Tag Archives: Hillary Clinton

Why Smart Power matters

America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America. The best way to advance America’s interest in reducing global threats and seizing global opportunities is to design and implement global solutions. This isn’t a philosophical point. This is our reality.

The president-elect and I believe that foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology. On facts and evidence, not emotion or prejudice. Our security, our vitality, and our ability to lead in today’s world oblige us to recognize the overwhelming fact of our interdependence.

I believe that American leadership has been wanting, but is still wanted. We must use what has been called “smart power,” the full range of tools at our disposal — diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural — picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy. This is not a radical idea. The ancient Roman poet Terence, who was born a slave and rose to become one of the great voices of his time, declared that “in every endeavor, the seemly course for wise men is to try persuasion first.” The same truth binds wise women as well.

– Hillary Clinton, January 13th, 2009

During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hillary Clinton used the term “Smart Power” no less than 12 times. It is a clever term, one that seeks to navigate between the Hard Power of military might and economic coercion, with the Soft Power of ideology, culture and agenda setting. Does the term signal something new in US foreign policy? Depends on your time frame. Without a doubt it marks the end of the George W. Bush foreign policy era. Clearly the blustery swagger of a shoot first, ask question later has ended. This is a United States that will be more cautious and more engaging. But rather than the start of something new, Smart Power likely signals a return to the Bill Clinton and Bush Sr. era of foreign policy. Indeed, as important as the term Smart Power was, the focus should lie not on the term, but on the revealing paragraph leading up to it:

“The president-elect and I believe that foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology. On facts and evidence, not emotion or prejudice. Our security, our vitality, and our ability to lead in today’s world oblige us to recognize the overwhelming fact of our interdependence.”

Here the guiding principles behind the shift to Smart Power are revealed. Two strike me as paramount. The first reaffirms what I think will be the buzz word of the Obama administration: pragmatism. Despite his soaring speeches and inspiring words Obama is first and foremost interested in achieving the possible – stretch goals are fine – but ideological dreams are not for him. Second, in this speech, the United States’ next Secretary of State signalled to the world that it once again recognizes it cannot go it alone. The acknowledgement of interdependence is the antithesis of “you are with us or against us.” It is an recognition that allies – real allies, not the minnow states bullied into participation – are required to sustain and enhance the stability and prosperity of the international system. Bush Sr. understood this when creating his coalition for the first Gulf War, Clinton sought, insofar as possible, to build similar agreement when advancing his international agenda.

These have two dramatic impacts for Canada – and other countries. The first is that we should expect the Americans will ask us what we think – our advice or thoughts may not change their opinions, but we will likely be asked and when that happens, we’d better have something smart and meaningful to contribute. Second, the opportunity of being consulted comes with it the responsibility to contribute and support, even when the decision or strategy isn’t one that we completely agree with. When you’ve been part of the discussion you can walk away when the rubber hits the road. Third, those who have a well thought out plan for solving a problem will win out over those who have grievances to share. Demonstrate to this administration that you can solve a problem through realizable actions and I suspect they will listen and support you.

For Canadians nowhere is this change in attitude possible more important than on the management of the Canadian Border. I would have a new briefing plan of how we believe the border should be managed ready and waiting for when Clinton or Obama’s first arrives in Ottawa. If the Obama administration acts as it talks, I suspect it will reward and seek out, not those who do as it says, but those who solve the problems they care about. This is a welcome return to the diplomacy of the 1990’s which was also cautious and smart. It was also a good period for Canadian-American relations.

Canadians have spent years hoping the Americans will change. Now that they have, are we ready?

Why does Kinsella support Obama?

So I’ve just finished Kinsella’s new book – The War Room – which I thoroughly enjoyed, but not for the reasons I thought I would (more on that in another post).

I find it interesting that Kinsella is an Obama fan, and that he’s been one since early on (e.g. long before Hillary went off the deep end and her campaign started imploding). After finishing his book I was even more surprised. Here’s why:

First – Kinsella’s fighter:

Kinsella is the ultimate Canadian political fighter (second to Chretien, I’m sure he’d add). As his book testifies, he’s unafraid to pull out the brass knuckles and pummel his opponent. But which Presidential aspirant does that sounds like? Who talks about beating up Republicans, of the dangers of ones political opponents? No one is more partisan, nor more of a scrapper, than Hillary. She’s practically remolded her campaign around the notion that she is a “fighter.”

It doesn’t stop there though. Not only is Kinsella a fighter, he’s also not a believer in any type of “new politics” – such as that advocated by Obama. In his book’s intro he states (page 27):

“So they [politicians] will make soothing noises about the need to “do politics differently” and to avoid “the old politics” (or what has been called “the politics of personal destruction”). They make these disclaimers because they know it is what the voting public wants to hear (even if it isn’t what the voting public necessairly believes, but more on that later). Watching them, you would think such politicos would seldom utter a discouraging word about anyone.
But that is a pile of crap.”

