A Clinton Convert

“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?”

—Hillary Clinton

I 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.

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23 Comments

  1. hlgaskins

     /  January 23, 2013

    Great post Duane. During the 2008, presidential primary I threw my hat in with Hillary, and when Obama won the right to run for president instead of Hillary, I didn’t sulk. If Hillary or Biden or both runs in 2016, I will back one of them again, but should the one I didn’t back wins, I won’t be disappointed. My real concern for now is however, the 2014 primary elections, which will hopefully see gains in both the House and Senate, and just as important the end of Rick Scott.

    Like

    • HLG,

      Couldn’t agree more, my friend. We mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. And, God, I hope Rick Scott gets an electoral beating. That would be a good sign for all the rest of us!

      Duane

      Like

      • hlgaskins

         /  January 24, 2013

        Duane

        Rick Scott currently has a 36% approval rating overall, and 49% among republicans which doesn’t bode well for anyone seeking reelection. Scott has recently gained support from Florida Satanists who are also planning a rally to demonstrate their support for him. Now I’m no expert on how the religious right will take this, but I can’t see that type of support being helpful to an already unpopular governor. Polls indicate that if Crist ran against Scott he would win even though he switched from moderate Republican to moderate Democrat.

        http://abcnews.go.com/US/satanists-plan-rally-support-florida-gov-rick-scott/story?id=18219915

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        • Ahhh! That reminds me of a story in the Book of Acts in which the Apostle Paul was being followed by a slave girl who was earning money for her master by fortune telling. The girl shouted for all to hear:

          These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.

          Now, even though she was telling the truth (from the Bible’s perspective), Paul got pissed off and cast a demon out of her! I guess he didn’t want his ministry tainted by such a woman.

          Maybe Governor Scott will, hopefully publicly, do the same thing to that group of Satanists!

          Duane

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          • hlgaskins

             /  January 29, 2013

            “Maybe Governor Scott will, hopefully publicly, do the same thing to that group of Satanists!”

            Sorry Duane, but Scott can’t cast himself out.😉

            Like

  2. Troy

     /  January 23, 2013

    She converted a lot of people today! She will make a wonderful President! In fact the GOP and Fox News started their campaign against her today by the way they all went after her. Great job Mrs H !

    Like

    • Troy,

      That campaign will get much nastier if she even slightly indicates she will run. These people won’t wait until 2016 to go after her. They fear her down deep in their right-wing bones and will have to pull out all the stops to destroy her if they want to win the presidency. And since the Benghazi stuff won’t work, they will have to focus once again on all that Arkansas stuff, as well as connecting her to the socialist Obama.

      RDG

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  3. Hasn’t she said fairly directly: “I won’t run”, or and I confused??? Both her and Joe B seem a little old. He’ll be in his mid or late seventies I think and Hillary almost as old. I’m not certain who the alternatives would be though.

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    • Hillary will be, I think, 69. Joe will be about 74.

      And she has not ruled out a run, although she seems more reluctant than I would expect, if she were seriously considering it.

      My best guess is that she will not pass up a much-better-than-even chance that she could make history as the first female president. In fact, unless she is just completely out of gas, I think she would be foolish to pass up the chance.

      Duane

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  4. It was very entertaining to watch her take the tea party bullies and the other Republicans to the woodshed. I wish Obama had more of a fighting way that she exhibited today. If I hear the word “bipartisan” again when referring to a group of old farts who will do everything in their power, including destroying the United States economy (Blunt, Long, and Jenkins locally), I am going to get sick. Obama needs to call them out, as Clinton did,and lay the blame for the economy and other issues with the obstructionist tea party Republicans..

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    • King Beauregard

       /  January 24, 2013

      “I wish Obama had more of a fighting way that she exhibited today.”

      On the other hand, Hillary could not have won in the court of public opinion had Obama not paved the way for her. For the past four years the GOP has been going after someone who is almost completely imperturbable, and it has made them look like assholes. So when it’s Hillary vs. the GOP, people perceive it as an intelligent, passionate woman against a bunch of assholes. If people weren’t primed to frame it as “assholes grilling somebody”, there’s a real good chance the public would have dismissed it as angry partisans going after each other.

      Obama’s conciliatory tone may not make for short-term victories, but it’s got everything to do with helping people frame what’s really going on. The question that keeps coming up in peoples’ minds is, do you want to side with the decent guy or with the assholes? After a while, you get sick of siding with the assholes.

      Like

      • jdhight01

         /  January 24, 2013

        You are right, King. I am one who wants Obama to take a Chris Matthew’s approach, but that would not work in the public opinion area. A sane man against a bunch of lunatics has been working.

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        • King Beauregard

           /  January 24, 2013

          Obama is a black man who has had to deal with bigots all his life, especially those who have a problem with children of interracial marriages. Obama, as a community organizer, has had to learn to deal with people whose heads are rammed far up their asses and still get things done. So I’m certain he knows tricks that I, a white guy (and also apparently a monarch of French descent if my screen name is to be trusted), do not.

