Hillary Clinton took time before her remarks on Wildlife Trafficking in Washington, D.C. yesterday to meet with President Obama and then, surprisingly, to weigh in on Syria. Despite years of pundits’ slurs to the contrary, former Secretary of State Clinton has proven a loyal soldier to the President, but why she would attach herself to the Syrian crisis under debate is a mystery worth unpacking.
Per Philip Bump’s article in The Atlantic Wire, Hillary Clinton “offered perhaps the clearest description of the new administration line on Syria: Embrace John Kerry’s “accidental” suggestion of Syria turning over its chemical weapons, continue military pressure on the regime, and work for a political solution to the country’s civil war.” Her remarks in their entirety are available here. Her inclusion of the words “political solution,” I assume to avoid a military one, offer a more cautious approach.
Whether we agree that her suggestions are good, risky or inadvisable, more fascinating are the optics of a (now) private citizen lending gravitas to a President who is losing it by the day. His offhanded and off-script “red line” remarks last year seem to have precipitated his initial sense of urgency to act with limited strikes against Syrian President Assad. A lack of international backing must have shaken him from his original instinct to flout the Constitution, leading to an eleventh-hour punt to Congress. But as these debates wear on, the urgency seems not so urgent, since President Obama did not insist Congress return early from its summer recess.
Secretary of State Kerry’s earnest flailing didn’t seem to do the trick either, as fully 80% of constituents who have weighed in across the country oppose taking action here.
Cue Hillary Clinton. Did President Obama call upon her to lend credence to his cause? Think about how preposterous it is that she is not serving in our government at the moment in any capacity, yet her brief speech on the subject has the gravitas of the Presidency itself. She now must outweigh both Obama and Kerry to convince a war weary nation and a skittish Congress facing mid-terms next year that action or the threat of it – averted only by a complete turnover of Assad’s chemical stock pile – is the right course.
In 2011, Clinton spoke out against Assad saying he had “lost his legitimacy” and, along with then-CIA head David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Panetta, had advised Obama to arm and train some Syrian rebels; advice not taken by President Obama. Whether that action would have lessened the current tragedy, we will never know. Stepping down last February, Clinton remarked that the violence and lack of clear options in Syria were a “lasting regret.” That we did not step in sooner might offer a clue as to her support for taking action now.
Like the majority of Americans, the idea that we might become embroiled in yet another Middle East conflict is horrifying to me and a course I hope we can avoid. Assuming the humanitarian and security reasons for taking action are sound, given our or any nation’s track record in the region, the likelihood of a good outcome seems slim. Yet Mrs. Clinton is not the President’s only unlikely ally. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, a Senator of 27 years tenure, chairwoman of Senate Appropriations Committee, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and one of the few to vote against the Iraq War Resolution of 2002, also offered up a yes vote here. Per the Washington Post, Mikulski stated:
“I believe the president’s plan is the best response to protect U.S. security interests in the region. … I will support the president’s request for a targeted, limited military action. Let me be clear: I have no grand hopes or illusion about what this strike will do … but I do believe that it will deter and degrade [Assad’s] capacity to strike again.”
It seems Mikulski is saying that a show of strength is what counts here, in addition to putting a stop to the obvious atrocity. In agreement with this, Clinton may be pushing for action fearing that a President unable to secure the backing of Congress, or perceived as backing down on his threats, will weaken America’s standing around the world now and in the future.
As high as Hillary Clinton’s current popularity may be, along with her unofficial “frontrunner” status for the Democratic nomination, I see no upside to her weighing in on this. Mainstream media has hounded her to take a stand, criticizing her silence to this point. Why? This is not unlike The NY Times’ Maureen Dowd blaming Hillary for Anthony Weiner’s presence in the NY mayoral race. Pundits feel a compulsion to embroil her in every debate. Apparently, so does the President. It is not enough to share the blame with Congress and John Kerry, he wants to further deflect from himself via Hillary.
The “chattering class” is eager to help him as exemplified by Joe Klein of TIME Magazine. He just offered a hit piece on the Clintons, indirectly blaming Hillary for the specter of Larry Summers and his penchant for deregulation that helped lead to the crash of 2008. I thought she was First Lady from 1993-2000 and, per Klein and his ilk, just having bunches of tea parties? I didn’t realize she was President then, too. Since her husband will never run for anything again, we can only assume Klein seeks to make Hillary Clinton guilty by association, rendering her omnipotent, omniscient and unelectable.
Favoring Obama in 2008, big media trashed the notion of Hillary becoming President then as much as they insist upon pretending it is already her job now.
Hillary Clinton is not President (yet), and she is not Secretary of State any longer. All parties would do well to remember that.
Let Obama and Kerry fight their own battles and stop hiding behind her pantsuits.
Anita Finlay is the author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin, a shocking exposé deconstructing the biased media narrative plaguing women who dare to lead.
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