Commentary Magazine


No One Does Minutiae Like Hillary Clinton

The Washington Post has a puff piece on Hillary Clinton extolling her “internal outreach” to hire State Department gurus beyond her circle of Hillaryland loyalists. We hear that “Clinton has made a vigorous effort to widen her circle, wooing and pulling into her orbit the agency’s Foreign Service and civil service officials, many of whom said in interviews that she has brought a new energy to the building.” And then it’s nice to know that “those interviewed inside and outside the agency say Clinton has done a good job of heading off the historical tensions between career employees and quadrennial political newcomers by relying on the counsel of senior Foreign Service operatives and reaching out in general.” Let’s not forget:

She has walked the halls and popped into offices unexpectedly, created an electronic “sounding board,” and held seven internal town hall meetings to listen to gripes about everything from policy to cafeteria food to bullying in the workplace. She installed six new showers that joggers requested, is taking steps to remedy overseas pay inequities and instituted a policy that allows partners of gay diplomats to receive benefits. She became a heroine to the Foreign Service when she went to bat to get funding for 3,000 new Foreign Service positions for State operations and the U.S. Agency for International Development — the first boost of this magnitude in two decades.

Okay, this is a style section piece, I will grant you. But what does any of this matter? Nearly every aspect of our foreign policy is in disarray, but we should be happy to hear that she conducted “a line-by-line review that took three sessions to complete” and spent quality time with a “backbencher” on the Pakistan desk debating “non-governmental power centers in Pakistan.”

On one level, this could be part of the problem. Clinton is lost in the paperwork while our foreign policy is on fire (and under fire). She is consumed with trivia better left to bureaucrats but has no sense that the underpinnings of our foreign-policy approach are crumbling. Like Jimmy Carter assigning the tennis court times at the White House, Clinton’s compulsive micromanagement may be a sign that something is very wrong.

On another level, this is a telling insight into the process obsession that has gripped State and the whole administration. Success is measured by the number of meetings, not by the outcome. Who picks the appointees, rather than the track record of those selected, is what occupies everyone’s attention.

If the point of the puff piece was to assure us how much Clinton has grown, put me down as skeptical. As in campaigns, foreign-policy success is measured in results. Hers are generally disastrous. Once again, Clinton — who failed on HillaryCare and as a presidential candidate — lacks competence. But that topic probably wouldn’t make it as a Post style section story.