The Many Faces and Lies of Hillary Clinton

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE - OCTOBER 5: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks about gun violence and stricter gun during a townhall meeting at Manchester Community College Monday October 5, 2015. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

For four years she was Obama’s loyal secretary of state. Her critics call her an interventionist, her admirers tough-minded. What kind of president would she be?   The worst?

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Excerpts from FP – The Hillary Clinton Doctrine

On Jan. 13, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave what turned out to be a remarkably prescient speech in Doha, Qatar. “The region’s foundations are sinking into the sand,” she warned. If you do not manage to “build a future that your young people will believe in,” she told the Arab heads of state in the audience, the status quo they had long defended would collapse. The very next day, Tunisia’s dictator was forced to flee the country. Almost two weeks later, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians thronged Cairo’s Tahrir Square demanding that then-President Hosni Mubarak step down. Over the following week, Clinton and her colleagues in the Barack Obama administration engaged in an intense debate over how to respond to this astonishing turn of events. Should they side with the young people in the streets demanding an immediate end to the deadening hand of autocratic rule, or with the rulers whom Clinton had admonished, but who nevertheless represented a stable order underpinned by American power and diplomacy?

The young national security aides whom Obama depended on heavily for advice, including Denis McDonough, Ben Rhodes, and Samantha Power, saw the Arab Spring as a supreme opportunity for a president who had often spoken about “the arc of history” to align himself with the forces of change.

Secretary Clinton thought they were naive. She told her deputy, James Steinberg, that she saw no reason to believe that the Tahrir crowd would or could govern Egypt in Mubarak’s absence. She was close to the Mubaraks, and especially to the president’s wife, Suzanne. And, most decisively, recalls Dennis Ross, then the National Security Council senior director for the Middle East, “Her feeling was that Mubarak has been a friend for 30 years, and if you walk away from your friends, every other ally in the region is going to doubt your word.” Even Ross, a hard-headed realist, thought Clinton was putting too much stock in her old friends. Mubarak, he told her, “is blind to what’s going on, and it’s going to get worse.”

On Jan. 28, at a national security meeting in the White House Situation Room, Clinton pushed back against those who urged Obama to put himself on the right side of history. Two days later, she went on NBC’s Meet the Press to make her case to the public, commending Mubarak as a source of regional stability and calling for an “orderly, peaceful transition to real democracy.”

The debate pitted hope against caution and young against old: then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Vice President Joe Biden sided with Clinton. The president chose hope. On Feb. 1, he stated publicly that the “orderly transition” of which his secretary had spoken “must begin now.” Several days later, Egypt’s military deposed Mubarak, ushering in a brief era of euphoria in the Arab world — and in the White House.

This episode matters today, of course, because Hillary Clinton is seeking to become the first secretary of state since James Buchanan to ascend to the presidency. Several different narratives about her tenure have begun to cohere. Among Republicans prepared to say anything to discredit her, the most salient event from her time in office is the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, which allegedly demonstrates that she was asleep at the switch, self-absorbed, indifferent to the welfare of her own diplomats, and so on. One investigation after another has shown that these claims are preposterous. The far more serious claim, advanced most recently by, of all people, Vice President Joe Biden, is that Clinton was an ”interventionist” — all too inclined to believe that “we just have to do something when bad people do bad things.”

A President Hillary Clinton would almost certainly be more confident about the utility of force than President Obama has been (or a President Biden would have been). She was the most enthusiastic of all of Obama’s senior civilian advisors about the counterinsurgency plan his generals proposed for Afghanistan in 2009; she helped persuade a very reluctant commander in chief to bomb Libya to prevent atrocities there. Clinton is a Cold War-era patriot who believes unambiguously that America is a force for good in the world. At the same time, it’s clear from conversations I had this summer with most of her senior staff members, as well as White House officials and outside advisors, that Clinton is a cautious figure who distrusts grandiose rhetorical formulations, is deeply grounded in the harsh realities of politics, and prefers small steps to large ones. Her belief in the use of American power has less to do with the humanitarian impulse to prevent injustice abroad than with the belief that only coercion works with refractory nations and leaders.

Is that good or bad? Perhaps that depends on how one thinks about how the Arab Spring turned out. Clinton is proud of her role — she tells the story in her memoirs at great length — because she thinks history has vindicated her judgments. Egypt quickly spun into a maelstrom of confusion and political incompetence, and has now emerged as a harsher dictatorship than it was in 2011. The hope that Obama offered, above all in his first year in office, often seemed untethered to the grim realities of the world, putting his rhetoric at odds with his actions. Clinton’s optimistic vision is less soaring, less idealistic, less transformative in its goals. Perhaps that will turn out to be well suited to our own diminished expectations of America’s ability to shape the world beyond its borders.

