Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 10:46 AM ET, 12/ 6/2010

Hillary Clinton's record at State

By Jennifer Rubin

As I noted yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has had tough sledding. The Post's Chris Cillizza awarded her the Worst Week in Washington for the WikiLeaks firestorm -- amid tough competition from Harry Reid (unable to hold his Democrats together on taxes), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) (who compared Republicans to terrorists), and liberal Democrats who are beginning to realize that the president may leave them high and dry on everything from taxes to Afghanistan.

But I don't agree with Chris that, until now, Clinton enjoyed "an otherwise pristine record." Let me enumerate some of the ways in which that record has already been quiet blemished:

The Honduras "coup" debacle, the strained relationship with Israel, the failure to sustain peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians (as the Bush administration did), the frosty relationship with European allies, the failure of "smart" diplomacy in Syria and Egypt and the Middle East more generally, a human rights policy that is roundly criticized from the right and the left, increased aggression from North Korea, the ongoing embarrassment of our participation in the Orwellian named U.N. Human Rights Commission, the botched pull-out of our anti-missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, the deficient response to the June 12 Iranian election, the failure to support robustly the Green Movement, and, most seriously, the failure to slow Iran's march toward membership in the nuclear power club. (The Senate, according to key aides, is contemplating measures to compensate for the lack of progress by the administration.)

In fact, I would argue that it is one of the worst records for any secretary of state since (and maybe including) the Carter administration. Not all of these policies are Clinton's doing. In fact, she's been criticized as well for lacking a bigger, policy-making role. But if these major flubs are not her responsibility, then she is certainly one of the least influential secretaries of state we've ever had.

Clinton says this will be her last role in government. If so, she'd better pick up the pace, or it will be a sorry conclusion to her career.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 6, 2010; 10:46 AM ET
Categories:  Hillary Clinton, foreign policy  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Friday question answered
Next: It's not 'amnesty'


To be fair, she is no worse as Secretary of State than she was at anything else!

Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

She looks really strained these days - I think she got in over her head. Sometimes the jobs where you have to do real work & get held accountable are pretty rough.

Posted by: keepandbear | December 6, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

To be fair, the Repubs left as many foreign policy messes to clean up as they did domestic ones.

Posted by: newageblues | December 6, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

A weird evaluation of Hillary. Worst secretary of state compared to who? Condoleezza Rice? William Rogers? What glorious accomplishments can one mention from previous ones? Oh, I forgot, they solved the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Others managed to keep the Shah of Iran in power, prevented the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur, kept North Korea from getting nuclear weapons. The list goes on and on. Indeed, Hillary has not managed to improve upon those accomplishments. This opinion piece is another puff piece with no serious thought behind it.

Posted by: serban1 | December 6, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Blinded by your right wing ideology- you attack Hillary with little basis in fact or history. She has been a stellar secretary of state.

Going through your points first-
You blame Hillary for a "strained relationship with Israel"- the previous administration did nothing during their 8 years to move a peaceful two state solution now supported by almost everyone. They were "hands off" so the govenrment of Israel appreciated them- but it did not help the larger process. Hillary is trying to move the process- which causes some discomfort on both sides- but is better then letting the wound fester.
Honduras is a soveriegn nation. We did not support the coupe and took whatever limited actions that were possible to support the elected government. When the same thing happened in Pakistan in 2001 - Musharraf overthrew an elected government Bush and Powell did nothing to get the elected government back- in fact they made an ally out of Musharraf. They also tried to help overthrow the elected government of Venezuela by supporting a military coup that failed. At least Hillary tried to support the correct side.
Hillary has tried her best to have good relationships with the European allies. She has been magnificent with Russia. The Western European allies are more frustrated with Barack- his approach to both foreign and domestic policy that affects western Europe has been very unilateral- making them feel patronized rather than collaborated with.
Your column is the first place where I have heard that people don't like her human rights focus. Which part is bad- the supporting of rights for children? The supporting of rights for women? The free flow of information? You just make stuff up there.
As for the other Middle East countries- how is engaging Syria and Egypt bad? Iran was working on it's nuclear capacity throughout W's administration and what did W do- he invaded Iran's east and West neighbor, strengthening Iran as they got to interfere in the politics of both countries- this is the mess she has to deal with.

Who knows to what degree she holds power within the cabinet. The evidence for things she has done- such as reviews of policies at State and satisfaction domestically and abroad with how state has been run (up through wikileaks exposing what state does in every country and has always done) is very high.

