06 December 2014

Was Hillary Clinton's Smart Power Speech Being Too Clever By Half?

Former First Lady, New York Senator and the Obama Administration's first Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only attracted a small crowd when she spoke at Gaston Hall in Georgetown University. 

Much of the press focused on the empty seats.  Clinton staffers blamed the meager crowd on finals. Politicos pointed to poor staff preparation for having their principal speak before an optically empty house.  But this is not the first time which Hillary has been unable to fill the seats, as demonstrated by her rally in October 2014 at the University of Maryland, College Park

 Liberal media pundits like Dana Millbanks opined that Mrs. Clinton is a candidate who does not have the "new car" smell.  After all, Hillary has been in the national public eye since 1992.  So her presumed second run for the Presidency is about a quarter century after her life intertwined with the District of Calamity.

Pundits from Fox News questioned Hillary's political raison d'etre.  Democrat pollster Doug Schoen (and former adviser to President Bill Clinton) wondered what was Mrs. Clinton's rationale for running for the nation's highest office.  Monica Crowley quoted her former boss ex President Richard Nixon: "The only thing worse in politics than being wrong is being dull," and Crowley concluded that Hillary is boring.

Recently, I was able to have a civil exchange with rabid liberals from beyond the District of Calamity who had definite opinions on politics but admitted that they did not follow it closely.  When one of the interlocutors opined that he supported Hillary, I asked him to name one achievement which Secretary of State accomplished during her four years at Foggy Bottom.  This simple question was a stumper.  The best excuse that I heard during the exchange was that the world did not hate us like they did under the Bush Administration.  Ambiguous perceptions of being better liked in the world with a dash of Bush Derangement Sydrome does not make for a compelling general election campaign eight years after "43" left the Oval Office.

So it seems that both Hillary's supporters and detractors should shift away from worry about smart politics and concentrate on Hillary's concept of "smart power".  Does the former Secretary of State believe that empathizing with an enemy like Al Qaeda or its break-off successor ISIS is a successful strategy?  Can America realistically define the problem and shape the solution when negotiating  with the Mullahs in Iran from stopping their military nuclear ambitions, or will the US again be played like in North Korea and arguably as we are in Iraq with the six party talks?

Is a theory of smart power just being geopolitically too clever by half when interacting with unconventional diplomatic counterparts?  It is kind of hard to use "smart" power to aim to sing Kumbaya with others who are intractably oathed to obliterate you, as is demonstrated by Hamas' modus operandi viz-a-viz Israel.

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