Yesterday, while watching Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks during her Foggy Bottom homecoming, a question uncomfortably crept into my mind: does Hillary know where she is? Does Hillary know that she is no longer on the campaign trail, where she spent two years (and arguably much longer) touting her leadership style in profoundly optimistic — and typically vague — terms? Is she prepared for managing detail-oriented bureaucrats — i.e., people who will not be won over by vacuous stump speeches? Does she really think that speeches at the State Department should be virtually indistinguishable from her campaign speeches in Middle America?
Indeed, I’m hardly convinced that Hillary knows the difference between being a campaigner and a policymaker — and I’ve had my doubts for quite some time. Statements such as these do little to reassure me:
In my testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee, I spoke a lot about smart power. Well, at the heart of smart power are smart people, and you are those people. And you are the ones that we will count on and turn to for the advice and counsel, the expertise and experience to make good on the promises of this new Administration.
This is going to be a challenging time and it will require 21st century tools and solutions to meet our problems and seize our opportunities. I’m going to be asking a lot of you. I want you to think outside the proverbial box. I want you to give me the best advice you can. I want you to understand there is nothing that I welcome more than a good debate and the kind of dialogue that will make us better.
We cannot be our best if we don’t demand that from ourselves and each other. I will give you my very best efforts. I will do all that I can, working with our President, to make sure that we deliver on the promises that are at the very core of what this new Administration and this new era represent. So we need to collaborate, and we need to have a sense of openness and candor in this building. And I invite that.
Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect too many specifics in a statement like this. But the fact remains: Hillary sounds like she is still on the stump. She has not yet realized that typical campaign themes — such as working together, finding creative solutions for tough problems, and how great people like you are — sound miserably trite once the election is a distant memory and there is serious policy work to be done. She apparently believes that sloganeering — such as coining the term “smart power” and using it ad nauseam — is still a substitute for outlining a substantive philosophy on the conduct of foreign affairs.
Hopefully she’ll snap out of it soon. But I’m not too optimistic: Hillary has been in campaign mode for so long that the forced smiles for the camera and constant flow of sweet nothingness seem to have overtaken her. For the moment, at least, we can be thankful that someone else is answering those pesky 3 A.M. phone calls.