Given that Obama talks regularly of how people are tired of the politics of division, does Kinsella think this is all a clever ruse?  Either way, I’d have put him squarely in the Hillary camp (on a philosophical level at least).

Second – her war room runs like his war room:

To my (untrained and unsophisticated) eye, Obama campaign conducts itself in manner counter to the approaches Kinsella argues for in his book. This is in contrast to the Clinton war room, which hits back hard and fast at any opportunity.

(I’d love to hear Kinsella’s take on the Obama war room – I’m pretty sure my blog will never get on his radar but with luck he’ll blog about the democrates respective war rooms). For example on page 90 Kinsella shares the rule “Leave No Charge Unanswered:”

Any critical statement offered up by a reporter or the other side, no matter how imbecilic or nonsensical it may seem at first blush, must be taken seriously, and pronto. If the charge appears to be getting ready to blast off into the political stratosphere, fight back.

Again, unlike the Clinton campaign, the Obama campaign appears to ignore this rule on some occasions. On numerous points through out this campaign the Hillary camp has claimed to have won the popular vote, the states that count, and criticaldemographics. Often, the Obama camp does not seem to hit back, or at least hit back hard. (This strategy frustrated me enormously a few months ago) Indeed, on occasion they’ve been near silent – especially on the charge that Hillary has won the popular vote. There is rarely a counter-quote from the Obama campaign team in articles about Hillary making this claim (especially on CNN).

Finally – Legitimate Policy differences:

While there are few legitimate policy differences between Hillary and Obama, one area where people are concerned there might be differences is over Israel and Middle East policies. In his book Kinsella self-identifies himself as a ZIonist… and if any candidate can be defined as pro-Israel it is Hillary Clinton. Indeed, this one part of the Democratic Party that Obama has been working hard to assuage.

That, and the fact the (like me) Kinsella is a huge fan of Carville and Bill Clinton (and unlike me, Begala) I would have landed Kinsella squarely in the Hillary camp.

In sum:

Obviously, these are only 3 of thousands of reasons why anyone might choose to support one of the nominees. As an Obama supporter I’m pretty pleased that Kinsella is a fan as well. It’s just that his book has left me more puzzled, not less, about why he’s a supporter. I’d be interested to know what Kinsella thinks the Obama campaign has done effectively, and what it has done poorly, and if he thinks Obama is going to redefine politics, or if he’s a just a brilliant new spin on an old theme.

Young, left and voting

As we all know young people don’t vote. That’s why these charts shouldn’t surprise anyone… right?

(These charts are stolen from the New Politics Institute).

But don’t worry, You may soon be able to retreat to the old stereotype of the apathetic young voter since Hillary Clinton is doing everything she can to turn this new generation of democrats off of politics all together.

What happened to Ibbitson?

The Globe’s John Ibbitson has always been one of my favourite columnists – Paul Wells may capture the politics of Ottawa best, but Ibbitson got and wrote most effectively on the issues, challenges and tensions that drove public policy in the capital. For a policy junkies like myself his Globe column was a daily must read.

This is why I’ve been unsure how to approach his coverage of the US primaries.

Firstly, and very much forgivable, he read the whole thing wrong when, back in October he pronounced that:

No, we’re not declaring that the New York senator has as good as won the 2008 presidential election. Anything can happen in politics, and anything usually does. But Ms. Clinton is the leading candidate, in both the Democratic and the Republican campaigns: Her own nomination is virtually assured… (Italics mine)

As stated above, many people believed that Obama would never go anywhere (except, of course, us Obama fans – in part out of blind faith and in part out of a belief that because many independents view Hillary as unelectable democrats would not easily nominate her).

But more recently there have been stories that haven’t jived with what I’ve been reading in the US papers. Take for example, yesterday’s article entitled Can his money trump her machine in the most expensive primary yet?. Which, I believe, misrepresents the dynamics of the race. The best example of this is in the 4th paragraph:

It all comes down to organization. Who can get out more of their vote? The answer reveals a simple but profound difference between the Obama and Clinton campaigns. In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, he has the money; she has the machine. (my italics)

The analysis is correct – the machine often matters more than money – the problem is that few American commentaries agree with that assessment. From everything I’ve read in the US press the broad consensus is that Obama’s machine has been more effective and better organized (according to Time Magazine, The International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, as well as Chris Tucker and Chris Matthews of MSNBC. Indeed, the one exception to this is New Hampshire where pretty much everyone agreed Clinton had a better organization.)

