“With all due respect, the fact is we have four-dead-Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference—at this point—does it make?”
spent most of the day watching Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testify before committees in both houses of Congress. And I can say without a doubt that, as much as I like and admire Joe Biden, I am now a convert to the “Hillary Clinton for president” effort.
As a conservative during the Clinton years, naturally I was not a fan of either Bill or Hillary. And after moving to the other side of politics, their side, I was still not a fan, having been influenced by Christopher Hitchens, who wrote a rather scathing book about the Clintons, No One Left to Lie To: The Values of The Worst Family, published in 2000.
But even if all or most of Hitchens’ assertions about the Clintons were true, in the case of Hillary, she has done so much more with her life since her time in Arkansas and since her time in the White House with her husband. And in our redemption-friendly culture, that matters.
By all accounts, she worked hard as a U.S. Senator, mostly distinguishing herself, if you don’t count that “yes” vote on the Iraq war, a vote that will always haunt her. She also said all the right things after she was defeated by Barack Obama in those bitterly contested Democratic primaries. She even came to a union convention I attended in Boston and wooed the room by emphatically indicating she would campaign hard for her former opponent.
But I have been taken especially with her service in Barack Obama’s administration, service which has overcome my resistance to her candidacy for the presidency in 2016. As nearly every Democrat, and some Republicans, said in the hearings today, she has done an exemplary job, serving as she has in rather tumultuous times.
One of the reasons I spent the day watching her testimony on Benghazi was because I wanted to see for myself if she had what it would take to overcome the relentless right-wing attacks that will inevitably come her way, should she decide to begin another campaign.
Oh, I knew she had been through that blistering nonsense before, but what she will face in 2016, should she decide to face it, will make the attacks she and Bill endured during the 1990s seem very amateurish.
My finding after hours of observation: she’s got what it takes and then some.
No Republican who tried to best her today did so. She made those who attacked her look relatively small by comparison. She spent the whole day talking about an American tragedy that occurred under her watch, and she held her own, refusing to back down, as some Republicans tried to make Benghazi look like Watergate or something worse.
She looked good, sounded better, and exuded competence and passion the entire time, all of which is essential for a presidential candidate. Thus, as I said, I’m a convert. And as a new convert I am going to show my enthusiasm for Hillary with an excerpt from her prepared remarks today, most of which won’t get much TV time in all the reporting to come, but need to be read by all those who, like me, have been a little reluctant to get behind Hillary Clinton.
This woman is smart, tough, and she understands the world and America’s place in it:
The United States must continue to lead… in the Middle East and all around the globe. We have come a long way in the past four years. We cannot afford to retreat now. When America is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. Extremism takes root, our interests suffer, and our security at home is threatened.
That’s why Chris Stevens went to Benghazi in the first place. Nobody knew the dangers better than Chris, first during the revolution and then during the transition. A weak Libyan government, marauding militias, even terrorist groups… a bomb exploded in the parking lot of his hotel, but he didn’t waver. Because he understood that it was critical for America to be represented in that pivotal place at that pivotal time. Our men and women who serve overseas understand that we accept a level of risk to protect this country we love. They represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation. And they cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs.
It is our responsibility to make sure they have the resources they need to do their jobs and to do everything we can to reduce the risks they face.
For me, this is not just a matter of policy… it’s personal.
I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to lead the men and women of the State Department and USAID. Nearly 70,000 serving here in Washington and at more than 275 posts around the world. They get up and go to work every day – often in difficult and dangerous circumstances thousands of miles from home – because they believe the United States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the earth has ever known.
And when we suffer tragedies overseas, the number of Americans applying to the Foreign Service actually increases. That tells us everything we need to know about what kind of patriots I’m talking about. They ask what they can do for their country. And America is stronger for it.
Today, after four years in this job, after traveling nearly 1 million miles and visiting 112 countries around the world, my faith in our country and our future is stronger than ever. Every time that blue and white airplane carrying the words “United States of America” touches down in some far-off capital, I feel again the honor it is to represent the world’s indispensable nation.