Even the right wing applauds Secretary of State Clinton's
One of my friends is a classic Republican: He's a businessman
from a Southern "red state," and a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam
who earned a Silver Star for heroism at Hue. To put it mildly, he's
never been a fan of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Yet he recently called
to acknowledge a conversion like Paul's on the road to Damascus. He
now kind of likes her.
"She's out there doing things ... she's smarter than Bill. If she
was [messing] up, the far right would be all over her and they're
not coming up with anything."
He's got a point. Hillary Clinton, the once-hated first lady,
appears to have hit her stride as secretary of State. The right
wing, even "talk radio," deems her the "good" member of the Obama
The right-wing Republican mantra goes something like this: "If
only the president were more like her. She's pushing him on Iran,
pushing for more troops in Afghanistan. He's wobbly. She's the iron
fist in the velvet glove."
The right is right that Clinton is tough on Iran, but it's wrong
to think that there's much daylight between her and the president.
Clinton has been intolerant of Tehran's dissimulation. As the
administration "hammer," her message is steely: First, Iran must
live up to its nuclear nonproliferation treaty obligations or it
will find itself globally isolated. Second, if Tehran builds nuclear
weapons, it will ignite a nuclear arms race in the Sunni Arab world
with more than a few of the Sunni nukes likely to be pointed at
Shiite Iran, a historic rival.
"Both the president and his secretary knew there was a good
chance Obama's initial outreach to Iran would fail," says a Clinton
aide who sat down with me recently for an interview on condition
that he not be named. But it was part of a long-term calculation.
As the aide explained: "Failure would set us up to pursue the
'pressure track' more effectively ... if Iran didn't respond
affirmatively [on its nuclear program], then you can bring the
hammer down on them with an international consensus you could not
otherwise have created."
Indeed, on May 18, a day after Brazil and Turkey announced a
nuclear fuel deal with Iran, Clinton said she had secured the
support of Russia and China for "strong" new sanctions against Iran.
Clinton may appear to have been born a diplomatic pro, but at
least some of her exemplary patience, discipline, and
professionalism were probably forged on the anvil of some bruising
blows during the eight years of her husband's presidency.
Her battle-tested political savvy may be one reason today's
national security establishment - the State Department, the
Pentagon, and the National Security Council - has shown less
backstabbing, bureaucratic rivalry, or policy contradictions than
I've seen in 45 years of watching Washington. …