Obama’s superior organization accounts for why he’s dominated the caucuses (where organization matters most) and why, earlier on in the primary season, when Hillary had the money, he was still able to compete. Things may have shifted and Hillary may now have the superior machine, but I’ve not read that elsewhere. She clearly does have deeper roots into the party – but this is a different matter and not the same thing as an organization. (Interestingly, one reason her machine may be weak is that she may have counted on her party connections and a media blitz funded by her initial financial advantage to enable her to crush her opponents quickly, causing her to underinvest in a national organization.)

Clinton’s lead in Pennsylvania has far more to do with the fact that it simply has more voters she appeals to: white, middle-aged and baby boomer, blue collar workers. If anything, Pennsylvania was designed for Clinton (just like North Carolina is designed for Obama). The problem is, she may only barely beat him in Pennsylvania, whereas he’ll thump her in North Carolina.

Which brings us to the final part of this piece – don’t expect Clinton to move on, even with a win. Machines may matter more than money, but you’ve got to at least have some dough. If Clinton doesn’t win big in Pennsylvania, she may (but may not!) hobble into Indiana and North Carolina. Either way she simply won’t have the resources to go beyond that barring some catastrophic failure on the part of the Obama campaign.

This campaign is probably over. All Obama has to do is sit back and be quiet. Above all, don’t say a word about Clinton – if he’s seen to be trying to muscle her out he’ll look bad. Let her either get there on her own, or let the party establishment do the work for him. I’m hoping Ibbitson’s next column is about Obama vs. McCain!

Clinton can't have it both ways on democracy and delegates

So Hillary Clinton has spent the last 3 months talking about how Michigan and Florida should be seated because”their votes should count.” It is important that these states, and their voters, be represented at the convention in Denver.

Now she’s arguing that pledged delegates – those delegates that were allocated by the outcomes of the caucuses and primaries – are not bound to abide by the election results that earned them their seat at the convention.

“Every delegate with very few exceptions is free to make up his or her mind however they choose,” Clinton told Time’s Mark Halperin in an interview published Wednesday.

So just to make sure we get this straight: it is important that democracy happen – especially in Florida and Michigan – but it is okay if the elected delegates violate that democratic process by not voting for the candidate they were elected to vote for. And this is democratic because…

…it isn’t.

For Canadians this simple translation is this: Clinton wants to encourage delegates to be like David Emerson. To get elected for supporting one party/candidate and then to switch sides immediately following the election. It is appalling position and undermines the very notion of democracy. While her concern over the Michigan and Florida delegates was never genuine (just look at her remarks back in New Hampshire and Iowa) this only serves to further confirm what many of us fear – Clinton is willing to trade in any principle in order to win. It’s hard to be inspired by that.

Why Hillary can't stick the Daily Show

For those that missed it, Hillary Clinton dropped in – via satellite – for two thirds of the Daily Show last night (US readers click here).

On the one hand this was a clever (or desperate?) move by Hillary. It was an opportunity for her to look young and hip to older voters, and possibly even cleave into one of Obama’s core constituencies – America’s youth. Remember, this is a candidate who picked up 11% of the youth vote in Iowa. Contrast that to Obama’s 57%.On the other hand, the Jon Stewart interview revealed why Hillary can’t dent this demographic. Jon Stewart almost only lobs softball questions to politicians on his show. But that doesn’t mean being a guest is easy. To pull off a Daily Show appearance an interviewee must be prepared to a) be themsleves; b) concede that the circus exists and c) admit to their role in said circus.

Take for example this exchange during McCain’s interview on the Daily Show after he announced he would be giving the commencement speech at Liberty University (the right wing, born again college founded by Dr. Jerry Falwell). 

Stewart: You’re not freaking out on us? Are you freaking out on us? Because if you’re freaking out and you’re going into the crazy base world — are you going into crazy base world?

McCain: I’m afraid so.

Stewart: All right, sir. You know we have great regard for you here, and I hope you know what you’re doing there, I trust that you do. When you see Falwell, do you feel nervous, do you have vomit in the back of your throat — what does it feel like?

McCain: No, but I’ll give him your love.

Essentially, Stewart calls out McCain for pandering to the worst part of the Republican party – and McCain basically concedes “Yes, but I have to do it.” This type of authenticity (I can almost feel Andrew Potter breathing down my neck right now) plays well with young voters. As the most media savvy generation they know the candidates have to jump through all sorts of stupid hoops. If the candidates aren’t going to stand on principle and not do it, they should at least admit they are playing the game.

Sadly, this is not how Hillary played the Daily Show. Instead she stayed scripted to the end and never strayed from her lines. Nor did she seem human. Instead she was just another politician too scared to be personable and too controlling to do anything but campaign in the traditional sense for the audiences votes. This is not a critique of that style per say, but it is exactly the type of performance that makes Hillary unappealing to the young viewers who watch the Daily Show.