          That said, there have been times he was far too reluctant to even make his case. Half the fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the ACA came from the fact that Obama wasn’t able to clearly articulate what it was and what it would do. He could have explained it in 25 words or fewer: “The ACA will hold insurers to fair standards so that, if you pay your premiums, they will cover you when you need medical treatment.”

          Like

      • Food for thought, King B.

        We have to admit that, as much as we’d like to see a little more spunk in O’s form, for the most part he has been kicking ass lately.

        Duane

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    • Jim,

      I, too, am sick to death of all that bipartisan bullshit you hear on TV every, oh, five seconds. Bob Woodward is the worst among them, basically blaming Obama for all the divisiveness in Washington. None of us are against the two parties working together, but when one side refuses to do anything other than what they want to do, what is our side supposed to do, surrender?

      Duane

      Like

  5. ansonburlingame

     /  January 24, 2013

    There is a very basic question that remains unanswered, related to Benghazi. Did the National Command Authority do enough to protect American lives and facilities during that crisis? Clinton held the administration line by NOT providing clear and convincing answers to that question nor has anyone else from the administration.

    The NCA encompasses the full spectrum of American military and diplomatic power. Was that authority and power used properly during the attack on our consulate in Benghazi?

    Clinton for sure must have known (or sure should have known) the moment by moment intelligence reporting and the military options available. But we the people still do not know the details of such information and now probably never will. And it all goes back to the purpose of the attack by the attackers.

    Was it initially a peaceful protest much like what “sort of happened” in Cairo? Or instead was it the action, from the beginning, of a group of terrorists intent on destruction of American lives and property?

    IF it was the first case, a “protest” that later became violent, well the lack of military force MAY have been justified. But IF, instead, it was a mob intent on raw violence, well, is it wrong to “gun down” such terrorists?

    Someone, and I don’t know for sure who exactly, decided NOT to use military power in Benghazi. Was that the correct decision becomes the question. Clinton, Panetta and the President KNOW who made the decision (or should know) but we sure don’t nor do we know the rational behind that decision.

    Forget partisan squabbling. We are talking about how the NCA functioned during a crisis when American lives and property were lost. That is not a politically motivated question or an attempt to lay blame where, perhaps no blame should be laid. Instead we are talking about the DEFENSE of America and Americans, which should be a non-partisan issue.

    The ONLY thing we know for sure, now, is that 3 lower level bureaucrats in the Dept of State made some mistakes. Is that really the full scope of errors made within the NCA in its entirety? You don’t KNOW the answers any more than I do but that does not make it a bad question.

    Anson

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    • hlgaskins

       /  January 24, 2013

      Anson, while it’s true that we have “four dead Americans” that doesn’t mean direct culpability to a specific person or agency. Sometimes it’s events such as these that result in a tightening of security.

      “October 23, 1983: Marine Barracks Bombing occurs. A suicide car bomber in a truck carrying 2500 pounds of explosives crashed through the gates of a US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon killing 241 American servicemen and wounding 81. 58 French troops from the multinational force are also killed in a separate attack.”

      The outcome? “The commission’s report found senior military officials responsible for security lapses and blamed the military chain of command for the disaster. It suggested that there might have been many fewer deaths if the barracks guards had carried loaded weapons and a barrier more substantial than the barbed wire the bomber drove over easily”

      “An article in Foreign Policy titled “Lesson Unlearned” argues that the U.S. military intervention in the Lebanese Civil War has been downplayed or ignored in popular history – thus unlearned – and that lessons from Lebanon are “unlearned” as the U.S. militarily intervenes elsewhere in the world”

      The only reason that this is an issue is because Democrats are in the White House, and the republicans are looking for a scandal. I guess they figure if the fling enough half cooked spaghetti at a wall something will eventually stick. They’ve been unfortunately unable to find a genuine scandal so they take events such Benghazi, and then do their damnedest to make it one. With Hillary successfully navigating republican questioning, her testimony like it or not, is out of the way. In the end the republicans failed to make this a public issue that could be used in 2016. It also looks as though the republicans are loosing in their pumped up Fast and Furious issue since the release of Fortune Magazine’s investigative report.

      Here’s a link to the Fast and Furious article. http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2012/07/03/fast-and-furious-follow-up-the-atf-and-gun-stores/

      Like

    • Anson,

      I’ m not sure what you mean by National Command Authority, since it is commonly defined as including only the President and Secretary of Defense.

      If you really mean by that term, “the full spectrum of American military and diplomatic power,” then that is one thing, but if you are directly referring to President Obama and the Defense Secretary, that’s another thing.

      Mrs. Clinton made it very clear, at least as clear as she could without resorting to classified material, how things went down that night in Benghazi. There was, as one can imagine, much confusion, especially considering all the other outbreaks of violence around the region. Naturally, since most of those other protests involved that stupid video, people jumped to a conclusion about the cause of the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi. You and I would have done the same thing under the same circumstances, facing the same confusing data.