On one of her first trips abroad, in April 2009, Clinton went to London with Obama for the meeting of the G20 group of nations. Obama was about to hold his first meeting with Hu Jintao, then China’s president, and he informed Clinton that he was going to tell Mr. Hu that he was prepared to visit China that fall for a state visit on the margins of the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Clinton suggested he withhold the offer. The president then turned to Jeffrey Bader, then his chief national security aide for Asia, who urged him to do just as he planned — which Obama then proceeded to do. Afterwards, Bader told me, Clinton pulled him aside — in order, he assumed, to instruct him never again to contradict her before the president. In fact, she said, “I just want to explain my thinking to you,” Bader says. “The essence of it was leverage to her mind. A presidential visit is a big deal, and you don’t give it away lightly.”

Bader had supported Obama during the campaign, and he subscribed to the collective view of the Obama camp that Clinton was petty and vindictive. He was startled to find, as many people are when they meet Clinton privately, that she was considerate and warm. He also realized that she thought about diplomacy largely in transactional terms. “She’s an immensely pragmatic person,” Bader says. “She is not an ideological person. She’s a deal-maker. Her attitude is: How can we get this done?”

Virtually everyone I spoke with who has worked closely with Clinton speaks of her this way. Philip Gordon, Clinton’s former assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasia and later a national security advisor to Obama, says, “Obama is, instinctively, not liberal, but almost revolutionary. Clinton is instinctively more conservative.” He uses the example of America’s relationship with Russia. Clinton was always on the bleak side of the spectrum of opinion about what could be gained from the “reset,” though she was eager to explore the possibilities. The corollary of the reset was the need to reassure Eastern European allies and preserve NATO solidarity. Clinton, as Gordon puts it, “was quite happy to be the guardian of the corollary.”

The temperamental difference between the president and his secretary of state was foreshadowed in a famous exchange during a campaign debate in July 2007. They were asked whether as president they would be prepared to meet “without preconditions” with the leaders of rival states including Iran and North Korea. “I would” said Obama. Clinton said that she would not; the next day, she called Obama’s answer “irresponsible and frankly naive.” As I reported at the time, the Obama team found the exchange “orienting.” He was a different kind of Democrat, free from Cold War protocols and prepared to take the first step to break the paralytic grip of rivalry. Yet it turned out to be telling for Clinton as well. For her, there was nothing artificial about state rivalry, nothing that could be overcome by acts of mutual understanding. Rivalry was to be managed, not transcended.

And yet this presents an incomplete picture. Bruce Jentleson, a political scientist who worked as a senior advisor to the State Department’s Policy Planning director from 2009 to 2011, says that in Clinton, “you see elements of 20th century thinking and 21st century thinking.” Clinton sought to consistently redefine America’s national interest to include not just classic geopolitical calculations but the economic and institutional development of other states. She made the status of women a central concern of her tenure. She sought to transcend the simple-minded distinction between “hard” and “soft” power by adopting the term “smart power,” to describe a form of statecraft that combined development, diplomacy, public-private partnerships and, yes, military power. One of her signal initiatives was the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, an effort to re-think the organization of the State Department in order to harmonize all of these elements. The exercise generated a great deal of noise and a few modest outcomes: State now has officials directly responsible for “cross-cutting” issues including energy, women’s rights, and information technology.

It’s an unusual combination. Clinton thinks about the relationship between states pretty much the way Henry Kissinger does. But she thinks about America’s global agenda pretty much the way Barack Obama does. This sounds like a contradiction, but could also be regarded as an adaptation to a world in which the United States faces both rival states, as it long has, and a new class of problems without borders.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) meets with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba (L) and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan during a tri-lateral aside the 67th UN General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C yellow teeths) meets with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba (L) and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan during a tri-lateral aside the 67th UN General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages)

 

‘Ready for Hillary’ Mega-Donor Indicted

Claimed to represent 44,000 clients impacted by BP oil spill

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October 23, 2015 2:50 pm

By Josh Gerstein

A major Hillary Clinton fundraiser has been indicted for false statements and identity theft related to the Deepwater Horizon litigation.

