September 29th, 2009

Obama and Hillary: the spider and the fly

I’m not a Hillary Clinton fan. But I must say she has surprised me with the depth of her subservience to the Obama foreign policy vision, and her ability to compromise whatever integrity she might have had left as she goes about doing so.

Of course, maybe she never actually had a foreign policy vision of her own to begin with. Maybe her more muscular foreign policy statements during the campaign were just strategic political positioning. But if any of it actually was sincere, that’s all gone now.

Hillary was one of Obama’s very first Cabinet appointments, announced not long after his election. It seemed a transparently political appointment even at the time, a way to placate a strong rival while at the same time keep her from being a threat. It was a good example of the principle expressed in LBJ’s famous statement about J. Edgar Hoover: “I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out than have him outside the tent pissing in.”

Although Hillary’s gender makes the colorful phrase a little difficult to picture, you get the idea: to co-opt a difficult person by having him/her on your side.

Understand that I’m not blaming Obama’s foreign policy debacles on Hillary’s influence; that responsibility is his alone. But Obama’s naming of Hillary as Secretary of State in the first place shows not only what a wholly political animal he is, but also his utter disdain for the need for expertise in the field. He also probably calculated that someone more experienced and knowledgeable in that arena than Hillary would be likely to give him more trouble and disagree with his policies even more, and that someone less politically ambitious than she would be more likely to resign in protest sooner.

In Obama’s eyes, Hillary may have had the perfect combination of qualities (ignorance and ambition) for the job. And so far, his faith in her ability to be his willing handmaiden no matter what abomination she’s forced to implement has been well rewarded.

Obama lack of interest in conventional expertise is reflected in his boundless confidence in his own knowledge of foreign affairs, despite his own extreme inexperience. I wrote the following about this flaw of Obama’s way back in April of 2008, noting the following extraordinarily juvenile, ignorant, and arrogant statement of his:

…[F]oreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton or Senator McCain.

It’s ironic because this is supposedly the place where experience is most needed to be Commander-in-Chief. Experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world. This I know…[W]hen I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa––knowing the leaders is not important––what I know is the people. . . .”

“I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college–I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . . .”

Although I am in complete agreement with Obama that experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world, neither is a trip to Pakistan as a college student nor several years spent as a child in Indonesia—and neither of those have anything whatsoever to do with understanding geopolitical realities, power plays, strategy, and diplomacy.

Obama could have made up for his deficits by appointing as Secretary of State a Democrat with a background in world affairs (of course, there was always the danger that it would be former president Jimmy Carter, so at least we dodged that particular bullet). Instead, Obama chose to appoint someone who was as devoid of experience in the field as Obama himself. He must have thought he neither needed nor wanted much help from a Secretary of State. And if he actually has gotten any from Hillary, my guess is that he’s ignored it.

What will Hillary do now? I can’t figure out her game plan, but my sense is that she feels she may have miscalculated in taking on this job. I don’t believe she bargained for her relative powerlessness as Secretary of State, or to what depths Obama would make her sink. Although she’s had a certain amount of experience with men humiliating her (Bill comes to mind), what’s going on now must sting.

Hillary appears to be caught in a trap of Obama’s devising. She can’t become a rogue Secretary, defying the President—at least, if she did so, she wouldn’t last long in the post. The real question is why she would want to continue in it under the present circumstances. It’s hard to see how her current state could lead her to a presidency of her own some day; the window of opportunity for that seems to have passed. But if she quit, where would she go and what would she do?

Hillary’s old Senate seat is not up for grabs, unfortunately for her, and being out of power (even if her power right now is illusory) is not her cup of tea. The New York governorship might be available if she quit and challenged Paterson, but somehow I don’t think she has much interest in that job. Moreover, if she were to abandon her present post so soon, her own party would probably turn on her as having been a traitor to the Obama administration because of her personal ambition.

