Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Missing In Action: The Political Courage of Hillary Clinton

Maybe you missed this news item:

CARACAS, Venezuela - The American singer and activist Harry Belafonte called President Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world” on Sunday and said millions of Americans support the socialist revolution of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Belafonte led a delegation of Americans including the actor Danny Glover and the Princeton University scholar Cornel West that met the Venezuelan president for more than six hours late Saturday. Some in the group attended Chavez’s television and radio broadcast Sunday.

“No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says, we’re here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people ... support your revolution,” Belafonte told Chavez during the broadcast.

Last Thursday Senator Hillary Clinton had an opportunity to respond to Belafonte's remarks, as she and he were both on the program at a Childrens' Defense Fund luncheon in New York City's Rainbow Room. What did she do? Well, according to this story, she pretended Belafonte was not there and made sure she remained at least 15 feet away from him the entire time.

Here's what she might have said:

It's no secret that I have deep concerns about the Administration's prosecution of foreign policy, especially the war in Iraq. Our intelligence was shamefully poor and the post-war planning was beneath the level we have a right to expect from the United States. I will continue to work to bring better focus to our country's efforts there.

All that aside, I must also express my concerns about the statements some of our fellow Americans are making about our country. I have long admired Harry Belafonte and enjoy his music; he is a great American. But calling the President of the United States "the greatest tyrant in the world" and "the greatest terrorist in the world" is beneath Harry; he should not have said those things, especially while visiting a foreign country whose leader is hostile to the United States. We all feel strongly about these very controversial issues, but we must be responsible in our discussion of them. Say what you will about President Bush, but he is neither a tyrant nor a terrorist.
I think this is a no-brainer, the type of "Sister Souljah moment" that Real Clear Politics thinks Ms. Clinton needs to seize. Yes, such a statement would have started a civil war among the Democrats-- a war that political party probably needs to have. But it would also have given Senator Clinton true standing as a courageous Democrat and a true moderate. (How could John Kerry criticize her-- by arguing that Harry Belafonte was right to call Bush names while in Venezuela?) She would have instantly positioned herself to win the general election in 2008.

But I wonder if she has (a) the political dexterity and (b) the innate courage necessary to pull off such a "moment." Clearly her husband did; I suspect she does not. It will be interesting to see, as 2008 approaches, whether she steps up to similar opportunities as they arise.

6 Comments:

Anonymous BlueBuffoon said...

I assume that you are not holding your breath for Senator Clinton to speak out. 

Posted by BlueBuffoon

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous amr said...

I believe Mrs. Clinton has a lack of political dexterity. If you remember her campaign, no one could get close to her to ask questions. She may have never had to handle a frank puiblic discussion of a problem/event. Everyone seems to defer to her. Similar to the modern theory of child-raising, she is not placed in a position to fail; i.e. she hasn't learned to dance properly in the political world. It will be interesting if she ever has an actual political challenger with some brass. 

Posted by amr

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 9:01:00 PM  
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