Today is Hillary Rodham Clinton's last day as Secretary of
State. She's been receiving mostly
accolades for her service, including considerable praise from President Obama
in a recent joint televised interview. But with the exception of the mean-spirited
and highly partisan grilling she got from a congressional committee over
Benghazi, most of the interviews I've seen have been pretty gentle
affairs. I've sufficient respect for
Secretary Clinton's talents and intellect that I'd like to see her take a swing
at a few fastballs.
In that spirit, here are my Top Ten Tough Questions for
#1. You have said that
your "biggest regret" during your four years of service was the loss of four
American lives during the Benghazi attack. It was a painful event, to be sure, and your regret is understandable,
but aren't there many other events and decisions whose negative consequences
were much greater? Shouldn't we be
focusing more on the loss of American, NATO, and local lives in Afghanistan and
Pakistan, or our inability to bring other conflicts to an end, and not on this
one unhappy occurrence?
#2. You have been widely praised for your tireless travels, logging
more miles than any Secretary of State in our nation's history. It's easy to understand why getting out of
Washington, DC is so tempting, but is all that travel really necessary or
desirable in an era when modern communications would allow you to speak face-to-face
to virtually any world leader anytime you want? Videolinks would even permit you to give speeches and answer questions anywhere in the world, but without having to go there in person. Looking back,
do you think you might have had more influence had you stayed home a bit more?
#3. You have been
justly praised for being a great team player in this administration, something
that many people did not anticipate when you were nominated. At the same time, the Obama White House and
NSC has held the reins on a lot of key foreign policy issues. What foreign policy problems do you wish you
had been given greater authority to handle on your own?
#4. As Secretary, one
of your major initiatives was the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review,
eventually released in 2010. It created
a bit of buzz when it was released, but it seems to have largely disappeared
from the scene. What concrete and
tangible impact has this report had on the conduct of American diplomacy or on
specific policy initiatives in key areas?
#5. At the beginning of his first term, President Obama
appointed "special envoys" to handle thorny foreign policy areas like
Afghanistan/Pakistan, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and North Korea. One of these envoys was the late
Richard Holbrooke, a close personal friend of yours. For various reasons, none of these special
envoys seem to have accomplished very much. What lessons should we draw from this failed experiment? And did having all these independent
operators diminish your authority and ability to craft an overall foreign
#6. U.S. military forces are now organized in various
regional combatant commands, each under a designated regional "commander-in-chief" or
CINC. These regional CINCs have
a vast array of military, intelligence, and other assets at their disposal, and
the resources they can bring to bear far exceed those of the State
Department. For this reason, foreign governments often pay
as much or more attention to the CINCs as they do to the U.S. ambassador, for the
simple reason that the CinCs can do more for or against them. Here's my question: if you were an ambitious young person who
wanted to make a mark on U.S. foreign policy, why go to a nice
four-year college and then join the Foreign Service? Wouldn't it make more sense to go to West
Point, Annapolis, or Colorado Springs and try to become a senior military leader instead?
#7. One of your
signature issues has been the advancement and empowerment of women, and your
efforts on this issue have won you enormous praise both here in the United
States and in many other countries. Given your strong convictions on this issue, are you sorry that you are
being succeeded by a wealthy white male, that the Pentagon will also be led by
another white male, and that there are hardly any women in top foreign policy
jobs in Obama's second-term team? Did
you ever raise this issue with the President, and if so, what did he say?
#8. You have made it
clear that you strongly support former Senator Chuck Hagel's nomination as
Secretary of Defense. What did you think of the Senate Armed
Services' Committee grilling of him yesterday? Was it appropriate for them to talk incessantly
about Israel, and to ignore most of the key problems that he will face as
SecDef? Why do you think the
Senators -- including your successor, Kirsten Gillibrand -- acted in this way, and what do you think foreign governments thought as they watched the circus?
#9. What is one aspect of world politics and America's global
role that you believe most Americans do not understand? If you could magically change one thing that
most Americans believe about the rest of the world and its relationship with
us, what would it be?
#10. What do you
regard as your single greatest achievement as Secretary of State? And if you could have one "do-over" -- apart from
Benghazi -- what would it be?
Secretary Clinton is a seasoned pol by this point, and I'm sure she'd find a way to dodge some of those queries. But what if we put her on truth serum first...?
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