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Heard Around the Hillary-Sphere: Monday Evening Edition

August 24, 2009

f0ac809e-f3ac-11dd-9c4b-0000779fd2acJust so nobody goes through Hillary Clinton withdrawal, here’s a round-up of the Secretary of State in the news:

One of the stories I have seen floating around the internet on many different websites, is the fact that many top positions at various federal agencies and departments remain unfilled despite it now being almost eight months into the new administration.

Most reading this will remember how Secretary Clinton expressed her understandable frustration with the long vetting process in relation to filling the position of director/head of USAID, an unbelievably important agency within the State Department (well, it’s kinda separate but formally falls under/within the State Department). I’m a big fan of USAID and the important work they do and Secretary Clinton, not to mention those working at USAID, must be incredibly frustrated, even angry, at the White House process taking so long.

Anyway, this article describes this problem/issue:

As President Obama tries to turn around a summer of setbacks, he finds himself still without most of his own team. Seven months into his presidency, fewer than half of his top appointees are in place advancing his agenda.

Of more than 500 senior policymaking positions requiring Senate confirmation, just 43 percent have been filled so far – a reflection of a White House that grew more cautious after several nominations blew up last spring, a Senate that is intensively investigating nominees, and a legislative agenda that has consumed both.

[snip]

He sent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Africa to talk about international development but does not have anyone running the Agency for International Development. He has invited major powers to a summit meeting on nuclear nonproliferation but does not have an assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation.
“If you’re running GM without half your senior executives in place, are you worried? I’d say your stockholders would be going nuts,’’ said Terry Sullivan, a professor at the University of North Carolina and executive director of the White House Transition Project, a scholarly program that tracks appointments. “The notion of the American will – it’s not being thwarted, but it’s slow to come to fruition.’’

Clinton expressed the exasperation of many in the administration last month when she was asked by AID employees why they did not have a chief. “The clearance and vetting process is a nightmare,’’ Clinton told them. “And it takes far longer than any of us would want to see. It is frustrating beyond words.’’
[snip]

“There’s every reason to be concerned,’’ said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader. “The president deserves to have his full complement of staff.’’

Here’s an annoying article I found about that Forbes list and Secretary Clinton’s ranking – I only highlight it because naturally, some in the media are taking it and running with it- in the wrong direction:

ABC News’ Kirit Radia reports: Is Hillary Clinton less powerful now as Secretary of State than she was as a Senator? Forbes Magazine seems to think so.

The publication recently released its annual list of the 100 most powerful women in the world. This year, Clinton was listed at #36. In 2004 when she was in the Senate Clinton was #5.

Since then Clinton has slipped in the Forbes rankings (2005: 26, 2006: 18, 2007: 25, 2008: 28), but this year, her first as America’s top diplomat, was her lowest ranking. Her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, twice topped the list and was never listed out of the top 10 before leaving office.

This year Clinton was edged out by Nancy Pelosi, who was ranked #35, but she beat out Oprah (#41).

[snip]

In 2004, when Clinton’s Forbes-rated power was at its peak, so too was American officials’ rankings. She was among 5 American officials who crowded the top 10. Then-Secretary of State Rice then took the top prize, followed by First Lady Laura Bush (#4), Clinton, and Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor (#6) and Bader Ginsberg (#7).

The magazine says its rankings are “a combination of two scores: visibility–by press mentions–and the size of the organization or country these women lead.”[emphasis added]

Ok, a couple of things. First, Laura Bush was #4? Come on. And I am still not exactly sure why Merkel takes the number one spot four years running, even considering the two scores Forbes uses to determine ranking. I’m not saying Merkel isn’t incredibly important/powerful, I’m just saying…Also, “press mentions” as one of the [only] two indicators of power? Come on.

Ok, next up: Yesterday my news round-up included an excerpt from David Rothkopf’s brilliant article/commentary on Secretary Clinton’s ground-breaking tenure as Secretary of State thus far and it turns out that today he did an online Q&A in response to the article and I definitely encourage folks to go check out the whole thing because it’s interesting. Unfortunately I didn’t know about the Q&A until it was over, but here is an excerpt:

David Rothkopf, author and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was online Monday, Aug. 24, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss his Outlook article titled “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Revolution.”

[snip]

Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Any insight on what will happen to USAID?

David Rothkopf: The introduction of the QDDR process mentioned in the article is a sign I think that Secretary Clinton recognizes that major changes are needed in the way we approach AID. The difficulty in finding a head for the agency has frustrated efforts in this regard. But it is impossible to achieve the US agenda worldwide without a revamped approach to foreign assistance…including an upgraded effort to address emergency economic intervention and post-conflict issues which are sadly under supported in our bureaucracy. I believe the leadership at State and in the White House recognize this.
_______________________
Dallas, Tex.: Mr. Rothkopf, thanks for the chat. How do you envision Sec. Clinton and state pushing back on the New World Order fear tactics of the right/GOP?

