In 2008, Hillary Clinton sought to exploit Barack Obama’s limited foreign policy experience by claiming she was more fit to answer a 3 a.m. phone call announcing some crisis, but her national security judgments continue to demonstrate serious weaknesses and fail to meet her own standard, writes Bart Gruzalski.
By Bart Gruzalski
Journalist Robert Parry in a recent piece on Hillary Clinton shows us that she has moved to the right of President Barack Obama and is actively courting the support of neocons while operating within the Beltway’s foreign policy consensus:
“Clinton is rolling the dice in the belief that most Democrats won’t think through the fallacious ‘group thinks’ of Official Washington or will at least be scared and confused enough to steer away from [Sen. Bernie] Sanders. That way, Clinton believes she can still win the nomination.”Not that this is entirely new. Clinton’s attempts to project a commander-in-chief toughness began during her 2008 primary fight against Obama, but her own famous ad from eight years ago gives us a criterion for POTUS that she fails to satisfy.
To underscore doubts about Obama’s readiness to be president, Hillary Clinton’s team created an ingenious ad that played on the fear factor while emphasizing her experience with military issues and with foreign leaders. As a phone rings in the background, we hear a male voice:
“It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call: Whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders, knows the military someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world. It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?”
The visuals begin with the image of a suburban middle-class house, then quickly fades to images of one child after another asleep. A parent opens a door and looks down as the male voice ends with the question above: “Who do you want answering the phone?” The final image is Hillary Clinton wearing a brown business-suit and glasses, picking up the phone: “I’m Hillary Clinton and I approve of this message.”
That ad is not running this election cycle, perhaps for good reason. Hillary Clinton has demonstrated that she is not a person with good enough judgment to answer a 3 a.m. phone call.
Administrative Bad Judgment
For instance, Hillary Clinton has told us that none of her Secretary of State emails were classified. Yet on Jan. 19, the intelligence community’s inspector general Charles McCullough responded to inquiries from Senate committees overseeing intelligence matters, saying that some of Clinton’s emails contained sensitive information above “top secret.”
“Several dozen additional classified emails have been found,” he reported, “including ones containing information from so-called ‘special access programs.’” The emails about special access programs were so sensitive that “McCullough and some of his aides had to receive clearance” to review the material.
Hillary Clinton’s hair-splitting distinction between what was labeled or marked “classified” at the time and what was in fact so sensitive that it deserved a “top secret” stamp (or higher) is irrelevant, for negligence is not a defense when it comes to national security information.
As Secretary of State, Clinton should have realized that some emails sent to her would contain highly sensitive information, even when it was not labeled that way. Her failure to use a secure government server reflects very bad judgment for a person wanting to make decisions about how the U.S. government should respond to 3 a.m. crises “happening in the world.”
Jennifer Palmieri, communications director for the Clinton campaign in November, inadvertently confirmed her boss’ lousy judgment. Palmieri appeared on Bloomberg TV and said “that Clinton ‘didn’t really think it through’ when she decided to use her personal email account for State Department business.”
Political Bad Judgment
But the email brouhaha is not the only significant example of Clinton showing poor judgment. (Arguably far worse, she has admitted to a “mistake” in voting for the Iraq War, which some foreign policy analysts consider the worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history).
Also, on a personal level, seeking to burnish her image as a tough and seasoned player on the world stage, she began a foreign policy address at George Washington University on March 17, 2008, by describing her landing in Bosnia during that country’s civil war:
“I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base. There was no greeting ceremony, and we were basically told to run to our cars. Now, that is what happened.”
Clinton later said she misspoke after CBS released the video of her, with daughter Chelsea, greeting dignitaries, receiving flowers, and visiting with a little girl on the tarmac. For Clinton to tell her dramatic tale about her Bosnian tarmac experience when she should have realized that major news agencies had visual records is another instance of very bad judgment.
This also was not a one-off slip-up that Bill Clinton blamed on her being 60 years old and tired (which should raise another red flag since she is now eight years older). She had been repeating versions of the story since December 2007.
So who should answer that urgent 3 a.m. White House phone call? Should it be someone who has exercised seriously bad judgment as a U.S. senator and as Secretary of State as well as verifiably bad judgment in the political arena? Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s war candidate, has hoisted herself on her own petard.
Bart Gruzalski, Professor Emeritus Northeastern University Boston, has published three books, over 50 articles, as well as articles online. Prior to the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, he traveled the country criticizing the Bush-43 administration’s bellicose position and articulating a nonviolent solution to terrorism based on his book on Gandhi.