Who were these better SOSs? Rice- who got nothing done, Powell who went to the UN with a load of BS? Eagleberger? Shultz (Iran/Contra), Haig (I'm in charge)? Albright was the last great one and if you ignore his right wing politics- Baker was at least effective.

But keep spewing your garbage- thats what the right wing spin machine does.

Posted by: NYClefty | December 6, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

She's the same vacuous slug she's always been. Hypocritical about women's rights while she was destroying predator Bill's victims, she lacks any redeeming qualities. She is an incompetent who has no ethics, no marals and no integrity. A piece of human debris, just like her
socalled husband.

Posted by: LarryG62 | December 6, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't phrase it as a couple of readers did, but there is an argument to be made that she doesn't have much of a record of competence. She messed up on HillaryCare and she ran a rotten presidential campaign. The fact that she's been an underachiever in other roles, however, doesn't negate what a poor job she's done at State.

Posted by: Jennifer Rubin | December 6, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Dear Jennifer,

With respect, it would be easier to believe your arguments are cogent if you did not make disquieting spelling errors:

"Let me enumerate some of the ways in which that record has already been quiet blemished."

"Quite" is the correct word choice.

Posted by: CD12 | December 6, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

The SoS is, first and foremost, a global spokesperson for the President.

It follows that Republicans will look less favorable upon Democrat administration Secs. of State and vice versa.

Given how controversial this President is, I would be surprised if Ms. Rubin wasn't critical of Clinton.

One final point. Just because this is her last government role hardly implies her career is over. Like it or not, she'll probably make a pile of dough going forward doing whatever she wants to do.

Posted by: MsJS | December 6, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Pardon me. "...look less favorably..."

Posted by: MsJS | December 6, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: sarahannson | December 6, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

NYClefty wrote:

"She has been a stellar secretary of state."

What is your standard? What are HER accomplishments? You mkae the argument about how badly some others have done, and that's a fair point, but you don't list any of her accomplishments.

That's always been the mystery for me where Hillary is concerned. When you ask those who are passionate about her what she has actually done, the answer is always how smart she is, or that she went to Yale Law School or worked as a Congressional staffer.

Yes but . . .

Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

WTF??? Rubin, write something HONEST about the accomplishments of Rice, Powell,and then you'll have something to spout off about Hillary. (Did the Post say it was okay for you to keep up the same old Commentary shtick??)

PSSSSSST...Your AIPAC is showing.

And, memo to Chris Cilliza: stop obsessing about Clinton!!! Get over the 2008 campaign memories and hyperventilate about something currently relevant.

Posted by: rdklingus | December 6, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Remember Woodward & Bernstein and Watergate? They were not convicted of revealing the truth about Watergate… they were heroes. Again Clinton twists the truth to make her lack of conscience look like she is doing the right thing. Her biggest problem is that she actually believes Americans are basically stupid and would let her get away with anything. Bye-Bye Hilly - Such a relief to hear!

Posted by: connollywest | December 6, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I can only comment on the Obama Administration's utterly abysmal handling of the Palestinian Israeli peace negotiations. Not that any other US administration has done much better, but President Obama, his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Obama's Special Envoy, George Mitchell have made a complete hash of things over here. President Obama, like all of his predecessors, seemed to believe Palestinian protestations that they were truly interested in negotiating a peace agreement with Israel and that it was Israeli unwillingness to reach an agreement that stood in the way. Given Obama's belief in that narrative, matters were not helped by Obama's own personal, political, and diplomatic antagonism towards Israel and his apparent hostility towards Jews in general, both of which he gave full vent to when he and his White House staff publicly and viciously humiliated Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during the Israeli PM's visit to Washington. And finally, as if to add insult to injury, both VP Joe Biden and SoS Clinton both publicly chastised the Israeli PM over the Israeli government's approval of a few hundred housing tenders.
These gestures were supposed to establish Obama's bona fides as fair arbitrator whom the Palestinians could trust to get them a just agreement. Instead, Mr. Obama discovered, as did George W. Bush, that all this gratuitous Israel bashing did was harden an already impossibly tendentious, rejectionist, and uncompromising Palestinian position which had never for a moment negotiated in good faith for a peace settlement with Israel. Thus instead of any negotiations whatsoever, Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton have created a situation where all the Palestinians do now is denigrate, demonize, and attempt to delegitimize Israel, and demand that the UN, the US, and the rest of the international community accede to Palestinian demands. The Palestians are hoping to have these states and groups ultimately impose a settlement on Israel which includes, among others, the non negotiable(Palestinian words) Palestinian demand for "the right of return of all the Palestinian refugees to Israel." This demand would as a matter of course engender the demographic destruction of Israel and the genocide of the Jews.
Neither Obama nor Clinton are the first American leaders to try out Israel bashing as a method of establishing their credibility with the Palestinians and the Arab world, which is why their failure is all the more egregious, that is, Obama and Clinton should simply have known better.