David Rothkopf: I think the best way to push back on those tactics is to ignore them. There are fringe groups on the right and left that tend toward conspiracy theories and big scary images…but given the huge amount of fundamental work to be done in the greater Middle East, on global warming, on new relationships with emerging powers, etc., the administration is likely to focus on the core questions and let the extremes work themselves up in the blogosphere.
_______________________
Boston, Mass.: Is Clinton remaking foreign policy or is it really a case of “context making the leader”? The context is the radical unilateralism followed by the preceding Bush administration. It is not that what she has espoused has been that innovative — it is the contrast to what came before.

David Rothkopf: History makes men and women…and vice versa. Many of the innovations in current U.S. foreign policy have been percolating for years. We raised the issue of big emerging markets in 1994 in the Clinton Administration…and people were interested but unconvinced they would assume a critical strategic role soon. Now they have and Obama and Clinton are embracing the new reality and seeking new approaches suited to it. Same as you suggest re: offering an alternative to “unilateralism” and remaking the American brand. Circumstances have driven them…but they also had to make the choice to act.
_______________________
New York, N.Y.: What is your reaction to the North Korean government offering to discuss matters with the South Korean government? What role would you advise our State Department to take in this situation?

David Rothkopf: I am always skeptical of the North Koreans. In the past couple decades they have had cycles of warming and cooling. In the end, they have an unsustainable situation there economically and gradually they will have to embrace some change. The best conduit for that change is South Korea with gentle nudging from China. We have a role to play…but this is one of those situations where we have to be careful not to bigfoot the process. Others can lead here too…and we can step in when needed.
_______________________
Milton, Mass.: No question. Just a comment on the brilliant article. I’m so tired of the media talking about what Sec. Clinton looks like and the made up bickering between the president and the secretary. Thanks for writing about something real and the brilliance behind this remarkable woman.

David Rothkopf: How can I let such a comment pass unnoted? You are extremely insightful (and I appreciate the kind words).
_______________________
Charlottesville, Va.: Why did you not mention Iran, where Clinton has repeatedly since April, been speaking off-script? (her emphasis on “crippling sanctions” for example sounds much like Rice) And what’s your take on the role of Dennis Ross re. Iran policy?

David Rothkopf: I’ve written a lot about Iran elsewhere and will do so again. It’s a critical issue and the administration has set a deadline of late September for progress back to the negotiating table from the Iranians. I think Secretary Clinton has played an important role on this issue both internally and in terms of articulating the resolve of the U.S. to effectively challenge any effort on the part of the Iranians to develop nuclear weapons. Engagement is not all about tea and hugs. It involves interacting sometimes with regimes with whom we have fundamental disagreements and we need to be able to send messages that are both constructive and where required, resolute.

I ran across this commentary in the Manila Bulletin about Secretary Clinton’s trip to Africa and the administration’s renewed focus on Africa:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has just returned to Washington from her most ambitious foreign policy trip to date: Seven countries in Africa in 11 days. The Bush administration spent money on fighting AIDS in Africa, but did little else. And while the early days of the Obama administration were necessarily focused on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Africa was definitely on the back burner. But not forgotten. The secretary had ideas she wanted to relay to African leaders about fighting corruption and empowering women.

Before she set out, President Obama made a brief trip to Africa, selecting Ghana, because it was a model of good governance, observance of the rule of law and clean elections. He was the first American president to visit sub-Saharan Africa. In a major policy speech in the capital, Accra, he said “Africa’s future is up to Africans.” There is no longer any reason, he suggested, to use the excuse of past colonialism for corrupt government. Stop blaming the past he told them.

Too many African leaders have enriched themselves. Police are bribed by drug traffickers. It is up to the youth of Africa to take the responsibility for their future. And the US, he promised, would help. America is already providing military aid to Chad, and he won a waiver from the UN to send arms to Somalia to help fight terrorists. Although he chose to visit Ghana, President Obama reminded his audience “we’ve already had Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe and Kikwete of Tanzania in the Oval Office.

“Wherever folks want to help themselves, we want to be there as a partner.”
[snip]

Secretary Clinton started with Kenya, a salute to the birthplace of President Obama’s father. From there, she went to South Africa, the continent’s largest and most powerful country, where she met with President Jacob Zuma. Relations with South Africa had been cordial during the Clinton administration
and Zuma and Clinton held a joint press conference, agreeing that they wish to take relations “to a higher level.” Mineral rich South Africa has considerable influence with its fellow-African states, and Mrs. Clinton suggested that it should spread its influence to the global scene, citing climate change as an appropriate beginning.

From South Africa, Mrs. Clinton went to Angola, where she was welcomed by President Josê Eduardo dos Santos. Next was the Congo where she insisted on traveling to the area of conflict in the eastern part of the country and visited refugee camps and spoke out about violence against women. She said, the government should stop using women as “weapons of war.” Human rights groups report that in the long running war between government troops and rebels that thousands of women and girls have been raped by both government and rebel forces. She met with President Joseph Kabila, and urged him to address the source of conflict. Her next stop was Nigeria, the “giant of Africa” with 150 million people and oil wealth. She spoke with Christian and Islamic religious leaders about the need for democratic reforms, and thanked the government for helping resolve the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and providing peacekeepers in Sudan.


