The weak, chatty type

Hillary Clinton is drawing criticism for having told reporters traveling with her in Asia that the U.S. government must continue to press China to improve its human rights record, but pressing these issues “can’t interfere” with dialogue on other crucial topics. Clinton defended her comment on the theory that she was merely stating the obvious. She added that “spend[ing] hours avoiding stating the obvious” is “just not productive.”

The Washington Post sees this as part of a “determined effort by the Obama administration” to “clear the linguistic fog of international diplomacy.” For her part, Secretary Clinton states that she “intends to operate” by “being more straightforward.”

But it is “obvious” that the U.S. cannot, in any meaningful sense, press China to improve its human rights record if China knows that we are unwilling to let our unhappiness with that record be an obstacle to negotiations over matters we consider more important. To be sure, China probably already knows this. But if Clinton really wants to “clear the linguistic fog of international diplomacy” and be “more straightforward,” she should drop the pretense that the Obama administration will “press” China on human rights issues.

Occasional silence is also a good antidote to linguistic fog.

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