Posted by: Beniyyar | December 6, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Geesh. So, we're supposed to take Ms. Rubin's critique of Secretary Clinton's performance seriously, when the very title of the blog is Right Turn? By definition, and probably by her employment contract, isn't Ms. Rubin obliged to always say "Democrat bad, Republican Good"? This BS that is passed off as journalism is a serious problem and is doing nothing to improve the civility of public discourse.

Posted by: SouthernerInDC | December 6, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

So according to you--if something happens during your watch that is a negative on you.

We have to understand these are commentaries. And the fact that commentaries are so prevalent these days leads to the dumbing down of America.
No one is ever provided with facts anymore but opinions of those whose credentials if posted would be questionable.

It is like that commercial "are you a doctor?" and the person replies "no but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express."

This is the same, no I am not a policy expert but I play one on paper.

Be critical--review the facts of the matter and read with skeptical eyes opinions--everyone has one.

My opinion based on my review--our foreign policy until now has been going well--due to very capable handling and respect for the Clinton name.

Posted by: CultureClub | December 6, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse


Hmm. The government and people of Hondurus acted in accordance with their constitutional procedures in preventing a coup by a Chavez acolyte and emulater. The administration, acting in utter ignorance, incomprehension and/or disregard for such procedures supported the Chavist coup attempt. The coup, fortunately failed, but the reputation of the U.S. as a supporter of democracy in Latin America took a hit.

Generally, some of the commenters are right that many Republican Secretaries of State have very unimpressive records, but the validity of that observation does not vitiate Jennifer's views respecting the incompetence/lack of influence by Hillary. Certainly by no minimally objective standard can her record heretofore be described as "pristine".

Posted by: cavalier4 | December 6, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

1) Honduras' ELECTED government was overthrown by the military. Leftist or not- the government was elected by Hondurans not by right wing Americans who care more about the cost of bananas from Honduras than the well being of the people there. The administration was correct in supporting the government in exile but could do little to replace the government short of military action- but we are still in two Bush wars- I don't think we should be doing military interventions in Central America.

2) As far as her achievements- the relationship with Russia has been a nice change. We are still early in the administration to see what happens with long term relationships- treaties don't write themselves in days or weeks. There was a lot of damage to repair. Her concentration on human rights has been refreshing. She has also implemented the first real Quality Assurance review of policies and where they stand and why that State has ever done- an excellent change.

There is so much hatred for this women- who has done little to merit it. She was my senator and was very competent in the postion. Her healthcare plan was better than the one that went through for this administration. This country has trouble with smart, ambitious women. You can be ambitious so long as you only tweet simple slogans and look like a model.

Posted by: NYClefty | December 6, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I can understand that those who are a comfortable with the Left leaning slant of the Washington Post would not be pleased with Jennifer’s lengthy list of Hillary’s failures, but there it is. If you do not like it, refute it or at least counterbalance it with your list of Hillary’s successes. But simply whining tends to reinforce Jennifer’s argument.

PS: Jennifer is typically writing about the current administration, not the Bush or Nixon or Buchanan administration.

PPS: a couple big belly flops in Copenhagen were left off Jennifer’s list; but maybe Hillary was not a major player in those cases.

Posted by: nvjma | December 6, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Condie Rice? Haig? I don't think we're even close to the worst here.

Posted by: jamalmstrom | December 6, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I spent some time trying to find a few of Hillary's accomplishments as SOS. The list is very small. Very very small.

Posted by: richard36 | December 6, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse


The Chavist would be dictator sought to illegally extend his term. The Honduran Legislature and Court implemented a procedure provided for in the Honduran Constitution to prevent this coup. The constitutionally prescribed election took place several months later and elected a conservative democrat interested in alliance with the U.S. rather than its enemies (should the current administration have the wit to take advantage of it).

