The Résumé Factor: Those 8 Years as First Lady

Aaah those unique qualifications of Hillary… let’s take a look shall we?

Here’s an interesting and surprising read in today’s NY Times

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As first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton jaw-boned the authoritarian president of Uzbekistan to leave his car and shake hands with people. She argued with the Czech prime minister about democracy. She cajoled Roman Catholic and Protestant women to talk to one another in Northern Ireland. She traveled to 79 countries in total, little of it leisure; one meeting with mutilated Rwandan refugees so unsettled her that she threw up afterward.

But during those two terms in the White House, Mrs. Clinton did not hold a security clearance. She did not attend National Security Council meetings. She was not given a copy of the president’s daily intelligence briefing. She did not assert herself on the crises in Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda.

And during one of President Bill Clinton’s major tests on terrorism, whether to bomb Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, Mrs. Clinton was barely speaking to her husband, let alone advising him, as the Lewinsky scandal sizzled.

In seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Mrs. Clinton lays claim to two traits nearly every day: strength and experience. But as the junior senator from New York, she has few significant legislative accomplishments to her name. She has cast herself, instead, as a first lady like no other: a full partner to her husband in his administration, and, she says, all the stronger and more experienced for her “eight years with a front-row seat on history.”

Her rivals scoff at the idea that her background gives her any special qualifications for the presidency. Senator Barack Obama has especially questioned “what experiences she’s claiming” as first lady, noting that the job is not the same as being a cabinet member, much less president.

And late last week, Mr. Obama suggested that more foreign policy experts from the Clinton administration were supporting his candidacy than hers; his campaign released a list naming about 45 of them, and said that others were not ready to go public. Mrs. Clinton quickly put out a list of 80 who were supporting her, and plans to release another 75 names on Wednesday.

Mrs. Clinton’s role in her most high-profile assignment as first lady, the failed health care initiative of the early 1990s, has been well documented. Yet little has been made public about her involvement in foreign policy and national security as first lady. Documents about her work remain classified at the National Archives. Mrs. Clinton has declined to divulge the private advice she gave her husband.

An interview with Mrs. Clinton, conversations with 35 Clinton administration officials and a review of books about her White House years suggest that she was more of a sounding board than a policy maker, who learned through osmosis rather than decision-making, and who grew gradually more comfortable with the use of military power.

Her time in the White House was a period of transition in foreign policy and national security, with the cold war over and the threat of Islamic terrorism still emerging. As a result, while in the White House, she was never fully a part of either the old school that had been focused on the Soviet Union and the possibility of nuclear war or the more recent strain of national security thinking defined by issues like nonstate threats and the proliferation of nuclear technology.

Associates from that time said that she was aware of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and what her husband has in recent years characterized as his intense focus on them, but that she made no aggressive independent effort to shape policy or gather information about the threat of terrorism.

She did not wrestle directly with many of the other challenges the next president will face, including managing a large-scale deployment — or withdrawal — of troops abroad, an overhaul of the intelligence agencies or the effort to halt the spread of nuclear weapons technology. Most of her exposure to the military has come since she left the White House through her seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

When it came to the regional conflicts in the Balkans, she, along with many officials, was cautious at first about supporting American military intervention, though she later backed air strikes against the Serbs and the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

Her role mostly involved what diplomats call “soft power” — converting cold war foes into friends, supporting nonprofit work and good-will endeavors, and pressing her agenda on women’s rights, human trafficking and the expanded use of microcredits, tiny loans to help individuals in poor countries start small businesses.

Asked to name three major foreign policy decisions where she played a decisive role as first lady, Mrs. Clinton responded in generalities more than specifics, describing her strategic roles on trips to Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, India, Africa and Latin America.

Asked to cite a significant foreign policy object lesson from the 1990s, Mrs. Clinton also replied with broad observations. “There are a lot of them,” she said. “The whole unfortunate experience we’ve had with the Bush administration, where they haven’t done what we’ve needed to do to reach out to the rest of the world, reinforces my experience in the 1990s that public diplomacy, showing respect and understanding of people’s different perspectives — it’s more likely to at least create the conditions where we can exercise our values and pursue our interests.”

Read the entire aticle here

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Thanks Bill, kee up the good work: Bill Clinton clashes with Hillary’s advisers

It’s music to my ears. The more William Clinton intervenes on his wife’s behalf, the more people are turned off. For that I say: Bill – keep up the good work, he, he…

That is my talking memo. Now for the story:

Bill Clinton has finally succumbed to temptation and intervened personally to salvage his wife’s faltering bid for the White House, according to leaks from her secretive campaign team.

The exasperated former President has clashed with some of Hillary Clinton’s closest advisors over strategy, after their recent attacks on Barack Obama, her main rival for the Democratic nomination, backfired.

He is said to be increasingly impatient that a series of campaign blunders is undermining her once comfortable lead in the opinion polls.

The consummate campaigner, who had previously been kept away from daily campaign operations, earned the “Comeback Kid” tag when he resurrected his own struggling White House run in 1992. Now he is trying to pull off the same trick for his wife.

He went on the offensive on her behalf this weekend with his strongest attack yet on Mr Obama’s qualifications for office, and said that voters would be taking a “risk” if they chose him.

He is understood to be particularly frustrated that her chief strategist and polling guru, Mark Penn, chose to portray the former First Lady as the “inevitable” and “invincible” nominee – a strategy that Mr Clinton believes has failed to sell her merits as a candidate.

Indeed, in the frank new television interview, he said it would now be a “miracle” if she won the key first caucus state of Iowa as he attempts to re-position her in voters’ minds as a challenger, rather than running like an incumbent.

Mrs Clinton was forced to deny her White House run was in disarray on Friday when asked about the reports of campaign turmoil.

During the early months of the campaign, her aides had sought to keep her husband at arm’s length, aware of his popularity but fearful that he would overshadow her.

“Campaigning is in Bill’s blood but while the polls were looking good, he was able to hold himself in check,” a Democratic strategist who is in close contact with the Clinton camp told The Sunday Telegraph.

“But that’s all changed as the campaign has veered badly off course. He’s talking with her constantly and throwing out ideas about how to save this thing. He’s still convinced she can win, but it’s going to be tough.”

The latest opinion polls show Mr Obama extending his lead in the key first caucus state of Iowa and catching Mrs Clinton in New Hampshire, where she has previously enjoyed a comfortable advantage in the next state to vote.

Although Mr Obama continues to trail in national polls, the momentum from the early states often proves crucial in the nomination process – as it did for Mr Clinton in 1992.

In the latest embarrassing setback for Mrs Clinton, she apologised personally to Mr Obama after a senior campaign official argued that his long-standing admission of teenage drug use could be used against him in a head-to-head with the Republicans.

The Clintons are understood to have discussed an overhaul of her top campaign personnel last week but they decided that would give off the feeling of panic.

But the former president is behind the new mantra that Mrs Clinton is an “agent for change” as the campaign switches its emphasis away from previous efforts to portray an aura of invincibility and entitlement.

His latest public intervention also drove home the danger that his greater involvement in his wife’s campaign might draw attention to him rather than her.

Read the rest right here