Election year 2016 is still three years away and there is already some groundswell that the nation could be headed for its first woman president in the person of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Facebook has a “Hillary Clinton for President 2016” page with 36,044 likes and talked about 5,450 times as of this writing. Online news items already editorialize about her potential candidacy as president and there are ad campaigns that diametrically support and discredit her presidential ambitions. Rather than talk about her two-term presence as a Senator, we can look at her more dispassionately by citing her recent accomplishments and failures in the Executive branch as former Secretary of State. Her term ended in February 2013 as President Obama entered his second term of office and appointed Senator John Kerry as her successor. This may serve as a precursor of how Hillary Clinton might perform if elected the first woman President in the 2016 Election.
Top Three Moments of Successes as Secretary of State
Admittedly, major accomplishments considered historic and defining, are not easy to come by as Hillary Clinton faced significantly intractable global political issues that might even buckle the knees of a President Kennedy or a Kissinger. But her small triumphs, while a member of the Cabinet, can give the electorate significant clues when considering Hillary Clinton as the president in the coming 2016 election year.
(1) Mending US Global Credibility
Right from the start, Hillary Clinton made her mission to reinvigorate and restore US global influence compromised during the preceding administration as her highest priority. Her battle cry has been “We have a lot of damage to repair” and promptly re-defined and advocated the State Department’s expanded role in emerging global economic and socio-political issues, citing the need to increase US diplomatic presence. The result was her Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review program that maximized the department’s reach using what she termed as “smart power” as her strategy for reasserting American global leadership in just about every facet of international relations.
Apart from the fact the Hillary Clinton was the most traveled (visiting 112 nations during her 4-year tenure) and most visible Secretary of State in recent memory, as well as being an energetic team player in President Obama’s Cabinet, she was also known to be the Secretary of State during the historic 2011 Arab Spring that overthrew several established regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. Discussed later as a failure in managing the regional crisis, one notable exception was the Libyan conflict that started during this period and extended well into October of 2011. Hillary Clinton’s finest moment came when she publicly stated that Muammar Gaddafi “must go now, without further violence or delay.” Apart from supporting the NATO airstrikes against Gaddafi’s forces, Hillary Clinton used her diplomatic savvy to win the support of several key European and Arab leaders for a No-fly zone in Libya. However, she wasn’t really on an uphill battle, but was riding high on the growing global tide against the Libyan strongman.
It was also during Hillary Clinton’s watch that Osama Bin-laden was finally located and killed after a decade-long cat-and-mouse search for the most wanted international terrorist-fugitive ever. Hillary Clinton’s involvement was revealed in a recent book by Wall Street Journal reporter, Richard Miniter, who claimed the erstwhile Secretary of State was pivotal in persuading President Obama to finally approve the operation after turning down several attempts in the months preceding the May 2011 Navy Seals operations. If true, this can be considered a crowning achievement and the one defining moment on Hillary Clinton’s watch as Secretary of State.
(2) Women and LGBT Rights
Hillary Clinton has been particularly proud for advancing the rights of women and the LGBT community who figured prominently in her advocacy in redeeming US presence in the global socio-political landscape. She may not have engineered it, but her tenure was remarkable for having 25 women ambassadors from foreign countries posted in Washington – the highest number ever and was considered the result of “the Hillary effect” for her high visibility on women’s rights in international affairs. In addition, she initiated a program “Women in Public Service” which aimed at enticing more women to enter public service with the view to see as many women as there are men in the government bureaucracy. Her LGBT advocacy effectively took on a national policy flavor when she spoke before the UN Human Rights Council in December 2011. Hillary Clinton passionately indicated that President Obama’s administration advocates gay rights locally and overseas with her words: “It should never be a crime to be gay.”
