The Upcoming Fifth Anniversary of Hillary’s Reset Button
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Hillary gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a reset button on March 6, 2009. The button was intended to become a symbols and it very much has. No doubt more than a few people in Ukraine are thinking about that button as their country is chopped into into the bits Putin wants and those he doesn’t. t hope someone at the RNC hires some college kid to follow Hillary around dressed as a reset button. I hope they hire many reset buttons in fact, on each for the abandoned peoples of Iraq, Libya, Syria, and now Crimea.
It is astonishing that so failed a figure would presume to seek the presidency but she is measuring herself against Joe Biden so that is a partial explanation. I am faster than John Goodman, though, and I don’t think of myself as an Olympic medal contender.
I have asked a number of pundits, reporters or elected officials to tell me what she accomplished in her long tenure at State. Here are a few of those responses:
HH: Now the, I’m going to quote from This Town, Mark Leibovich’s very significant bestselling book of 2013. “When you spend time in Washington, you have to make sure if you’re going to be honest about it, that it’s not going to bleed into your own sensibility as a journalist or as a public figure or whatever, because it’s so easy to fall into that trap.” You said that to me in July. With that in mind, how would you describe Hillary Clinton’s achievements as Secretary of State?
ML: Geez. Look, I think, I don’t cover the State Department. Look, you have that look on your face like you expect me to duck this question.
HH: No, I expect you not to be able to say anything, because she didn’t do anything.
ML: I actually didn’t, I don’t, here’s the deal. I have not written any stories on Hillary Clinton since 2008. How about, what’s like the graceful way to duck a question?
HH: Not even duck, just as if we’re playing Jeopardy!.
ML: Yeah, I honestly don’t know.
HH: Nobody can come up with anything, Mark.
ML: Yeah, let’s see. What did she do? I mean, she traveled a lot. That’s the thing. They’re always like, well, she logged eight zillion miles. It’s like, since when did that become like diplomacy by odometer?
What were her accomplishments as Secretary of State?
EJD: I think first of all, her accomplishments inevitably are going to be linked to what we see as Obama’s accomplishments. And if you see, as I do, ending the war in Iraq, knowing the place is a mess now in many ways, but getting our troops out of Iraq, that’s part of it. I think that for the period she was secretary of State, opinion of the United States rose in the world. I think that she did a lot of work on human rights and women’s rights around the world. I think that, and you know, and you and I will just plain have to disagree on this. I think at that end of her four years, we were in a better position in the world than we were when she took the job. And that is the old Ronald Reagan question.
HH: Well how do you, why would you say that? Why were we in a better position?
EJD: Because I think that you know, fighting two wars at the same time drained, first of all, cost a lot of lives and also a lot of casualties. It stretched American power in a way that I don’t think strengthened us in the world. I think the war was a mistake, and that getting out of there has actually put us in a position over the long run to recalibrate our foreign policies into being a stronger position in the world.
HH: So when she runs, her biggest accomplishment for four years at State is she helped President Obama pull the cord on Iraq?
EJD: Well, I do think that that is a big deal to a lot of Americans. Most Americans came to disagree with the war and wanted to end it.
HH: But I mean, that’s it for Hillary, for four years, that she…
EJD: No, I think you could go through, I think there are a lot of things you can look at in terms of her dealing with both in Asia and Africa how she has sort of, she advanced development goals in the third world, building, by the way, on some of the good things George W. Bush did.
HH: But I mean, I can name the…
EJD: The heralded good deeds were, you know, had a lot to do with the poorest countries on Earth.
HH: 45 seconds, E.J., until we’re doing. I just, just a specific, though. I can name the Bush AIDS Initiative, I can show you where the money was spent. I really don’t think there’s anything on Hillary’s resume.
EJD: Well, you know, the next time I do the show, I will prep for that list. I was actually thinking more about Chirstie and the interest in augural address he actually gave for that.
HH: Well, he got snowed out. You took me off course when you said why was he not more curious about the story, and I instantly thought of Hillary on the night of Benghazi.
HH: All right, one question, you’ve got a minute. Summarize for me what she accomplished as Secretary of State.
LD: Well, the biggest thing of all is goodwill around the world, which is what secretaries of State do.
HH: Like in Syria…
LD: I don’t know what any secretary of State…
HH: …and Egypt and Libya?
LD: I don’t know, well, Libya and certainly the intervention in Libya and getting rid of Qaddafi, you would say that’s a pretty good achievement for the President. But these are presidential achievements with a partnership of the secretary of State. What do secretaries of State do? For example, she was very instrumental in the details of the Iranian sanctions program, which has produced, apparently, some results. I’m very skeptical about this deal in Iran on the nuclear weaponry. But the credit she deserves on this sanctions program, which literally was her program in the State Department to enforce, but in partnership with Barack Obama.
HH: So her achievement is that…
LD: But this doesn’t change the question about the secretary of State having achievement. This is a secretary of State is the most popular woman in the world and restored relations with everyone in the world.
