Friday, September 06, 2013

An Olympian Flyer

It's an old, tired joke.  So I'll repeat it:

Q-What three factors determine the value of real estate?
A- Location, location, location.

But this is not an old joke:

Q- What three factors determine political viability in politics?
A- Timing, timing, timing.

Hillary Clinton served 4+ years as Secretary of State.  During that period, she was forced to endure such decisions by President Obama as drawing down American involvement in Afghanistan, removing American soldiers in Iraq, taking down Muammar Khadafy and Osama bin Laden, and authorizing Navy Seals to rescue two Americans held hostage by Somali pirates.    Mrs. Clinton did appear before a congressional committee to explain her role in the Benghazi fiasco, but Republicans (for reasons only they know for sure) already had blamed Susan Rice rather than hold to account the popular Secretary of State.

John Kerry, by contrast, already has had to face a skeptical Senate Foreign Relations Committee and explain the administration's support for missile strikes against a dictator whose primary opposition is Al Qaeda.

But it was not all peaches and cream for Clinton as Secretary of State.  She was not able to stay at home with husband Bill but had to endure the travails of travel.  And not only did she suffer through nearly constant travel, she had no choice as to mode.  She could not walk, take public transit or a bicycle, drive, or even (for most of it) put up with cramped limousines.  The Secretary of State was coerced to take a flight to over 100 countries- and not by coach, either, and with fewer aides and privileges than enjoyed by the President of the United States.  Travel, much of it at one's discretion, to countries far and wide- no American should have to endure that.

While that might seem petty sarcasm directed at a woman who has been at the center of some (actually, only a few) of the biggest controversies of the past twenty years, on Saturday, BuzzFeed's Ruby Cramer wrote

When the White House debated this week over the appropriate response to the chemical attack in Syria, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not release a comment. When the administration declassified an intelligence report Friday detailing the death toll — 1,429 people, including 426 children — Clinton stayed silent. And Saturday afternoon, when President Obama announced he’d “take action against Syrian regime targets,” Hillary Clinton again released no comment.

A few days later, however, she found her voice.   Clinton tweeted to Diane Nyad "Flying to 112 countries is a lot until you consider swimming between 2. Feels like I swim with sharks - but you actually did it! Congrats!"

Dave Weigel comments

Hey, we get it—the presumptive 2016 nominee and recent secretary of state does not want to step on the administration's current policy with a statement that would be analyzed like the Torah for 1) any sign of a break with policy or 2) any sign of 2016 plans. Given that Clinton is remaining a public figure, though, and giving speeches, and created a "transition" office during her move from State to the Clinton Foundation, it comes off as a little glib to stay silent on Syria but rush to co-opt a fun human interest story.

Glib, indeed. Mrs. Clinton had to put with the indignity of visiting 112 countries on the public dime and simultaneously enhancing her image enormously.    It's possible she accomplished a great deal on those excursions but if so, she is reluctant to talk about it.   Instead, Clinton seems to be believe seeing the world and racking up frequent traveler miles is a grand accomplishment.    It was certainly a fun time to be Secretary of State, especially compared to the hornet's nest John Kerry has stepped into.  

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