(3) Recognizing the Internet as a Bastion of Democratic Speech
The internet could not have enjoyed a stronger government support than when Hillary Clinton drew the flak of Chinese officials in a January 2010 speech that compared the Iron Curtain with a hamstrung Internet that stifled free speech in China. This moment in her career was immediately hailed as the first time that a senior American official had referred to the Internet as a major item in US foreign policy. Obviously taking a cue from the role of the internet, particularly social media, during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, Hillary Clinton expanded the State Department’s presence on Facebook and other social media sites to get its message out to a wider audience and to help in determining their political future.
Top Three Failures as Secretary of State
The former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may not be forthcoming in admitting failures, but her tenure has been perceived by several political analysts as standing out more for her failures than successes. Arguably, here are three of her failures that are remarkable for the damage to US foreign policy in dealing with emerging global issues, and provide Americans some pause when considering Hillary Clinton as President in the 2016 election, three years from now.
(1) The 2011 Arab Spring
The same diplomatic success that saw Secretary of State Hillary Clinton marshal Arab support for helping Libyan rebels oust Gaddafi’s reign also exposed her failure in other aspects of the 2011 Arab Spring. President Obama himself felt frustrated at the failure of Us intelligence during this period. The Arab Spring effectively exposed America’s indecisive and rather tepid reactionary stand and capabilities to predict and adequately respond to the Tunisian uprising, the Egyptian revolution, the Yemeni crisis, and Jordanian protests, to mention some. The transformations into democratic rule in the uprisings that succeeded simply highlighted the perception that the US supported dictatorial regimes that suppressed local dissent but are known supporters of US agenda in the region. Hillary’s early rhetoric espoused regimes like that of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to seek legal reforms while acknowledging that whether or not he remained in power was “up to the Egyptian people.” Such equivocation highlighted much of Hillary Clinton’s pronouncements during the historic crisis when the US could have shown more decisiveness.
(2) The Benghazi Brouhaha
Hillary Clinton reflected on what she considered her darkest moment as Secretary of State, just as she was winding down her four-year term. This was the Sept. 11, 2012 incident when the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by radical locals killing four State Department staffers including Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya. She responded with increased security at US embassies and consulates across the globe, but failed to explain convincingly to the nation how and why it had to happen when news leaks showed there was imminent danger of such an attack. Her public response was simply to say “we refuse to be intimidated” reiterating that the diplomats in dangerous places are always at risk and these consulates simply must exist for US diplomacy to work. It didn’t help that Hillary Clinton accepted ultimate responsibility for the fiasco which only added to her failure as Secretary of State.
(3) Israeli-Palestinian Conflict resolution
As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has failed to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which has been the sore point in America’s Middle East relations, not to mention her failure in halting its strong ally Israel in what was clearly land grabs of adjacent Palestinian-occupied territories. To her credit, she has never wavered on her support for Israel’s “safety and security.” Up to the last few months of her term, Hillary defended the US position blocking the UN Security Council resolution condemning the escalating crisis involving Israel and Palestinians, insisting that any conflict resolution needs both sides on the negotiating table rather than through an “international resolution.”
Hillary Clinton may not go down as a great Secretary of State, but her efforts were clearly there in small triumphs. She has been named as the most admired woman in Gallup’s annual poll for the most admired man and woman for three consecutive years from 2010 to 2012. Nevertheless, Hillary Clinton vacated her post with a sour aftertaste with her failure in the Benghazi affair and some accomplishments that won’t really endear her as a great statesman of high caliber.
She can be seen as a viable candidate as President in the 2016 election year, but whether she can be a good President or not remains to be seen, as with any other candidate. If Hillary’s two-term successes as a Senator were any indication; she can pull it off with her “star” visibility in the global and local political scene. This celebrity aura is considered by many as her most bankable political asset in a bid to become the nation’s first woman president, following on the heels of the first African American US president. Hopefully, the litany of her top three achievements and failures discussed briefly above, for whatever they reveal about Hillary Clinton when performing in office, should help Americans gain a more enlightened perspective in making their decision once they go to the polls to elect their new President in the 2016 election.