Obama administration has sought to build closer ties.

Well, that’s all very nice that Clinton has a chunk of her overseas stump speech reserved for a few “human rights” bromides but perhaps she could discuss her concerns with a few of her staff members–particularly the ones mentioned in a recent Time Magazine article about the milquetoast approach the Clinton State Department is taking with Russia on human rights issues (emphasis mine).   


Since his first meeting with Kremlin leaders in Moscow last July, President Barack Obama has established a dialogue with Russia over some critical issues – Iran, Afghanistan, nuclear arms reduction, missile defense – and all of these have yielded progress, even if meager and tentative. But when it came time last week for an unprecedented meeting – involving Russian and American officials, along with human-rights advocates – to discuss the issue of human rights, the dialogue with the Kremlin hit a wall. The Russian side came away pleased that there had been no criticism from the Americans, none of the condescension they remember from the Bush years. The American side, for its part, seemed content to have raised these issues, showing that they have not forgotten them in their eagerness to be friends again. Still, for the rights activists who were at the the table – a presence that was historic – the whole process seemed little more than unproductive political theater. 

What I found most interesting about the Time article is the no-doubt unintentional praise given to the Bush Administration for clearly being tougher on these issues.  Perhaps we can add the human rights community to the growing list of groups who would answer “yes” to the question: Miss him yet?