Clearly, Africa is back on the Obama administration’s radar screen.

The fall-out from the release of the terrorist involved in the Lockerbie bombing, continues:

Libya broke a pledge to give the Lockerbie bomber a “low key” reception after his release from jail last week, Scotland’s justice minister said Monday, while defending the decision to free him.
In a stormy grilling at an emergency session of Scotland’s parliament, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill reiterated that his decision was taken entirely on compassionate grounds, and not for trade or diplomatic reasons.


And in a sign of possible diplomatic fallout, it emerged that Britain’s Prince Andrew will no longer plan to visit Libya in the wake of the row.

“Assurances had been given by the Libyan government that any return would be dealt with in a low-key and sensitive fashion,” he said, defending the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, who was given a hero’s welcome in Tripoli.

“It is a matter of great regret that Mr. al-Megrahi was received in such an inappropriate manner,” he added, before being questioned by lawmakers over the release which has triggered fury in the United States.

The US administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the victims’ families have all slammed the release of Megrahi on the grounds that he is dying of cancer.


Megrahi, 57, is the only person convicted over the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. The majority of the 270 victims were American.

The Libyan — who has terminal prostate cancer — was jailed for life in 2001 over the worst terror attack in British history, but served just eight years before his release last Thursday.

On his return to Tripoli he was welcomed by hundreds of people waving Libyan and Scottish flags, while he has since had a televised meeting with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

Very poor judgment on the part of Kadhafi, but then again, I’m not sure if he’s even able to exercise any type of judgment at this stage if any of the stories I’ve heard about him are true. By the way, did you hear he’s actually going to stay in NJ during the UN General Assembly meeting next month? As I was saying about the lack of judgment thing…

This story isn’t really on the MSM’s radar, but perhaps it should be:

The calls come in constantly to Vaughn Vang, but there’s little he can do to comfort his Hmong compatriots worried about family and friends at refugee camps in Thailand.

“A lot of families in Wisconsin contact me daily, asking me to help their families,” said Vang, director of the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council in Green Bay. “One lady called me from Sacramento saying she has three brothers there and doesn’t know what to do.”

The calls reflect growing alarm in the U.S. Hmong community and among humanitarians worldwide over the treatment of Lao Hmong refugees at the camps and the Thai government’s effort to repatriate them to Laos.


About 4,800 Hmong are at the Huay Nam Khao camp in Phetchabun and another 158 are being detained in Nong Khai. The Lao Hmong are an ethnic minority and were U.S. allies during the Vietnam War. Many fled Laos out of fear of persecution by the communist government.

“I’ve had members of my own family tortured and killed,” Vang said. “Every single Hmong family has had that experience.”

Human rights advocates say the Thai government and military have intensified coercive efforts to return the refugees to Laos, despite calls from the U.S. State Department and congressional lawmakers for an open and voluntary repatriation process. The Thai government contends the refugees fled for economic reasons and have become a burden on the country.

“The Thai government has been threatening to close the camp located at Phetchabun for a year now, but they keep changing the deadlines,” said Bill Frelick, refugee policy director for Human Rights Watch. “It’s been tense all the way, because the Thai government simply has not been open.”

In June, a bipartisan group of 31 House members, including Wisconsin Democratic Reps. Tammy Baldwin, Steve Kagen, Ron Kind and Gwen Moore and Wisconsin GOP Rep. Tom Petri — signed a letter urging Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to intervene to stop the forced repatriation…

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll probably do a photo bomb later tonight and I am going to revisit the Honduras issue tomorrow given the MSM and the administration seem to be ignoring the fact that the whole situation is far from resolved at this late stage.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Hoosier permalink
    August 24, 2009 6:13 pm

    Wow, you go! I didn’t think you’d update today since she’s got no appointments and apparently is on vacation. Thanks for this.

  2. Ikasu permalink
    August 24, 2009 6:35 pm

    Stacy, I don’t have to look for articles because of you! Thanks. I posted the Rothkopf article of CGP earlier today.

    • August 24, 2009 6:40 pm

      Hey Ikasu, good to see you over here! The Rothkopf article is great, isn’t it? It seems to be getting a lot of press attention in and of itself!

      • Ikasu permalink
        August 24, 2009 10:02 pm

        Yes, it has. I always read your blog. My daily HRC fix. This is just the first time I’ve commented. 🙂

  3. Terry permalink
    August 24, 2009 7:45 pm

    I agree with you. Laura Bush powerful, and no. four? Some survey.

    I think perhaps the numbers are falling this way because of the horrendous number of domestic issues the Obama administration is dealing with and the slog it is to get legislation passed. We also have to agree that the media is limiting a lot of Hillary news.

    Yes, the Q and A for the Rothkopf was very good as well. In most cases he gave pretty indepth answers to questions.

  4. August 24, 2009 11:46 pm

    Ikasu- ah, I see, you were *lurking* here for a while before commenting ;).

    Well, I am glad you de-lurked!

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