The entire book was given over to the New York Times, which dutifully headlined their scoop: “In Memoir, Hillary Clinton Emphasizes Her Softer Side.” Talk about faint praise. The story on the leaked book oozes fatigue at having been assigned to read it.
Clinton is surely running for president. Just as surely she will tout her time at State as great preparation, her oversized memoir an unread testament to all that she accomplished. It is the job of every reporter and commentator to read “Hard Choices” very carefully, no matter how deadly dull, because Clinton’s time at State was quite simply deadly for many Americans and the country’s interests abroad.
When Clinton gave her Russian counterpart a giant “reset” button that wasn’t actually labeled “reset” in Russian, the episode foreshadowed four years of missteps and pratfalls. Of course the relationship with Russia went south for four straight years, and has culminated in Vladimir Putin‘s seizure of all of Crimea, as opposed to just part of Georgia during President George W. Bush‘s lame-duck months.
So, too, has the relationship with the People’s Republic of China, now adventuring across the South China Sea, engaged in serial confrontations with the Philippines, Japan and currently Vietnam as it bullies its way past a hollowed-out American military and a shattered diplomatic front despite the talk of “pivots” and new resources for the region.
Clinton left all of the Middle East as she did Benghazi on the night of Sept. 11, 2012 — in flames and marked by death and confusion. Egypt started as a pillar of stability, though not of reform, and President Obama and Clinton helped turn it into a suspicious if not openly hostile keystone state, still an authoritarian regime, but one dancing with the Russian bear. Syria is a hellhole the enormity of which most Americans barely grasp, and Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq destabilized by Syrian refugees, even as Hezbollah shock troops fight the butcher Bashar Assad’s war on commands from the near-nuclear Iran. All of the facts on the ground now took shape on Clinton’s watch.
But Clinton’s few defenders point to Myanmar and say. “See there! Burma is now a burgeoning democracy. Produced by Hillary’s patient attentions.” Even this risible “we will always have Burma” defense collapsed last week when the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof returned from a reporting trip to the country’s northwest and came back shocked by the ruthless apartheid there and the prospect of a slow-motion genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Appearing on my radio show Friday, Kristof agreed that the index in Clinton’s memoir would likely not feature an entry for “Rohingya,” and also declared about Obama that “I think that it’s time, when this kind of thing is happening, I think President Obama needs to speak out, Secretary [of State John] Kerry, especially because, as you say, they do claim it as a foreign-policy success. And if you’re going to claim the success side of the ledger, then you’ve got to own that and push for an end to these kinds of just unbelievable atrocities.”
The same standard applies to Clinton, of course. She owns the Burma horror as much as she does the Syrian nightmare and Libyan bloody mess. Of course she will condemn the awful evils and offer justifications in a variety of patterns and colors, but her record at State is one of epic failure after epic failure. Word count and a dump truck load full of cliches and windy rhetoric cannot obscure that record or how the world turned on her watch.
Every reporter and commentator who will opine on the election of 2016 owes the public a duty to read “Hard Choices” closely and compare its claims to the realities it will try to hide.