The only chance I see for Hillary to free herself from Obama’s web is to bide her time. If Obama weakens more and more, and his unpopularity rises even with Democrats, quitting at that point could make her a heroine and position her for a primary challenge against him in 2012, as well as allowing her to claim experience in foreign affairs from her stint as Secretary. But if that’s her intent, before that moment comes she will have to swallow more and more pride and do more and more of Obama’s distasteful bidding, which will further weaken her. And that may be part of the web that Obama has intentionally spun for her.

[NOTE: More about Hillary here and here.]

23 Responses to “Obama and Hillary: the spider and the fly”

  1. Tom Says:

    I suspect there is way more to the Hussein&Hillary relationship, factors about which we can only surmise since the truth will never be forthcoming.

    The relationship almost certainly has a financial angle. Or angles. The Clintons have never done anything pro bono, never. As to power and its applications, Hillary is not naive there either.

    The Holder/Clinton pardon of Marc Rich comes to mind as a case in point. I am absolutely confident it came at a major multi-million dollar price, via banks in Switzerland or similar banking venue. But as to evidence? Fuggeddaboudit.

    To an extent, she may have bought into Obonga’s BS, but I credit her with having a good BSmeter.

    We will just have to wait and see. And probably never learn.

  2. Occam's Beard Says:

    If Obama weakens more and more, and his unpopularity rises even with Democrats, quitting at that point could make her a heroine and position her for a primary challenge against him in 2012, as well as allowing her to claim experience in foreign affairs from her stint as Secretary.

    Bingo. This is my guess. Look for a public blow out between Hillary and Obama in 2011, with her resigning on a matter of principle (I know, I know), thereby distancing herself from the Obama fiasco.

    I don’t think her debasement as SecState weakens her, because most people don’t follow politics closely enough to realize that. They’ll just see SecState as a resume bullet point and let it go at that. Recall the Kerry campaign positioning that gobbler as a war hero and military expert.

  3. Artfldgr Says:

    Two spiders…

  4. Occam's Beard Says:

    During the primary campaign some buddies and I were laughing about the “two scorpions in a bottle” cachet of the Hillary/Obama tussle.

    My money is on Hillary now, because she’s tougher, shrewder, and considerably brighter than the Messiah, and she isn’t so self-absorbed as He is. I suspect she’s just lying in the tall grass, biding her time…

  5. huxley Says:

    The latter scenario is what I imagine as well, that Hillary is biding her time with an eye to Obama’s sinking fortunes.

    Furthermore, I see a possibility even before 2012, should Obama entirely implode, that Hill and Bill will be on hand to pick up the pieces.

    Nonetheless, I am surprised at how subservient she has been. Perhaps I’ve got her wrong, but I would like to think that her foreign policy chops are better than Obama’s, and that she could have done more than she apparently has.

    If nothing else, Hillary is dogged. For lack of anything better, she will stay as Sec of State, unless maybe she’s got a shot at the Supreme Court and wants that.

  6. Steve Says:

    Hillary and Obama are two ladle-fulls of the same stew.

    They’re both radical Alinskyites, but Hillary is actually better at it, because she doesnt seem to be as radical as Obama. She hides it better. She’s also a better politician. She’s infiltrated the system better.

    But they have many things in common. They share a distaste for our military forces, they have no desire to see America (or her allies) succeed abroad. They’re both focused on funneling as much domestic patronage to themselves and their cronies and their party organs as they can.

    If left to their own devices, they’d both ignore foreign policy altogether, and bend their energies into reshaping America into a socialist hellhole.

    I think that Hillary would have been smarter about her foreign policy choices, but the end result for America would be the same, i.e. we’d be weaker abroad. It would be less obvious, less early, because she’s a better politician, and a less narcissistic person.

  7. Patrick Says:

    Ah, comments: where everyone talks and very few listen.

    Regardless, my guess is that Obama has a Lincoln/Roosevelt c omplex. He imagines himself as the combination of both great men and sees the obvious parallels without recognizing the deeper differences. Like Lincoln, he appointed his chief rival to Sec. of State.

