There is a fluffapalooza of an article in today’s New York Times about the unlikely “alliance” of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Mark Landler and Helene Cooper read quite a lot into Hillary’s taking a meeting with Obama after she heard of her husband’s recent heart trouble:
But the fact that she first spent 45 minutes plotting Iran strategy with the man who beat her in a divisive primary campaign shows just how far Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have come since the bitter spring of 2008, when he sniped that her foreign-policy credentials consisted of sipping tea with world leaders, and she scoffed that his consisted of living in Indonesia when he was 10.
The tragedy is they were both right. When they joined forces it was like two bad tastes that go bad together. Over a year into this administration, all we have to show on the diplomacy front is presidential pledges of global empathy and a lot exotic teatime. We have a foreign policy of pure esthetics, no less superficial than the piece in the Times. Landler and Cooper lay it on real thick, describing what sounds like the world’s worst sitcom:
They now joke about their “frenemies” status and have made gestures toward each other’s families. When Mr. Obama learned that Chelsea Clinton had become engaged, he turned to Mrs. Clinton and asked, “Does she want a White House wedding?” a senior official recalled. (Mrs. Clinton declined, saying the offer was “sweet” but would be “inappropriate.”) And when Mrs. Clinton traveled to Honolulu in January, she paid tribute to Mr. Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, in a speech she gave while looking over a garden dedicated to Ms. Dunham.
“Frenemies” has it about right. That’s what the Will and Grace of international affairs have made of every global player — good and bad: Vladimir Putin? Frenemy. Bibi Netanyahu? He’s a frenemy, too. When you get nicer to your antagonists and rougher on your allies you end up too invested in the former to threaten them and too distanced from the latter to get their cooperation. Well, at least an “alliance” is being forged somewhere.