I think I've finally realized why Tina Brown's July 13 screed about Hillary Clinton continues to bother me so much. Thing is, it took today's fawning coverage of Hillary's heroic, journalist-saving husband, Bill, to figure out why.
Of course, Brown's post, which suggested that Clinton was being muzzled and kept out of the spotlight by the White House, is full of racism and sexism, as aptly explained by Fatemah at Muslimah Media Watch. But Ms. Brown also proves herself utterly ignorant about what makes a good boss and how to accomplish good diplomacy.
On the question of Hillary being a good boss: One of the most important things in management is to be able to delegate, which also means recognizing employees' strengths and letting them do the things they were hired to do. Long before her failed Presidential campaign Secretary Clinton was criticized as being overly involved, not taking advice, and micromanager. Then Brown criticized Hillary for delegating negotiations in a variety of countries — from AfPak to Israel — to special envoys. Honestly, I had to roll my eyes, because all I saw was evidence that Clinton had hired the right people and let them do their jobs, making her both a good employee to Obama, and a good boss to her underlings.
A word on that. Diplomacy in tricky situations, with intractable partners on the other side of the table, only works when your negotiating partner knows they have no where else to go even when you're being a hard-ass. If, for instance, Hillary sends Richard Holbrooke off to Pakistan, Holbrooke is only going to be successful at getting it done if the Pakistanis know that Holbrooke has Clinton's complete support and they're not going to get anywhere by appealing over his head. If Hillary was parachuting in, or holding press conferences in order to take credit, future negotiating partners would think her negotiators weren't empowered by their boss and would be less likely to work in good faith.
As for all the talk that Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea was something Hillary Clinton was "left out of" or should have done herself? Believe me, Bill Clinton's voyage was vetted by Hillary, Obama, and probably every other member of Obama's National Security Team. What Hillary and the entire United States government was attempting to do was to keep Euna Lee and Laura Ling from being held hostage to North Korean demands for an end to the Six Party Talks on denuclearization and one-on-one negotiations on nuclear issues with the United States, which is contrary to U.S. policy. In fact, bilateral negotiations with the regime in the 90s by the Clinton Administration did little to resolve the North Korea's nuclear ambitions and mostly resulted in them lying to us, demanding aid that never went to their starving people and then trying to run to China for back-up when they pushed us too far: the Six Party framework was designed to create a unified front against their aggression. Had Hillary Clinton become the second-ever U.S. Secretary of State to meet with Kim Jong Il (Madeleine Albright was the first, and was unsuccessful in convincing Kim to be less of an asshole) it would have given the Koreans a chance to push for an end to the Six Party Talks and interfered with dealing with what is, in the end, the larger issue between our countries: North Korea's military aggression. Sending Bill, however, fulfilled a decade-long dream of Kim Jong Il's without harming the American agenda: Since Bill isn't involved in denuclearization or the Six Party Talks, all Kim Jong Il was going to get out of this fiasco was a photo op, not a chance to press senior officials on policy.
But back to Hillary: Right now, she's using her own firepower to take on some of the biggest and most problematic relationships (China), the issues nearest and dearest to her heart (her upcoming visit to highlight rape as a tool of war in the Congo) and those where she can, personally, have the most impact (improving our reputation in the world). It seems to me that Secretary Clinton's reputation as a self-aggrandizing micromanager is as ill-deserved as the one Tina Brown was trying to smear her with.
Obama's Other Wife [The Daily Beast]
Related: Tina Brown and Hillary Clinton's Burqa [Muslimah Media Watch]
Albright, North Korea's Kim Jong Il Hold Second Meeting [CNN]