HRC Parts The Fog And Seeks The Bottom

This take by TNR’s Michael Crowley on HRC’s start at State seems perceptive although tending towards soft HRC bashing. Its opening is appropriately evocative:

The seventh floor of the U.S. State Department is a generally dreary place. Its employees roam hallways so long and confusing that they are color-coded for guidance. Fluorescent lights throw down a harsh hospital glare. But, to most State employees, the “real” seventh floor is a secure area, protected by armed guards and doors that require electronic keys, where the department’s top staffers, including the secretary herself, spend their days. There, Hillary Clinton works from a gently lit, wood-paneled office adorned with portraits of her predecessors.

Crowley still does the lazy personality driven approach – the classic Washingtonian tactical, transitory who’s up, who’s down analysis. For example, it’s plain laughable to assert in the opening that Cher Condi had more foreign policy expertise than Clinton. But the HRC persona compelling catty comparisons still exerts magnetic sway even now.

People of Asia, I Send You The Rainbow Of Foggy Bottom !

From a conceptual point of view the Stiftung supports wholeheartedly her avowed focus on Asia and priority for crafting a long term U.S. diplomatic strategy. Especially given the incompetence and neglect by the Warlord. Under both General Jello and the bubble-headed Cher Condi, U.S. drift, passivity and fixation on the ludicrous GWOT allowed Chinese influence to expand on an almost completely free ride.

Development is also a welcome priority — perhaps now U.S. development initiatives won’t be de facto outsourced to the strangely erratic and incoherent Sharon Stone’s tourette-like performance art on mosquito nets at Davos. We kid. But only a little. It’s really been that bad.

Managerially, the Stiftung can report that the rank and file at State we have spoken to are elated with HRC’s drill down and the presidential endorsement of area studies, language and actual expertise. She seems to understand the importance of the Secretariat as a tool by which a strong Secretary exerts day to day bureaucratic control. Cher Condi knew less how to manage a cabinet department than she did functioning as national security advisor (the most inept ever). FSOs passed over for ambassadorships will complain under any Administration. Crowley apparently gulped down fistfuls of Ecstasy to believe any non-Warlord embeds hold Cher Condi, Karen Hughes et al. as ‘benchmarks’ for competence.

A Secretary who presides over a renewed co-equal status among the National Command Authority (NCA) – especially and significantly the uniformed military and SecDef will have internal clout accordingly. Will Holbrooke go Scarface one day? Rampage down the Seventh Floor corridors howling “Come say hello to my little friend [this memo]!!!?” We doubt it. We also don’t see Jones’ embryonic NSC structure tolerating the dysfunction.

A sign that Crowley doesn’t grasp the State Department power dynamic beyond stenographic personality gossip? He would note there are really only two key personalities who will determine her overall success. Aside from the President, HRC’s Imperial City fortunes are linked to Gates and his successor. She lucks out if the successor shares Gates’ demeanor, wisdom and internal control at OSD and over the building. Without that, Holbrooke on qualudes or Mitchell on meth won’t matter. We’d still get a memorable Crowley personality driven essay.


  1. Anon says

    Incidentally – Cheney was one of the main drivers in the Ford admin (along w rummy) of sending nuclear reactor materials to the Shah – despite (because?) warnings from credible sources that the Shah was weak.

  2. Anon says

    I just occurred to us that Cheney’s use of a scooter during the inaug was his own maliciuous way of sending a message about Scooter – The bad back excuse does not fly –

  3. Aldershot says

    Yes, selecting HRC seems a wonderful move by Obama, not only because it neutralizes her, but will most likely strenghen him. Heaven help us survive the entire Dream Team.

    I have little interest in Frost/Nixon, because I hear it’s not historically accurate, and also, I don’t think I can take the Nixon impersonation…the voice is too deep and dramatic. I have a problem with impersonations that try too hard, such as Phoenix’s Johnny Cash. I couldn’t get past thinking, ‘wow, that’s a really good Johnny Cash.’

    But I would like to see the original Frost/Nixon interview.

  4. DrLeoStrauss says

    Have passed on Frost-Nixon. For some reason, it seems bizarre. Can anyone imagine a 2 hour movie called “The Situation Room” about Cheney’s last interview with the Beard? And Nixon’s Milton-esque Fall now has an odd patina of quaintness about it compared to the wholesale repudiation of liberal democracy the last 8 years, 6 of which Congress and the media were happily co-conspirators. Nixon knew shame. This last crew knew nihilism.

  5. Anon says

    Powers was always a problem pick – IMO – Intellectuals – and power don’t mix well – They don’t understand politics well.

  6. Anon says

    IMO HRC was a great pick – not just because it resolves the ‘urine in/out of the tent’ dichotomy that consumes the limited imagination of the tweety type – But her
    stature commands respect around the world. HRC would
    never say some of the stupid things Condi said

  7. Aldershot says

    “Under Steinberg’s definition, Hillary would certainly qualify as a potentially disruptive “all-star.” One hopes that his study of the question will help him to maneuver Hillary away from “significant disruption.” (For the record, Steinberg calls Clinton “a fabulous choice” who brings a rare mix of communications, political, and policy chops to the job. “That trifecta of skills is very rare,” he says.)”

