As the Secretary of State has, after a serious series of health issues culminating an a disturbing blood clot in her head, returned to D.C. to oversee the State Department transition, there are articles floating around the interwebs that take a decidedly nasty position vis á vis her performance as Secretary of State, her recent health scare, and her return to work. I have ignored them until today when I read one that was so reprehensibly acidic as to completely dissolve all of my self-restraint.
The Seattle Times ran an op-ed by syndicated columnist Froma Harrop that made my blood boil.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton works hard, writes Froma Harrop, but doesn’t working smart mean pacing oneself so that you don’t fall apart in the last mile of the marathon? Clinton was asking for it.
OK, let’s start there. What originally felled the Secretary of State was a norovirus, very contagious, and no amount of “pacing” guards one against it. She was “asking for it?” Really? Yes, let’s blame the victim. For Ms. Harrop’s information there is a serious outbreak of norovirus in the northeast right now competing with the near-epidemic flu outbreak that is filling hospitals in 47 states. Were these victims asking for it?
During one famous 48-hour period, she met with Palestinian officials in Abu Dhabi, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and, after doing an all-nighter in Morocco, a group of Arab leaders.
Of course, she got sick. Who wouldn’t?
Completely ignoring the fact that she did not fall ill on the heels of this particular trip, Ms. Harrop also betrays her ignorance of the effect of the all-nighter which resulted in a brilliant speech delivered the next day to Arab elders that foreshadowed events that began unfolding in Tunisia a year later. In her Forum for the Future speech on November 3, 2009, Secretary Clinton demonstrated a familiarity with Arab populations, borne of her insistence on meeting with civil society at every stop in her travels. She conveyed to the elders the need for changes, economic, political, and even cultural, which she outlined, without which regimes would fall. Indeed, her message unheeded (perhaps resented), in December 2010 the dominoes began to topple.
Lots of otherwise healthy Americans come down with a nasty bug after just one transatlantic fight to London. Add to that constant time-zone changes, rich banquets, minimal exercise, lack of sleep and stress-filled meetings. Clinton wasn’t there to stroll around museums. What’s not cute about all this is the underlying — shall we say? — irresponsibility of so overstuffing the agenda.
Yes, as I said above, the overstuffing, which typically consisted of Town Halls, “Townterviews,” meetings with civil and business groups, opposition parties, women’s organizations, in addition to the routine formalities in the ministerial halls, that “irresponsible” packing of her schedule is how she knew what those Arab elders did not – the grievances among their own populations – the young, the women. Very irresponsible, Mme. Secretary. For shame! Sacrificing yourself for the voiceless that way! Tsk – tsk – tsk!
All that racing around Mideast capitals sometimes took on the air of a personal endurance test rather than effective management of foreign policy. (You’ll note that the Arab-Israeli conflict remains unresolved.)
Why this charge is leveled mystifies me, and it is not Harrop alone who has brought it up. Every Secretary of State since the creation of the State of Israel has been called upon to deal with this conflict. It is part of the job.
Make no mistake: Clinton has been a fine secretary of state. Few would argue otherwise. Still, we’re kind of lucky there wasn’t a major new international crisis in December.
Telegram: She was working from home the whole time. She was on the phone with her counterparts in other countries, with her staff, and she both read the ARB Report and wrote an extensive cover letter to accompany the report to Congress while she was home. The letter is unmistakeably Hillary Clinton’s work – if you know her work. It is not clear that Ms. Harrop knows anything much about her at all.
It pains me to bring up the woman angle here, but you wonder whether a man would have overscheduled to the point of collapse.
Yes, well, it pains me that you brought this up, too, Ms. Harrop. The collapse was due to dehydration from a virus that is attacking many right now and against which there is no defense. You make it sound like she collapsed from exhaustion. Not the case. As to men performing in this role, your chance is coming up! I trust you will be observing Secretary Kerry with the same care and detail you have afforded Secretary Clinton (my tongue deeply in my cheek).
It’s no small irony that Clinton’s recent illness has led some Democrats eager for a strong female presidential candidate in 2016 to start looking beyond Hillary.
*Sigh* As if she owes this country or the Democratic Party another minute of service. The irony is that so many of those calling her name are the Super Delegates from 2008 that either supported Obama over her or, worse, switched allegiances early in the 2008 primaries. What, exactly, does Hillary Clinton owe any of them?
While she will never embody the cool and outward serenity of Barack Obama, Clinton didn’t have to become the spinning top that put her in a sick bed. Even there, she noted — not without pride — her difficulty in becoming a “compliant patient.” If Clinton does run for president, she must show more dedication to self-preservation. Martyrs don’t necessarily make great managers.
This is way outside the foul line. Hillary’s work ethic was one of the reasons President Obama cited for nominating her in the first place. Hillary Clinton has given many brilliant speeches as Secretary of State, but what her loyalists know about her is that she is a supremely well-organized woman of action. “Spinning top” indeed! And “martyr?” Seriously? Last I saw she was back on the job with her bright, sunny smile.
As for great management, she has completely transformed the State Department, streamlined operations among agencies, and brought it into the 21st century with her QDDR and 21st Century Statecraft, but then I would not expect such a dabbler in things Hillary Clinton to be aware of that.
Finally, the hideous sketch that accompanies the op-ed, gaunt, wrinkled, exhausted, bears no resemblance to the actual Hillary Clinton who returned to her office this week looking like this.
She looks lovely. We’ve got your back, Hillary, and we always will.
Cross-posted at Still 4 Hill.