Check out the comments section of the Indecision 2008 website. By and large, these young Daily Show viewers were not impressed.

Maybe Hillary will win today,  but if she does, I’m fairly certain her performance last night will have had nothing to do with it.

As an aside, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my main man Beltzner who saved this post from being an unthinking ramble.

Hillary Clinton reads Canada25…

… no really! (ok, maybe not, but at least great minds think alike!).

In a recent speech Hillary Clinton announced that, as president, she would seek to establish an “E8” summit that would include India and China and which would aim to tackle global warming and work towards energy security.

Establishing an “E8” to Speed Global Action to Address Climate Change: Hillary would invite the G8 nations and key developing countries to join the United States in establishing an “E8.” This group would be comprised of the world’s major carbon-emitting nations, and would hold an annual summit devoted to international ecological and resource issues — global warming foremost among them. The E8 would not be a substitute for the United Nations effort to forge a global climate agreement, but rather would streamline negotiations among major emitters and would serve as a catalyst for the larger effort. The group would include the United States, Canada, Mexico, the European Union, China, Russia, Japan, India, South Africa, and Brazil.”

Hillary Clinton’s Comprehensive Energy and Climate Plan

In From Middle to Model Power Canada25 articulated a similar recommendation:

“Establish an E-8: a forum for creating policy and technological solutions to environmental challenges

The federal government, led by the Ministry of Industry, and working in collaboration with other relevant government agencies, should co-found an E-8. This organization would provide a venue where environmentally progressive countries such as Sweden and Germany could work with important emerging partners, such as India, Brazil, and China.
It’s purpose would be to provide a forum to share, debate, and jointly develop policy and technological solutions to our world’s environmental challenges.

Some of the significant issues the E-8 might engage include:

  • Developing and disseminating best practice techniques for ecological fiscal reform policies (such as the new emissions/congestion charges implemented in London, UK)
  • Sharing lessons regarding emissions trading systems to reduce harmful pollutants and greenhouse gases
  • Joint research and implementation projects to increase the use of renewable energy technologies
  • Development of common standards for eco-labelling and extended producer responsibility programs for the electronic and automotive industries

Attended by industry, finance, and environment ministers from participating countries, the E-8 would not only elevate the importance of the environment on the world stage, it would also allow for an exchange of ideas, promotion of higher environmental standards and practices, and a pooling of financial and technological expertise and knowledge. This organization could also coordinate the various strengths of member countries to create new technologies as well as enable developing countries to quickly add to their knowledge base and capacity.”

They aren’t identical – but there are some similarities and the branding… well it might have been ripped right out of M2mP.

Thank you Jord G. for the tip!

Why the US isn't leaving Iraq – even under Hillary

Just read the three powerful paragraphs below off the recent Strafor report. Damning stuff. It suggests the prospect of the US concentrating forces in Afghanistan are slight as Iraq will continue to tie them down for the next several years. Moreover, if there was ever any doubt, it should now be erased: the Neo-cons have created a geopolitical disaster that makes Vietnam look minor. The US had few tangible interests in Vietnam – in Iraq it has to worry about the stability of global oil supply.

“After years of organizational chaos, the United States has simplified its plan for Iraq: Prevent Iran from becoming a regional hegemon. Once-lofty thoughts of forging a democracy in general or supporting a particular government were abandoned in Washington well before the congressional testimony of Gen. David Petraeus. Reconstruction is on the back burner and even oil is now an afterthought at best. The entirety of American policy has been stripped down to a single thought: Iran.

That thought is now broadly held throughout not only the Bush administration but also the American intelligence and defense communities. It is not an unreasonable position. An American exodus from Iraq would allow Iran to leverage its allies in Iraq’s Shiite South to eventually gain control of most of Iraq. Iran’s influence also extends to significant Shiite communities on the Persian Gulf’s western oil-rich shore. Without U.S. forces blocking the Iranians, the military incompetence of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar could be perceived by the Iranians as an invitation to conquer that shore. That would land roughly 20 million barrels per day of global oil output — about one-quarter of the global total — under Tehran’s control. Rhetoric aside, an outcome such as this would push any U.S. president into a broad regional war to prevent a hostile power from shutting off the global economic pulse.

So the United States, for better or worse, is in Iraq for the long haul. This requires some strategy for dealing with the other power with the most influence in the country, Iran. This, in turn, leaves the United States with two options: It can simply attempt to run Iraq as a protectorate forever, a singularly unappealing option, or it can attempt to strike a deal with Iran on the issue of Iraq — and find some way to share influence.”

Apparently there is something worse than a contained Saddam Hussain in Iraq. An uncontained Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran.