Book #10: HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, Jonathan Allen & Amy Parnes
As the 2016 presidential election approaches, Hillary Clinton seems to be the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party. And as we approach the general election, we will begin to hear more about Hillary’s tenure as the Secretary of State being the defining reason why she should be president. In this book Jonathan Allen and Amy Parnes chronicle Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State under Barak Obama. It is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to understand at a deeper level the politician and diplomat Hillary Clinton.
As is my custom, for books that have profoundly shaped my opinion or where I have a strong opinion, I usually add some additional commentary. This book is no exception, so here goes. Feel free to read, or not read…
So why this book? Why would a conservative guy like myself spend 14 hours listening to a book about Hillary Clinton? Despite my strong opposition to Hillary Clinton in 2016, I believe that it is important if you want to have any credibility in the public arena you need to be knowledgeable about your opponent. In all likelihood in the months leading up to November 8 I will be engaged in conversation about why I believe that the country is best served by one candidate over another. And in that vein whether you are conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, I encourage you to read this book too.
So what about Hillary? What about HRC? My commentary can be broken down into three questions.
Is she qualified?
Not to sound too much like a 1990’s version of Bill Clinton, I guess it depends on what you mean by qualified. As you look around the current political field, Hillary Clinton is the one candidate who has spent the most time in Washington (Kasich is close second). She has held the position of first lady, Senator and Secretary of State – not to mention her legal and political experience beginning with the Nixon hearings up through her time in Arkansas. So, of all the candidates on the field, she has held the most number of different political offices. Her political connections run deep. She knows the inner workings of Washington. And though she most recently served as America’s top diplomat, she is truly a politician at heart (if you don’t believe me, read the book). So, is she qualified? Sure she is. She is a natural born citizen of the United States who has reached the age of 35 (Hillary will be 69 on inauguration day 2017). But being qualified is a lot different than being the best person for the job of President. And being qualified is a lot different than being deserving of the office of President. I believe that to be president (in addition to the constitutional requirements above) a candidate must seek the office in a spirit of service to the American people and be above reproach. While I cannot judge Hillary’s motives, her behavior (particularly with regard to her server) disqualify her from serving in the role of President. Under 18 USC 1924 it is a criminal offense to knowingly remove from or store classified material in an unauthorized place. As of this writing, the FBI is actively investigating whether her use of the server and the material on that server are in violation of this and similar statutes. But whether or not she is convicted, the act of setting up and using for State purposes a private server shows a lapse of judgement and a lack of understanding of the sophistication of the intelligence agencies of rival nations. Michael Morrell (former deputy director of the CIA) and Robert Gates (former Secretary of Defense) and others both believe that the Russian, North Korean, Iranian and Chinese intelligence services have all of Hillary’s emails.
What are her accomplishments?
The answer to this question will largely be affected by your view of Hillary Clinton. Clintonistas will read this book and point to the many miles that she traveled, the countries she visited and the negotiations in which she was involved as evidence of her success at State. But opponents of Hillary will ask, what major accomplishment did she make at State? Odometer diplomacy and a full passport doesn’t translate into accomplishments. Sure, she opened up relations with Burma and assisted Chen in his escape from China, but what about Egypt? What about leaving the Green revolution? When people in the middle east rebelled against oppressive governments, we did not come to their aid. What about Libya? We helped topple Muammar Gadaffi by leading from behind and then without a stabilizing presence, left Libya to be torn by different sectarian factions (ultimately culminating in the attack on our outpost and CIA annex in Bengazhi). What about the reset button with Russia? In our effort to genuflect to the Russians and open relations, we embarrassed ourself with a cheap plastic trinket and a mistranslated attempt at reset. What about the SOFA? Hillary admitted “We didn’t get it done.” And in the wake of the vacuum of power caused by our departure from Iraq, ISIS found fertile ground in a desert to grow and spread. So yes, she was involved worldwide, but what did she accomplish?
What does this book do in regard to my opinions about Hillary?
In the end, this book helped me experience Hillary Clinton as an executive. And in that context, I can respect her political and diplomatic career. But in the long run, this book doesn’t really change my political opinions of Hillary Clinton. I agree with Brit Hume. While her accomplishments at State speak to her competence, they do not add up to a case for her greatness. In the long run, she did not accomplish much of substance. She held an auspicious office that has been filled by other great diplomats. James Madison negotiated the Louisiana Purchase. John Quincy Adams was involved in the creation of the Monroe Doctrine. And more recently Henry Kissinger was involved in ending the Vietnam War, opening relations with China and bring an end to the Yom Kippur war. In that way she won’t be remembered as an historic Secretary of State. But she will be remembered as the Secretary of States at the helm during Bengazhi, as the Secretary of State who compromised State secrets on a “home brew” server.