What was Secretary of State Clinton’s accomplishments as Secretary of State?
DM: Well, she, I suppose what she accomplished for her reputation was, she increased her standing to the point of invincibility. I…
HH: But what did she actually do, Dana Milbank?
DM: Well, I don’t know. What did Lawrence Eagleberger do? You know, I don’t believe we had any major peace treaties under her. We didn’t, we had some, a, brief military actions, but basically cleaning up the ones that were in place. So I don’t, you know…
HH: You’re a columnist. I’m just asking. Do you think she accomplished anything? Or was she basically a non-entity at State?
DM: I think she was successful in the sense of projecting a strong American image abroad, but, and restoring American standing and reputation in the world. But these are nebulous…
HH: Dana, how do you get there? How do you measure that? I mean, what, under that talking point, what are the data points?
DM: Well, right, what I was saying before you said that is these are, this is, that’s sort of a nebulous notion of American standing. So…and whether we are more popular in European and foreign capitals, I’m not sure whether that particularly matters. But you know, I mean, I certainly didn’t come on this call to be a defender of Hillary Clinton.
HH: What is her biggest achievement as secretary of State?
MH: I think that the folks around her believe that among the biggest achievements was, and you’ve seen this pointed to a lot, was the amount of travel time she logged. They felt very good about the Chinese dissident, and how the disposition of that case went in 2012. I think that what they, and what most people are prepared for is a lot of questions about the aftermath of Benghazi, and I think there was a 60 Minutes piece about that, that went out yesterday. I think there’s going to be a lot more of that. I think that this is where the fact that most people believe she is running, but she has not set up a team of any kind in any meaningful way, potentially becomes problematic, because if her folks believe that they have something to say in response to that and they’re not, they’re sort of letting time slip away from them.
HH: But pause for a moment with me on the achievement side.
HH: Articulate further. What is it that people say is her achievement? That she logged a lot of miles? What, is she running for George Clooney’s role in Up In The Air?
MH: (laughing) That has been certainly one of the focuses that her folks have talked about. They’ve also talked about how she ran a functional effort at State. Look, I think that when you hear from her world about what her accomplishments were, I think that they genuinely believe that she had made progress in terms of how America was perceived. People can agree or disagree with that. I think that that is obviously been coming into question now, and this is again something I think she’s going to have to talk about more. She’s clearly aware of that, but she’s not saying much about it so far, on the NSA issue. It’s very, very difficult for a former Obama administration official to run a sort of smoke and mirrors campaign on foreign policy. She’s going to have a very hard time doing that.
HH: Well, I know all the critiques, because I’m a conservative talk show host. So I know what all the vulnerabilities are.
HH: I’m just curious as to what they think her strengths are, other than, you know, frequent flyer miles.
MH: Look, they think that she was an effective diplomat. They think that she was good at helping America’s image globally. They have a couple of cases like the case of the Chinese dissident where they think that State played a very effective role. She was among those who was pressing for more action in Syria of a restricted type earlier on than what you saw the Obama administration ultimately do this year. But you know, look, she was not, she certainly was not part of the team that, say, was dealing with Israel. She was not integral in that way, and so I think for some of the issues that are the hottest right now, globally, she was not a key factor in them.\
HH: So a Chinese dissident? That’s it?
MH: Well, I think we will see what they issue as her biggest strength as secretary of State. That has not been a case they’ve been emphasizing so far. You’ve, I’m sure, read the New York Magazine piece, like everybody else, where they talked about again, her time as secretary of State which was largely mechanical, at least in the focus of that piece, and how they thought she had run an effective effort. Everything with Hillary Clinton gets looked at through the prism of how she manages whatever team she’s running, and that’s been where a lot of the focus has been.
HH: Well, it’s very interesting to me, though, as you report early on, they are going to try, Team Clinton is going to try and give you the talking points, which they hope then enter into the bloodstream, and into the circulatory system of Washington, D.C. that is Politico, and then out through the rest of the country. And what I’m hearing you say is they’ve got a Chinese dissident.
MH: No, I think, but I think that when you’ve asked me off the top of my head what are some of the things that her folks have pointed to over the last two years, that has certainly been one of the cases.
HH: Anything else, Maggie?
MH: Yes, there are others, but I’m just not coming up with them at the moment, but, and I’m not trying to avoid the question.
HH: Oh, I know you’re not. I just don’t think there’s anything there. I think, actually, her biggest problem is that there is no there there. She occupied the State Department, and there’s nothing to show for it. I guess there’s this Chinese dissident, but I’m, that’s not, that’s not a name that’s tripping off of my tongue right now. Do you know his name?
MH: I think that, no, at the moment, I actually cannot think of his name. I think that they’re, I think this is going to be an ongoing problem for her. I think that showing sort of a body of work at State is going to be something that she’s going to be pressed to do increasingly, and I think that running sort of a shadow campaign through paid speeches and free speeches over the course of the next year, I think is going to not cut it eventually, not just for conservative critics, but I think on the left. I think she’s going to have a problem.
HH: But doesn’t this sort of underscore the major problem? Here I am, a conservative critic, and I know the critique. And you’re a mainstream reporter, and as far as I know, you have no ideology. You’re one of the people at Politico that I don’t put on the left or the right, you’re just down the middle.
HH: And neither of us can come up with any claim that she has to having succeeded at anything, and they are not able, they didn’t spin you, because they’ve got nothing to spin you with. It’s like the washing machine’s broke.
MH: Well, we’ll see. I mean, I think we need to see what they ultimately come up, to be fair. I think that since she’s not yet running, I think looking at how they present her and present what she did there is an open question.
HH: They’ll come up with something. What I’m getting at is, how long have you been with Politico, five years?
MH: Four years, three and a half years.
HH: Okay, so almost her entire tenure at State, and I’ve been on the air since 2000. And I can’t think of anything, and I’m giving you the floor. If you can come up with anything for her case, lay it out there. Just from the top of mine, it should be front shelf, right?
MH: It certainly is not, there is not a giant list that I think people can point to.
HH: There is no list.
MH: There are a couple, and I think there’s a couple of reasons for that like I said. With the major issue of dealing with Israel, she was not front and center. And she certainly received criticism early on in terms of how the U.S. dealt with Russia. I think these are all going to be issues that she is going to have to address, and I suspect she is going to get asked about them repeatedly, and by many, many outlets.
HH: I mean, it’s just a big, we’re done, but go around the bullpen at Politico and ask them what did she do, and it’s going to be a giant whiteboard, and there’s not going to be anything on it, Maggie.
MH: I like the invocation of whiteboard, though.
HH: It is a whiteboard. Maggie Haberman, great piece today, great process piece, but boy, she’s got problems if after writing it, you don’t have the list at the tip of the tongue. The Clintonistas had better come up with a list, because there’s nothing on it. Really, nothing.
HH: Now we’ve got fiasco underway in Kiev, we had Leopoldo Lopez arrested in Venezuela yesterday, and the Middle East in turmoil. Now Hillary’s legacy is she lost South America, she lost the Middle East, now she’s losing Ukraine. Does she really seem like a presidential candidate to you?
SW: No, it’s pretty shocking. That was going to be her bread and butter, between that and obviously the horrible tragedy in Benghazi, it’s not much of a track record out there. But it goes not just to that position. It goes to the large issue of the presidency. I was talking last year with George Schultz and asking him about Syria, and it was interesting, he started telling me a story of how going into World War II, of course, he was a Marine in World War II, and he said his sergeant in boot camp told him that his firearm was going to be his best friend, he needed to sleep with it, eat with it. But the most important thing you should know is never to point it at anyone he wasn’t prepared to shoot. And as much as that sounds like a good old war story from a World War II veteran, the reality is it’s a great lesson for foreign policy, that you need to show that if you’re going to say something as a country, you’ve got to mean it. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough of that these days.
HH: So Governor Walker, obviously, you have reelection to worry about, and you’re focused on your campaign. There’s a good economy and a recovery underway in Wisconsin. The Ronnie Earl of Wisconsin has laid down his weapons and stopped trying to indict you on false charges. So everything looks good for you. But if you do decide to run for president, are you intimidated by the prospect of Hillary, whose got more frequent flyer miles than the airlines combined standing across the stage and dropping names and the places she’s been against this record of failure after failure after failure.
SW: I think the biggest problem that Secretary of State Clinton has is much bigger than just that, it’s that she is throughout her adult life, she has been a product of Washington, whether she’s been there, worked there, Secretary of State, United States Senator, not only first lady, but back to her days working on the Hill. And I think Americans now more than ever have had it with the whole bunch in Washington, and they want somebody to come in, actually, they want a group of people to come in and completely turn things around and reform things, and put the power back in the hands of the hard-working people of this country. So I think for her, her connection, her longevity connected to Washington, more than anything, is going to be a huge liability for her.
HH: Was she a failure as Secretary of State?
SW: Well, I have a hard time pointing to many successes. I mean, you look at, you mention the problems around the world. She was good at flying around and traveling, but I have a hard time seeing any major victories for this country, and for what it means across the world up there. And again, there’s a lot of uncertainty in this world, and now more than ever, one of the things I forget about, people talk, you know, nostalgically about Ronald Reagan. I was someone who came of age when he became the President. I just had turned 13 two days before he was elected in 1980. But I look at that, and I remember fondly not only because he was a great communicator, and what I like more than anything was his great optimism. But I think back to early in his presidency when he took on the air traffic controllers. That, in effect, seemed like a domestic policy, but I would argue it was kind of the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Why? Because people knew anywhere around the world that this guy was serious, and he meant something, that he was going to act on it, and amazingly, actually, during his presidency, he had very limited military engagement, because people knew they weren’t going to mess with the United States.