Posted by: cavalier4 | December 6, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Can't expect any American politician to have any succes when dealing with foreign countries because we can't "police" our own country. When we can't get rid of poorly educated illegal immigrants how can we expect to deal with other countries problems? We even bend over for mant illegals. It's been documented somenon-citizens vote, which is unconstitutional. We have no valid means of checking the citizenship status of voters. We fail to abide by our own constitution. We have anyhwere from 40-50 millions citizens with dual citizenship, many from Mexico. Who knows where their loyalty lies? An American student is disciplined for wearing a tee-shirt with the Amerian flag. Why? Because the student wore it in Cinco de Mayo day, "their" day. Foriegners have too much say on what goes on in OUR country. Politicians give in to special interest groups on illegal immigration. We have no way of making them pay income taxes. We hva eno verifiable ways to say how much illegal immigration costs the American taxpayer. We can't run our own country and other countires around the world notice. So when we get involoved in foreign policy, why should other countries listen to us when our decision makers don't listen to their own constituents? We are steadily losing influence throughout the world. About the only thing we have going for us worldwide is our strong military.

Posted by: baz987 | December 6, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse


How can you trumpet her work with Russia and then compliment her human rights record? They are antithetical things. Russia is now a one party oligarchy without human rights.

Nothing that happens in Honduras is important, whether it favors the left or right.

I won't go into the older stuff. I'll accept your judgement if you liked her as a Senator.

So as I see it she will have to stand on your description of the quality Assurance review. I'm comfortable with that.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

This little piece of $hit of an opinion piece is nothing but that. First the President creates policy, its the secretary's job to enact it. The fact is it doesn't really matter who the secretary is. America abroad is not what it once was. We do not have the same pull we once did. There are new emerging powers who saw what we did with Iraq (during the Bush era) and are forming alliances amongst themselves to solve problems without U.S. meddling. The fact is Hillary has done as much as she could do to try and keep our strained alliances intact. I think the fact that she has been able to increase the State Dept budget more than her predecessors says a lot about her abilities and not everything she does has to be seen under the spotlight of cameras. In fact diplomacy always goes unnoticed and a majority of Hillarys work will go unappreciated as everyone else before her. What do you want another war with Korea, because that really is the only solution for that? I doubt the American people have an appetite for another war.

Posted by: Ikid | December 6, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

It gets worse. Hillary Clinton propped up people (white collar criminals were given a Nobel Prize and a Knighthood) across South Asia who then used every dirty trick in the book to disrupt communication and prevent America getting the help it needed when the economy got sick - these people spent the past three years (since the recession began) trying to arm wrestle me to convince me not to help America just so they could pretend to be America's "best buddies" in the region (so that they could keep getting benefits from America as America's "best buddies"), not caring if America went under. lol.

Posted by: darkasnight1234 | December 6, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

... and those Rose Law firm records are due out ... "Next Friday." ... Always "Next Friday!"

Posted by: onehanded | December 6, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, but aside from all the failures you list, she's done a magnificent job. Seriously, she's as much out of her depth as Obama.

The "reset button" inanity with Russia exemplifies her tenure at State. Obama doesn't even trust her with the big portfolios such as the Middle East and Pakistan. Not that Mitchell and Holbrooke have done any better than Hillary.

Posted by: eoniii | December 6, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

I love right wingers/former W Bushies talking about "out of her depth"

Lets consider Ws qualifications for president in 2000. Daddy got him into lots of top notch schools where he barely passed as a youngster. Daddy got him into the Texas Air National Guard so that he could defend Texas against a Viet Cong attack during the war- but he went AWOL anyway- Daddy took care of loads of DWI/DUI and a coke habit. Daddy's friends got him into 7 business opportunities and he ran each into the ground. Daddys friends leveraged him into a position with the Rangers and built him a stadium, he still messed the team up. He took a governership that is mostly ceremonial in Texas- but still managed to sign more execution orders than anyone else ever had- including for adults who are mentally retarded. He lost an election and was given the presidency by his brother, and a bunch of appointees of his father. He then ran the country into 2 wars, effectively sunk a US city and blew up the whole worlds economy. So I guess a mistranslation in a press opportunity with Russia is about equivalent to that in incompetency. Perhaps when things get bad she should go shoe shopping?

Posted by: NYClefty | December 6, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

See what happens voters when you put liberals in charge of this country. Next time "think before you vote"!

Posted by: EagleHornet1969 | December 7, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Whatever her shortcomings -- and it really strains credulity to blame WikiLeaks on Hillary and thereby characterize her entire tenure as SOS as "blemished" -- the fact is that she still gets high grades, even among Republicans (Fox News poll in Sept 10: 66% approval rating; Clarus poll July 10: 45% approval Republicans, 57% Independents). So why the need for neocons to denigrate her record? Maybe they realize that if Obama asks Hillary to be his running mate in 2012, Democrats might just hold on to the White House.

Posted by: CarolynRodham | December 7, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company