So I called my BFF Hillary Clinton the other day to see how she was doing after all the negative commentary about her little verbal slip. “Girlfriend, what on earth were you thinking! Have you lost your mind up in here?”
Oh, wait a minute, I don’t really know Hillary well enough to address her as girlfriend. We’re not really BFFs either (that’s shorthand for best friend forever). Actually, Hillary and I have never met, but I’ve seen her on television. Oops, I think that I misspoke.
There has been a lot of misspeaking in the Clinton campaign. A few weeks ago, Senator Clinton released a television commercial asserting that based on her 35 years of experience, she was more qualified than Senator Obama to answer the phone at 3:00 a.m. and deal with some hypothetical foreign policy crisis. Unfortunately, at least for Sen. Clinton, subsequent research revealed that her foreign policy experience was questionable at best, and possibly nonexistent. After a little personal research, I wrote a little blog entry about what appeared to be a general consensus–Sen. Clinton didn’t play a significant role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland; nor did she broker the deal that resulted in Macedonia opening its borders to refugees from Kosovo (official records confirm that the Macedonia accord regarding the Kosovo refugees was signed the day before Hillary arrived in the country).
The media enjoyed the circus constructed around Sen. Clinton’s exaggerated foreign policy experience claims and next became entranced with sermons from Sen. Obama’s ex-minister. Just when I thought that perhaps the campaign was finally getting back on track, dealing with the issues–the recession, unemployment, access to health care, 47 million people without health insurance, the war in Iraq, global warming, etc., etc., Sen. Clinton dropped another example of her qualifications to be commander-in-chief, citing her March 1996 landing at Tuzla Air Base in Bosnia in the midst of sniper fire. Her words, spoken at George Washington University on March 17, 2008, have been published in newspapers around the world, and played repeatedly on radio and television news stations.
“I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”–Senator Hillary Clinton
Based on the photo above, before ducking and running for cover, Sen. Clinton and daughter Chelsea took time to accept greetings from the eight-year-old girl who was a part of the official greeting committee in March 1996, a group that also included Bosnia’s acting president. Not wanting to frighten the child, Hillary also decided that she and Chelsea should abandon the flak jackets that she asserts that they wore to protect them from sniper fire while they were running with their heads down. Suffering from some memory loss, no doubt due to post traumatic stress disorder after being subjected to sniper fire, comedian Sinbad, who was a part of the group visiting US troops in Bosnia with the then First Lady back in 1996, has responded that he does not recall there being any sniper fire when the travel group landed.
Normally, I would agree with Sen. Clinton’s protestations that she made many speeches and many journeys while First Lady, and that it is only human to confuse the details from a trip that she made 12 years ago. However, generally, most of us confuse the details as to when something happened, but remain clear as to whether or not something happened. For example, I’m not certain when I first became obsessed with Denzel Washington, however, I’m certain that he has never promised to leave his wife and marry me.
Sen. Clinton, girlfriend, you have not been under sniper fire during any of your travels as First Lady. You made it up! You didn’t misspeak; you lied.
You lied because you are desperately trying to distinguish yourself in the minds of the voters as having 35 years of critical experience, including foreign policy experience that makes you a superior choice for the Democratic Party nomination. You have invented your own pet campaign issue that makes about as much sense as the pet rock phenomenon of the 1970s. What really frightens me is that some of the public, just like the folks that spent good money for a pet rock, are succumbing to the nonsense of this non-issue. Let’s have a simplified civics lesson.
Under the U.S. Constitution, both the Congress of the United States and the president have the responsibility for setting U.S. foreign policy. In general, the president shapes foreign policy with advice from the state department, the secretary of state, and a bunch of other national security officials in the executive branch . Congress approves the funding needed to carry out the foreign policy. The United States Senate has to approve by a two-thirds vote, any treaties with foreign governments that are negotiated by the president. Congress and the president don’t always see eye to eye on foreign policy, but the president has the principal authority to create foreign policy. Both the Congress and the Courts defer to the president on matters of foreign policy, a practice further solidified since the end of WWII in 1945.
If you stayed with me through Civics 101, then you are probably recognizing that unless Clinton, McCain, or Obama have previously served as president of the United States, none of them have any substantive foreign policy experience. Neither congressmen/women, nor the First Lady gets to make foreign policy decisions in our governmental structure. Condoleeza Rice has experience in the ins and outs of foreign policy, as do members of the Cabinet and the executive branch of government, but hey, Hillary, you don’t. Drop the empty rhetoric about foreign policy experience and focus on the significant domestic and international issues that should be the focus of this campaign, not your imagined turn as Rambo.
The beauty of the structure of our government is that no one enters the office of president as a solo act. All those cabinet members, all those secretaries of this and that, are there for a purpose–to advise the president, to present him/her with the information to make reasoned, well-thought out foreign policy decisions, if he or she chooses. Or he can declare himself to be the Decider and make the dumbest decisions ever, but that’s another post.
Footnote: What exactly is foreign policy? The generally accepted definition identifies foreign policy as a course of action or set of principles adopted by a nation’s government to define its relationships with other countries or groups of countries.