Sec. Clinton Hits a Low, Sen. McConnell Follows

WASHINGTON – The battle over Libya just got uglier, including Gadhafi assassination allegations. But it’s the rhetoric of Sec. Clinton and majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell that sheds light on how we got in this mess in the first place.

When Sec. Clinton was first chosen for her job at State some were skeptical she’d have Pres. Obama’s back when it was needed. There was never a doubt in my mind, however, that she would not only be a team player, but one of Pres. Obama’s strongest advocates. It’s who she is, because she knows what a president needs and expects from those inside his administration, especially when he gets himself in trouble.

The rhetorical tactic Clinton uses to make her case on Libya while in Jamaica during a question and answer period, which the State Dept. chose to highlight in a video clip that can’t be embedded, is unbefitting a person of her stature, as she suggests those in Congress questioning Obama on Libya check his or her loyalties.

So I know we live in a hyper-information-centric world right now, and March seems like it’s a decade ago, but by my calendar, it’s only months. And in those months, we have seen an international coalition come together unprecedented between not only NATO, but Arab nations, the Arab League, and the United Nations. This is something that I don’t think anyone could have predicted, but it is a very strong signal as to what the world expects to have happen, and I say with all respect that the Congress is certainly free to raise any questions or objections, and I’m sure I will hear that tomorrow when I testify.

But the bottom line is, whose side are you on? Are you on Qadhafi’s side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been created to support them? For the Obama Administration, the answer to that question is very easy.

This is the type of reprehensible rhetoric that Sen. Clinton abhorred when she was criticizing Pres. George W. Bush. But now that it’s a Democratic president, she hypocritically chooses the cowards way out by challenging critics in a way that she wouldn’t if Obama was a Republican.

It’s always been clear to me that Libya could come back to haunt Pres. Obama and those who helped him make this disastrous decision, which includes Sec. Hillary Clinton, along with Samantha Power and U.N. ambassador Dr. Susan Rice, among others. So, it’s circle the wagons time. People are obviously getting nervous, with TIME magazine showing the dangers as the Libya misadventure drags on.

Even if NATO can accomplish its objective or drives Gadhaffi out, it still doesn’t make Pres. Obama’s decision right or legal.

More from John Burns in the New York Times from earlier this week:

Originally envisaged as lasting a matter of weeks, the air campaign is now into its fourth month. It has seen NATO conduct nearly 12,000 air missions over Libya, about one-third of them involving strikes by bombs or missiles, some of them seemingly intended to kill the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

The airstrikes have virtually obliterated Colonel Qaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya command compound in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, and reduced the fighting capacity of the Libyan forces by about 50 percent, according to Pentagon estimates. But there has been no sign that the Qaddafi government is at risk of crumbling under the pressure, at least not soon.

Much of the pressure NATO is facing over the Libyan operation comes from the dissent within NATO itself, with some member nations saying the campaign has gone beyond the mandate given by a United Nations Security Council resolution in mid-March that approved NATO action to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya and to undertake other missions to protect the country’s civilian population from the Qaddafi forces.

As Clinton’s bookend and to illustrate the political gamesmanship going on from all quarters, let’s also look at Sen. Mitch McConnell’s remarks:

MCCONNELL: The only thing I can tell you at this point is that there are differences. I’m not sure that these kind of differences might not have been there in a more latent form when you had a Republican president. But I do think there is more of a tendency to pull together when the guy in the White House is on your side. So I think some of these views were probably held by some of my members even in the previous administration, but party loyalty tended to mute them. So yeah, I think there are clearly differences and I think a lot of our members, not having a Republican in the White House, feel more free to express their reservations which might have been somewhat muted during the previous administration.

Now you know why Congress and the Executive Branch don’t work like the founders intended, which is why this country is so profoundly screwed up. It’s all petty politics depending on if your side is being hit and is in power or not. Sec. Clinton and Sen. McConnell openly representing the worst of this example in their comments, proving the juvenile leadership being affllicted on foreign policy decisions, among others.

Sec. Clinton is obliged to make her case for Libya however she wants, but diplomatically it’s sheer amateurism to set your sights on critics who expect the Executive Branch to inform Congress when embroiling this country in a military misadventure that isn’t of strategic importance to the United States.

This is what cost her the nomination, as she deferred to George W. Bush, then tried to make up for her vote on Iraq by criticizing him.

Whose side are you on? Sec. Clinton’s got a lot of nerve asking this question to Americans who expect more transparency from the Executive Branch.

To put a finer point on it, Sec. Clinton is wrong.

If Condoleezza Rice had tried this tactic she’d have been flayed in the media and deservedly so.

Sec. Clinton is too smart not to know how this sounds as she sits in Jamaica pontificating about congressional loyalties. Suggesting critics are on the side of Gadhaffi if we believe Pres. Obama operated in an unwise and possibly illegal manner in his decision on Libya is a low for Sec. Clinton.

I’m sure the boss appreciates it and her critics can finally see what I said from the start, which is when Clinton joins a team she’ll defend it against all manner of wrong and embarrassment, even if it costs her credibility. She’s as loyal as they come, sometimes to her own detriment, which is certainly the case here.

Foreign policy became a political football a long time ago. It’s wrong no matter who’s doing it and dangerous to U.S. interests, with both Clinton and McConnell offering examples of amateur statesmanship from the Democratic and Republican benches.

Taylor Marsh is a Washington based political analyst, writer and commentator on national politics, foreign policy, and women in power. A veteran national politics writer, Taylor’s been writing on the web since 1996. She has reported from the White House, been profiled in the Washington Post, The New Republic, and has been seen on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic, as well as on radio across the dial and on satellite, including the BBC. Marsh lives in the Washington, D.C. area. This column is cross posted from her blog.

(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

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  • DaGoat

    All McConnell has done is to pull aside the curtain and admit what has been obvious all along – people cut a president of their own party more slack than they do a president of the opposing party. Both Republicans and Democrats do it and are doing so right now, especially with respect to the use of the military. This is obvious on this website and almost everywhere else. I heard a Gallup poll today saying more Democrats are in favor of the action against Libya than Republicans, the opposite of what you’d expect given that Democrats are traditionally more anti-war. The poll findings reflect the exact mentality McConnell speaks of.

    Do I think that should be the way things are – of course not. I agree with Ms. Marsh that this reflects a detrimental and juvenile mindset, but maybe admitting the problem is part of the solution.

    Clinton’s remarks were ill-conceived although I’m not ready to assign her the cowboy mentality. I think the main point she was making was that the weight of the coalition opinion should clearly eclipse that of the nutty Qadafi, something that most people agree with. Where she erred was in trying to make that the key issue, ignoring other arguments against the action.

  • http://taylormarsh.com TAYLOR MARSH, Guest Voice Columnist

    Hey DaGoat. Not quibbling over Clinton’s “cowboy” status, which I didn’t assign.

    Sec. Clinton’s statement remains a low for her, with her pitch to Dems in Congress simply not enough.

    Pres. Obama’s Libya interventionism is presidential hubris at its worst.

  • DLS

    True about Obama’s hubris, though it may also be yet again being out of touch with the way things really are (as with the US public).

    And: DaGoat is correct about partisan bias and favoritism. It is not limited to politicians, but also to columnists and nowadays, of course, to far-left and rightist talk radio hosts and callers-in, as well as far-left and rightist TV show hosts and guests. Sometimes it’s openly for party, not ideology.

  • DLS

    I’d relish waiting for Obama to say, “Either you’re with us or you’re against us,” but more important is what we continue to wait for, the explanation and justification he owes us all about fighting in Libya.