    The problem is that Seward was a more general advisor than just State. His bellicosity wasn’t good at making friends in England, but may have helped kept them out of the war – they knew that US just might abandon the South to butcher Englishmen trying to mess with the Blockade. But apart from State, he also was Lincoln’s best friend and became deeply loyal to him. It doesn’t take a geniusn to see that won’t happen with Mrs. Clinton and Obama.

    The other issue is that Clinton has not displayed much ability apart from political management, whereas Seward was successful in many fields. In fact, Lincoln appointed his rivals to top posts because he was politically weak (in a “Keep your enemies closer” play), and because they were indeed all brilliant men. Simon Cameron would have been a very good Secretary of War, had he not been so corrupt, and Chase was a fintastic treasury Secretary despite his burning ambition. Suffice to say that Clinton is a political opportunist, and a darn good one, but not particularly notable for great ability otherwise.

  8. Occam's Beard Says:

    I think she’s outmaneuvered the Messiah already, just by taking a back seat, low-profile role in a Cabinet position. This way she won’t be closely associated with Obama when he steps in the dog’s business, and the electorate won’t be suffering from Hillary fatigue. She can resign on a contrived matter of principle when the Messiah – as needs must occur – has to make a decision between two unpalatable options. The principled resignation of a Cabinet member makes a much bigger splash than a snarky speech from the Senate floor.

    If Obama had any brains, he’d have made her a demi-President, joining the two of them at the hip. That would’ve kept the PUMAs onside, and vaccinated Obama against any later challenges by her, because any such challenge would look (or could be made to look) disloyal and opportunistic. Hillary would be just as invested in the policies of the Obama Administration as Obama himself, and so she couldn’t easily distance herself from him.

    But this way, she’s off the hook. Bad move, Barack.

  9. vanderleun Says:

    “Although Hillary’s gender makes the colorful phrase a little difficult to picture…” Nonsense. The first thing Obama gave her after she took the job was

    The P-Mate -The Freedom To Pee Standing Up

    Obama’s all about freedom, doncha know?

  10. vanderleun Says:

    More to the point you ask, ” The real question is why she would want to continue in it under the present circumstances.”

    Perhaps she’s learned or yearned from her experience over the years to love to be humiliated. It’s perverted, I know, but lots of pols have lots of strange perversions.

    Perhaps taking constant public humiliation from Presidents actually gets her off. Stranger stuff has happened. You can’t discount the personal when considering the political.

  11. vanderleun Says:

    I know you think it “stings,” but masochists often find pleasure in the stings.

  12. Artfldgr Says:

    I’m not a Hillary Clinton fan. But I must say she has surprised me with the depth of her subservience to the Obama foreign policy vision, and her ability to compromise whatever integrity she might have had left as she goes about doing so.

    in communism the personal will of the person is secondary to the will of the state, and the head of the commisars and such is the state. so once obama took top teir, the loyal people follow the rule.

    funny, but such behavior confirms their beliefs and actions more as following a heirarchical system of power looking down. you can piss on anyone below you, but you cant question or refuse anything above you. in this way power is delegated and in control of the man at the top of the eye in the pyramid.

  13. Artfldgr Says:

    but also his utter disdain for the need for expertise in the field

    expertise has no place in power, it is irrelevent and an opposing force. so no one under the despot can have expertise except for the lowest prols who have no other optoins and no way to leverage their expertise except in the service of the power above.

    this is why these states fall apart… (at first). power loves a servant, and an independent capable person is a power of opposition, not servant. so they move incompetents in place. the incompetent owes all they have, since they cant do that good on their own, so their morals are easy to corrupt and they know who they serve.

    in a meritocracy like a republic, merit and self ability become power in itself. but sociopaths cant oppose such power and despots cant because that power relies on the ability to do better, and follow rules. and there is no way to lay out a plan for totalitarianism that can be sold to people from the podium and be the truth. (try to imagine what such a speech would sound like).

    so this is how you know that despotism is aorund the corner. the stupidity is top down as the brutality from the stupid in control forcing others they cant even argue with to comply.

    he doesnt want anyone who can succeed, make him look bad, and then end up leveraging him to a place above him.

    we are completely ignorant of power games of this type as our state is coming out of a meritocracy republic and moving into a kakistocratic oligarchy of elite sociopaths.

    our past selves are about to displace the more modern and gentle selves. the more social cooperative selves. too soft to live in a world where brutality can be arranged to oppose them if they get lazy enough.