    Yes, Crowley comes across as an obnoxious twit…

    But, with Obama signing on Susan Rice and Samantha Powers, one has to wonder. Maybe, like me, he thinks politics exists just for his personal amusement.

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      Aldershot that’s a great summary of how an astute and intelligent political mind like Obama’s might well take it in. Or out of exasperation once political experience meets migraine, ‘Oh who will rid me of this disruptive all star? Now, who has the Bulls score?’

  8. Anon says

    It’s also funny that Cheney is unable to articulate a public case for pardoning Scooter. He would be unable to answer any questions from reporters no longer in love with his power.

    He used to just lie to people like Gloria Borger.

    Cheney is used to doing stuff on the sly – now he is out of his element. One can only hope and pray he will hassled by international legal regimes at some point in the future.

  9. Anon says

    Yeah, but she plays the piano and knows a foreign language (however, we read somewhere her Russian writing skills are poor).

    As NFL commish she would get rolled by the players union and the owners

  10. Dr Leo Strauss says

    You did call the Scooter outcome far in advance. The image of Cheney as agitated vole returning again and again to W is hilarious — the whole thing from start to finish calls out for a first rate theater troupe.

    Your observation on why Wilson enraged the Neocons over at STSOZ is the best I have heard. (Also all the riffing about Joe in the Santa Fe hills – hilarious stuff).

    The cable tease and other structural mechanisms to manipulate continued eyeballs are all indeed getting stale and obvious. One wonders which channel will start using naked correspondents first.

    The observation that Rice is the most incompetent NS advisor is actually an objective appraisal without deliberate ad hominem sloppiness. The reporting already done from Ricks to Woodward establishes her inability to manage the NSC staff itself, internally – separate and apart from her eclipse by Cheney and Rumsfeld. Other sources confirm the worst about her day-to-day internal management inexperience.

    Out of her depth substantively, she chose instead a personal, enabling, nurturing dynamic with the Warlord. In this guise she became a courtier instead of broker or even process-oriented detail clean-up. One can sympathize to an extent that she was surrounded by dysfunction. She committed the ultimate transgression by telling people what they wanted to hear to deflect from her primary role as some kind of weird nanny. Even General Jello and his retinue came to despise her for her weakness and enabling. Scowcroft privately regretted even bringing her to the NSC as a junior Soviet functionary back for GHWB. Not all the policy gridlock was Rumsfeld or Cheney, She didn’t know how to manage and coordinate policy and its follow-through.

    Of course she also was intellectually vapid and abandoned a professional policy role by drinking the Kool Aid and reveling in her brief halcyon moment as ‘Warrior Princess’. As we’ve noted here and STSOZ 1.0 at length in 2005 and 2006 she was still babbling about ‘transformational’ and ‘expeditionary’ diplomacy, I mean, after all while, one can’t make it up. She never even knew how to manage the State apparatus and was despised across the bureaucracy for vapidity and her Agitprop as substance mindset. Zelikow, her protector at the 9/11 hearings, left because State had no clout under Cher Condi. He also knew she was incapable of policy development and execution.

    An analytical thought piece from a political science perspective or 5 would be welcome — as opposed to simple narrative journo-history. We’ve toyed with the idea of spending some time at the National Archives and follow-up interviews to do just that.

    One can only imagine the calamity if she became NFL Commissioner.

  11. Anon says

    We had just tuned on Wolf on CNN and he was posing this question: Did OBama offend Britain? Then he had on this British conservative from the Heritage Foundation saying something to that effect – But it was just a teaser – They are making us wait to find out what Obama supposedly said – This whole thing is a tiresome gimmic for cable news – making you wait for trivia – But we have little doubt that Obama, no matter what he did or did not do, is still far more popular with Brits than anyone at the Heritage F. Heritage really wants the US to be the British Empire anyway –
    But it’s also annoying that they have someone on TV from Heritage who claims to speak for the Brits when he does not come close to representing a typical Brit.

  12. Anon says

    Crowely’s reporting style is already a bit dated – and he’s young. He along with some others like Tapper and a few others write a lot about personality, career arc, image, and trivia. Lump them in with Dowd’s etc.

    This is all gonna fade out IMO as the late stage decadence of insider media gets squeezed out be age and economics.

  13. Anon says

    As you know Doc – this site was probably the only place where the idea Dubya would not pardon Scooter was considered – It caught the DC establishment be complete surprise – We heard that Bob Woodward looked wounded when he heard the news. Be we did speculate about the possibility – We thought it Scooter was in trouble because the way the whole case seemed to pin W between himself and his Dad – since his Dad had honored Wilson for his handling of the Iraq stuff in 1991. This was only one factor, IMO – But Dubya must have been annoyed to find himself pinned between Team Scooter and his Dad’s legacy on something he considered peripheral – \
    and reflected poorly on him vs his Dad. It had sullied
    the ‘victory’ that he had over his Dad re Iraq. It also
    pit the some of the Agency against him.
    Cheney said it was miscarriage of Justice – But he won’t say how or why.
    The whole thing was a rare victory against the forces of evil that worked out of Cheney’s office. Wilson was a hero in spite of himself. We think Wilson’s personality and presumptuousness provoked Cheney and his ilk to lash out.
    Recall that demented full court Movement propaganda campaign? Against this two-bit affair? Byron York et al spewing bilious garbage – Di Genova’s wife etc.

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