Published on TheHill.com on January 13, 2015
The minute that she heard about the march against terrorism in Paris, Hillary Clinton should have hopped on one of her Wall Street friends’ private jets and rushed to France.
Think of the photo op and its political meaning. The former secretary of State and, perhaps, future president of the United States marching arm in arm with world leaders to protest the vicious attacks in the city of light. Not President Obama. Not Secretary of State John Kerry. Not Vice President Biden. But Clinton — on her own.
Her presence would have made her the star of the show, particularly once it became apparent she was there as a private citizen, not at the instruction — and without the approval — of the president. It would have marked her debut in a new role on the world stage. The optics of her marching in solidarity with the victims of terror would have been a defining one for her candidacy.
Without differing from Obama on hard issues of policy and without staking out hawkish ground in the third Iraq War, Clinton would have sent a clear message to the world, saying “I am tough on terror.”
Many, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have traced the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to Obama’s (and Clinton’s) failure to leave a residual garrison of troops in Iraq after our withdrawal there. This accusation makes Clinton vulnerable on the terrorism issue. What better way to put that liability behind her than to show up while her much-criticized former boss stayed home?
Female candidates for president are always being questioned on their capacity to be adequate commanders in chief. Recognizing this danger, Clinton alertly secured a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee right after 9/11. This realization likely led to her vote for the Iraq War and her continued support of the conflict right up to the primaries of 2008.
Paris was a chance for Clinton to show toughness without alienating the left. A way to demonstrate that she would go the extra mile — literally — to fight terror that would not get her in trouble with her party’s liberal wing.
And she blew it.
The question is, why didn’t she go?
The most likely explanation is that she didn’t really think it through. Political inertia may have set in. She needed to be acted on by an outside force.
What about Bill Clinton? We know that he would have gone to Paris in a heartbeat were he still president. But he was in LA with his Hollywood pals. There are reports that he’s in the dog house after stories of his dalliances with Jeffrey Epstein. In fact, Hillary Clinton may be giving him the silent treatment, as is her wont when she gets angry over his indiscretions.
Without her husband, Hillary Clinton is a bureaucratic thinker. Surrounded only by her old State Department cronies, all wedded to the status quo of American diplomacy and unwilling to violate protocol by upstaging the president, there is no thinking outside the box. The fact is that none of her advisers, with the exception of Bill Clinton, had the heft to get her to reconsider her plans and take a detour to Paris. There is nobody on her staff with that kind of clout or independence of thought. Hillary Clinton is so burdened down with insider staff and stuff, she can’t move with dexterity. She is not nimble any more.
And then there was the Obama problem. Reluctant to break with the president and used to the habit of obedience and playing with the team, Clinton didn’t dare strike out on her own. She acted like she was still subject to his discipline. If she is to run for president, she’d better get over it.
What an opportunity she missed! And what a flaw in her thinking and staffing it reveals!
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