by Conor Friedersdorf
In the lengthy Vogue profile of Hillary Clinton, this paragraph vexed me:
The evening was a reminder of something about Clinton: She is toughmore hawkish than most liberals; she's comfortable with war talk in a boys'-club environment. "I think Hillary now prides herself on the fact that she's part of the gravitas team," says Chuck Todd, the NBC News chief White House correspondent. "Her, Joe Biden, Bob Gates…the over-60 crowd."
Secretary Clinton is undoubtedly tough -- a survivor who perseveres in politics despite setbacks -- but can't we retire this lazy conflation of toughness and hawkishness among civilian policymakers? It isn't as though she'll be doing any fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, and that she is comfortable with war talk doesn't make her any tougher than Cyrano de Bergerac was a confident pickup artist.
The career politician faces her own tests. Does she put the good of the country before her ambition? Does she persevere in righteous causes that seem lost? Does she keep her integrity and humility? Does she excel despite her grueling workload? Passing those tests and others like them ought to be what earns a Secretary of State the descriptor "tough."
When she first appeared onstage the audience leaped to their feet, and the applause was deafening. "They weren't cheering Bob Gates," said a fellow in uniform sitting next to me. And despite the gravity of the occasion, a young woman bellowed at the top of her lungs, "I love you, Hilllllary!!!!," as if she were at a Lady Gaga concert. Seeming to acknowledge her superstar status, Clinton made a crack at the very end of the proceedings, saying that Gates had served most of his 43 years in public service "in secret" (referring to his CIA days). "And I have no secrets." The crowd roared with laughter.
What a cunning woman. The crowd laughed, but they missed the joke. Upon reflection, does anyone doubt that Secretary Clinton has enough secrets to fill Madison Square Garden? What an expertly inserted, audacious lie!
Perhaps you've picked up on my distrust of Secretary Clinton. In her current job, I haven't any criticism, the profile makes her seem likable enough, and the story of how she became Secretary of State is fascinating. But it is difficult to skip over lines like this from a Clinton staffer: "They started talking about it substantively, looking around the globe, and they were basically in the same place. The things they disagreed about in the campaign? We didn't believe he was actually going to have coffee with Ahmadinejad. It was something he shouldn't have said in the campaign, and we pounced on it. The tiny differences in their foreign-policy ideas during the primaries evaporated during the general election." Ha ha, that was just one of the strategies all politicians use during campaigns, where they shape America's public debate about urgent matters of foreign policy by... what's the word? Ah, yes, blatantly lying about it.
This also seems like a bad idea:
In Cape Town, she threw a party for the press and drank with the best of us, talking for more than two hours, into the night, with surprising off-the-record candor about everything from her husband to her disdain for certain world leaders.
But does Hillary Clinton now put the good of the country before her ambition? Does she persevere in righteous causes that seem lost? Does she keep her integrity and humility? Does she excel despite her grueling workload? In her current role, I've got to concede that she scores pretty well on that test. Tough lady.
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