  14. Artfldgr Says:

    If Obama weakens more and more, and his unpopularity rises even with Democrats, quitting at that point could make her a heroine and position her for a primary challenge against him in 2012

    she cried cause she knew she was being turned down by other forces to be the one to convert the USA. there is no place for her other than a high up servant functionary.

    she is dead in any way you turn the bauble.

    obama is not going to succeed in making the US wonderful, and that stain will stick to her.

    she has no place to go if she quits, and either way the left will abandon and crap on her for opposing them.

    they arent up to purging people to be part of the choir triumphant, but they can purge their careers and make them non entities other than in the perifery…

    she also believes they will win, and so she knows what they will do in the history books they will rewrite about her.

  15. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Presuming zero has actually trapped Hillary in a web from which she will not politically recover, I say, good on him.
    He’s got to do something right, if only by accident.

  16. Cincinnatus Says:

    Being a Sec of State under Obama is like being a financial advisor under Hoover.

  17. vanderleun Says:

    I liked Artfldgr’s comment on expertise so much I put in in my sidebar. Keep it up…. and keep it about that short.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    Cincinnatus: Or a financial adviser under Obama, for that matter.

  19. ghost707 Says:

    Another excellent article neo.

    I think Hillary is done. She can run against Obama in 2012 – but the economic stagnation brought on by Obama and his clueless administration will be with us for some time – and Hillary will be stained by it – no matter how hard she tries to distance herself.
    In 2012 most of the country will not want ANY liberal near the White House.

  20. sartana Says:

    People mock those who would proclaim Obonga a Messiah or miracle-worker- but I don’t know.

    He managed to accomplish that which seemed most impossible-

    he made the Clintons seem remotely sympathetic.

  21. camojack Says:

    “I’m not a Hillary Clinton fan. But I must say she has surprised me with the depth of her subservience to the Obama foreign policy vision, and her ability to compromise whatever integrity she might have had left as she goes about doing so.”

    Personally, I don’t think she did have any integrity left, if she ever had any to begin with. Utter, calculating politico, that one… :shock:

  22. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I never had any use for the Clintons.
    But if I had to point to one thing which is unadorned with possible excuses, it is the Travel Office firings.
    They wanted their buds to get the business. Fired the guys who’d been there for years. Then, just to make it stink, just because they could, they sicced the FBI on them with bogus charges, thus nearly bankrupting them with defense charges.
    Just because they could.
    I can’t imagine anything they could do which would erase the impact of that needless, sadistic, vicious corruption.

  23. Artfldgr Says:

    vanderleun,
    I never had time to take a look at everyone elses blogs. i am honored to be a part of yours in a nice way. i had a bit of time and went over, its very interesting. thanks so much.

    i try to keep em short, but it depends on what people know. that paragraph really didnt require any knowlege outside of the meanings of the words.

    if i had to put history or some dependency out of time, then it becomes a problem. i would love to use the 1968 chzech events, but i cant. so i am forced to used herr hitler or comrade stalin. and so their ignorance forces me into an explanation that uses a refernce they are tired of hearing plinked.

    it reminds me of the joke (sight gag) where professional commedians got together, and since the jokes are endless and variations, they numbered them. that way, rather than tell the whole involved joke, they could utter a number.

    so what you saw was john cleese say 68, and everyone laugh… (and someone yell out 189 and everyone look at him strangely for it wasnt funny).

    they took the dependency of knowlege in conversation and turned it on its head to get you to notice it.

    its not just language that can make babble, but facts about reality too.

    in essence we are competeing between empirical reality adn its limitations, and fantasmagorical reality with its constant failures and nothing to chew on but hope.

    thanks again…
    the more i learn to write better the better it is for all!!! (myself included).

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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