      You want to know “the purpose of the attack by the attackers,” because you think knowing that would have necessitated a differential military response. I guess you don’t see that the confusion about what was going on led to a rational hesitation to immediately apply military force by using the assets available.

      Now, I believe you when you say your motivation is not political. But that was what most of the questioning yesterday on the Republican side was all about. For instance, name me one Republican all day who actually asked if the military command ever determined in real time the nature of the attack?

      It’s easy to second guess long after events are over, but in real time what did the military decision-makers know? It’s likely if the Secretary of State, who was monitoring events, didn’t know the nature of the attacks—and the complete motivation behind the attacks is still not known—then the military commanders didn’t know either, not to mention the commander-in-chief. (What the CIA, which had a presence in Benghazi, knew we will never know.)

      The right-wing, using Fox television “reports” and commentary (often the same thing on that network), has tried to make this a Watergate-like affair, with Obama covering up what happened to keep his election prospects alive and well. There isn’t the slightest piece of evidence, not a damn thing, to support that claim, but that doesn’t stop the nuts from droning on and on.

      There are legitimate questions about Benghazi, but most of them are related to how we keep something similar from happening again, if that is possible in that tumultuous region.

      Duane

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  6. Duane,

    I’d like to ponder one of the quotes from Hillary that you cite above: “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.”

    Think of this scenario: The bad guys get wind of a U.S. Ambassador traveling to Benghazi and that he will be there on SEPTEMBER 11th! This is a terrorist’s wet dream. Would these guys pass up an opportunity to kill a U.S. Ambassador on 9/11! Are you f**king kidding me?

    So, it seems to me, whether Hillary or anyone else in the intelligence community knew of a likely attack because of lack of security at Benghazi or not, Chris Stevens knew. In fact, as Hillary says, “nobody knew the dangers better than Chris.”Nonetheless, he went there anyway. And guess what happened?

    I don’t mean to blame the victim here, but come on, the guy knew about the dangers going in, knew there was inadequate security, and knew that 9/11 is a really great day for Jihadists to strike the American infidels. Yet he goes anyway.

    So, it may be, and I’m just speculating here, that if Stevens had NOT gone to Benghazi, then maybe, just maybe, the whole incident could have been avoided. And we would not have had four dead Americans.

    Just saying . . . .

    Herb

    Like

    • Herb,

      As Hillary said yesterday, Chris Stevens was committed to helping the Libyans build a democracy, which would benefit both them and us. It is unclear to me, and as far as I can tell it was unclear to Secretary Clinton, exactly why Stevens went to Benghazi on September 10.

      I don’t know of any evidence that the ambassador knew of a pending attack on September 11, as you seem to suggest. Sure, we can retrospectively say that all of them should have been on high alert on that particular date, but the “requisite” security team was there and apparently Stevens thought there was a good reason to go to Benghazi, despite the possible dangers that are present anywhere in that country then and now.

      I suppose we can “blame the victim” of nearly any tragedy overseas, particularly in regions where there is inherent danger in just being an American. But I refuse to do so. And without any evidence, I’m certainly not going to blame the President or the Secretary of Defense or Hillary Clinton for what happened.

      We can, though, put at least part of the blame on Congress, including members of both parties, who have short-changed our diplomatic efforts over the years in favor of almost unlimited defense spending. If we want to blame one thing for this tragedy, it should be those budget-cutters who decided that embassy and diplomatic security is not a priority.

      Duane

       

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  7. RDG,
    I, too, wondered what Anson is referring to when mentioning the National Command Authority in regards to Benghazi. A relic of the Cold War, the NCA’s purpose is to ensure that only the President or Secretary of Defense have authority to immediately launch nuclear warheads in retaliation against thermonuclear enemy aggression. If both the President and Defense Secretary evaporate in an initial strike, then Continuing Operations locates the next non-evaporated senior government official to return fire. Continuing Operations monitors the location of high-ranking officials should their unthinkable public service be required.

    Considering the damp clods that unhinged reactionaries have plodded to tar the administration with treasonous incompetence over Benghazi, dragging Dr. Strangelove into their whacked conspiracy-laded world makes a kind of illogical sense, especially to those who receive information from this garden-variety example of informed “conservative” journalism. I recommend a handy supply of O’ Be Joyful if pursuing the comment section.

    http://www.westernjournalism.com/the-scandal-that-will-bring-obama-down/

    Like

    • Wow, Juan. The Western Center for, uh, Journalism has almost 300,000 likes!

      I often look at the comment section of these kinds of sites. It is fascinating reading because it gives one access to some rather strange minds, like the one who wrote this:

      Hilary will be dead since she knows too much. It’s not how fast you go it’s how you go. Biden is a doofus and Obama will be entrenched so deep only the Second Coming is going to remove him.

      You can’t imitate that sort of thing.

      Duane

      Like

  8. Good post and comments, IMO. As for 2016, Biden’s age is a problem to me. It’s not a matter of judgement, just the effect on physical stamina. I speak from experience.

    Like

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