President Eisenhower was a master of calculated obfuscation. When it came to Nixon, however, Eisenhower’s views could be discerned with some clarity. He didn’t think much of him. In Nixon Agonistes, Garry Wills explains: “Eisenower’s periodic deflations of Nixon did not arise from mere vindictiveness. It seems clear from his actions, and from things he told many intimates, that he did not consider Nixon a statesman.”
Eisenhower’s most famous “deflation” of Nixon came in 1960, with Nixon serving as Ike’s vice president and seeking the presidency against JFK. Asked by a reporter to name “a major idea” of Nixon’s that Ike had adopted as president, Eisenhower famously responded: “If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don’t remember.” The Democrats incorporated Eisenhower’s response into a television ad touting JFK (it’s accessible here on YouTube).
When it comes to identifying Hillary Clinton’s major accomplishments as Secretary of State, one thinks of Eisenhower on Nixon. The problem, however, is not some underlying antagonism between Clinton and administration spokesmen. Rather, it’s lack of material to work with. As when Tom Friedman posed the question, one can see the difficulty it presents even for Hillary herself.
This week we have the case of Clinton’s 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. Pressed by AP reporter Matt Lee at a Tuesday press conference, State Department flack Jen Psaki flailed away while failing to come up with a single “tangible achievement” from Clinton’s QDDR (video below).
There is no ill will between Psaki and Clinton. She wanted to do better. Indeed, having slept on it and done her homework, Psaki returned yesterday with a do-over. This was her new answer:
After the 2010 QDDR economic statecraft, which as you know is a big part of what Secretary Clinton did when she was traveling overseas, became a — a stronger emphasis was placed on trade promotion, investment, and leveling the economic playing field. That’s something the Secretary has continued to support. As he often says, economic policy is foreign policy, and that’s one of the roles that we can play here at the State Department and our diplomats play around the world.
We also – as a result of the 2010 QDDR, we also now have a fuller integration of women and girls into our policy framework – planning and budgeting, program monitoring and evaluation, and management and training. That continues to be a big priority for the State Department, promoting women and girls around the world.
The QDDR also – the 2010 QDDR also reorganized and created bureaus to address the needs of the 21st century – of 21st century diplomacy that we’re seeing in effect today. So that includes a reorganization of the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. As you all know, and we talk about frequently in here, the ENR Bureau and the work they’re doing on energy issues, which is newer to the State Department – relatively so – is vital in places like Ukraine. We’re seeing that today.
It also established the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, and established, as I already touched on, three new bureaus, including the Bureau for Counterterrorism, which of course, is one that we work quite a bit with.
So I just wanted to highlight that as a follow-up.
Byron York reports on the exchange that followed:
Lee was not impressed. “Were there any of these that didn’t simply involve rearranging of the bureaucratic deck chairs or shuffling responsibilities between one bureau to another or creating a new level of bureaucracy?” he asked. “Were any of the accomplishments in – outside of that, those areas?”
“Absolutely, Matt,” answered Psaki. “I would say the whole process, if it works well, as it did in 2010, or leading up to 2010, is to better determine priorities and how to make things work better in a large functioning bureaucracy.”
After a bit of back-and-forth, Lee tried again: “I’m asking for actual demonstrable outcomes, not the creation of a new position or a new job.” Lee wondered whether beyond turning this office into that bureau, or signaling that this or that issue would now be a priority for the Secretary of State — whether beyond that sort of organizational business the QDDR had actually done things. After an exchange about the accomplishments, or lack of accomplishments, of a Clinton-created entity known as the Energy and Resources Bureau, Lee and Psaki appeared to call it a draw, and the briefing ended.
When the question is raised during Hillary’s candidacy, it will doubtless be deemed another front in the war on women and an offense against majesty. Until that time we should probably enjoy the spectacle.
Video and other good stuff via Washington Free Beacon.