The San Antonio Express-News reported Wednesday that a federal grand jury in Mississippi has indicted Mikal Watts, a Texas attorney who has been accused of using false identities to inflate the number of clients he was representing in the class action lawsuit against BP.

Watts raised more than $100,000 for the pro-Clinton super PAC Ready for Hillary in 2013. He has also hosted high-dollar fundraisers for President Obama.

The indictment comes several months after a top Republican lawmaker questioned whether the Obama administration was slow-walking the case for political reasons. The Secret Service, which investigates identity theft and counterfeiting, initially raided Watts’s office in 2013.

“Although investigations were opened by the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, it appears that little action by the Justice Department has been taken since details of the probe surfaced in 2013,” wrote Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in a July 13 letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

“Mr. Watts is a significant political donor, and the Department’s inaction raises questions about why it has apparently declined to pursue charges.”

Watts reportedly claimed to represent 44,000 clients who were impacted by the 2010 BP oil spill. He has been accused of falsifying many of these identities in order to gain a lucrative position on the committee of lawyers representing the oil spill victims, which won a $2.3 billion settlement from BP in 2012.

BP sued Watts in 2013, claiming that he only ended up filing 648 compensation claims, the majority of which were deemed ineligible. The oil giant said it agreed to pay a higher settlement than it otherwise would have based on the belief that Watts was representing tens of thousands of clients.

According to BP, many of Watts’s alleged clients were linked to false social security numbers, were not qualified to receive compensation, were dead, or said they never hired the attorney.

Watts has also been sued by a group of Vietnamese Americans who say he falsely claimed to represent them, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Watts hosted a fundraiser for Ready for Hillary in November 2013 that drew prominent supporters such as Craig Smith, a longtime Clinton aide who now serves as an adviser to the 2016 campaign. The event brought in $100,000 for the pro-Clinton Super PAC.

State Dept. Cannot Confirm Clinton’s Email Claim At Benghazi Hearing

October 23, 2015 4:16 pm

 

The State Department said that it could not confirm a figure Hillary Clinton cited during testimony to the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Thursday, suggesting that it was fashioned by her presidential campaign.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a State Department spokesman said Friday that the agency could not “confirm” Clinton’s claim that between 90 and 95 percent of her work emails were already preserved in the State Department’s computer system because she emailed other government officials on their work accounts.

The former secretary of state told the committee on Capitol Hill on Thursday that “90 to 95 percent of my work related emails were in the State’s system, if they wanted to see them, they would certainly have been able to do so.”

However, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Friday at a press briefing that he was not “aware” of the figure.

“I’m not aware that we have given that figure,” Toner said. “I’m not in a position right now to confirm that.”

Moreover, the department spokesman said that Clinton’s campaign had been citing the figure and directed reporters to instead question the campaign about “the rationale or the background behind it.”

Clinton said during her testimony that the figure came from the State Department.

“We learned that from the State Department and their analysis of the emails that were already on the system,” she told the committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks. “We were trying to help them close some gaps that they had.”

Clinton has endured criticism for months over her use of a personal email system while at the State Department. The FBI began investigating her private server after the inspector general of the intelligence community determined that multiple emails held on the system contained information that was classified at the time they were sent.

The Democratic presidential candid

Clinton used private email account for State Dept. business

Those emails weren’t archived in official records.

Thousands of emails Hillary Clinton generated as secretary of state were not archived as official government records because she used a private email account to conduct State Department business, the State Department acknowledged Monday.

Aides to the former secretary of state turned over 55,000 pages of emails from her personal account to the State Department in December at its request, a department official said.

Clinton’s use of the personal account for work-related emails and the State Department’s effort to gain control over the information were first reported by The New York Times. Clinton did not use a State Department email account, the paper reported.

“Last year, the Department sent a letter to representatives of former secretaries of state requesting they submit any records in their possession for proper preservation. In response to our request, Secretary Clinton provided the Department with emails spanning her time at the Department,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The Times story suggested that the private email trove came to light as the State Department worked to respond to requests for information from a special House committee probing the deaths of four Americans in a 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

However, a State Department official who asked not to be named said Monday night that the request to Clinton and other former secretaries took place in October of last year and was independent of any inquiries from the Benghazi panel.

Psaki did acknowledge that the set of emails Clinton aides gave to the department recently contained some records relevant to the Benghazi committee’s document demands.

“After the State Department reviewed [Clinton’s] emails, we produced about 300 e-mails responsive to recent requests from the Select Committee” on Benghazi, Psaki said.