The Conservative Playbook Against Hillary Clinton

A new book gives a sneak peek of how Republicans will try to define Clinton in 2016.

So many choices.
National Journal
Emma Roller
June 10, 2014, 1:20 a.m.

Hil­lary Clin­ton’s book is out Tues­day, and the me­dia will not stop talk­ing about it des­pite its lack of rev­el­at­ory in­form­a­tion. In fact, the very lack of news con­tained in the book is be­ing used as evid­ence that Hard Choices must be a cam­paign book — a sym­bol­ic token every pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate must of­fer to con­stitu­ents in pa­per­back.

An­oth­er book about Hil­lary Clin­ton was also pub­lished this week, but this one comes from a su­per PAC mak­ing its case against an­oth­er Clin­ton pres­id­ency. On Sunday, the con­ser­vat­ive Amer­ica Rising PAC re­leased its own book on the former first lady, sen­at­or, and sec­ret­ary of State, iron­ic­ally titled Failed Choices.

The ebook is pub­lished by Amer­ica Rising, an op­pos­i­tion re­search or­gan­iz­a­tion set up in 2013 by former Mitt Rom­ney cam­paign man­ager Matt Rhoades and former Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee spokes­men Tim Miller and Joe Pound­er ded­ic­ated to track­ing and (in their words) “ex­pos­ing” Demo­crats, es­pe­cially Hil­lary Clin­ton. The book is 112 pages long — an al­lu­sion to the num­ber of coun­tries Clin­ton vis­ited dur­ing her time as sec­ret­ary of State — and serves as a play­book for how con­ser­vat­ives may at­tack Clin­ton on her for­eign policy re­cord, come 2016.

“At the end of Sec­ret­ary Clin­ton’s ten­ure, there was no re­gion in the world where our al­li­ances were stronger and our en­emies weak­er thanks to Sec­ret­ary Clin­ton’s dip­lomacy,” the e-book’s au­thors write. “In her book and on her pres­id­en­tial cam­paign, she will spin, ex­ag­ger­ate, and lie to try to turn these fail­ures in­to ac­com­plish­ments. But no amount of white­wash­ing or polit­ic­al spin can pro­tect her from her re­cord.”

Be­low: a con­densed set of rules for con­ser­vat­ives who want to cri­ti­cize Clin­ton’s for­eign policy re­cord, and a look at what we can ex­pect to see over the next two years if she does run for pres­id­ent.

Rule #1: Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi

The 2012 ter­ror­ist at­tack at the U.S. Em­bassy in Benghazi has be­come the premi­er scan­dal Re­pub­lic­ans are us­ing to rail against the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. And for them, Clin­ton is at the cen­ter of its heart of dark­ness. This has be­come a Re­pub­lic­an man­tra over the past two years, and while people think Clin­ton bungled the situ­ation in Benghazi, it hasn’t really des­troyed her repu­ta­tion in the way con­ser­vat­ives thought it would. (Re­mem­ber how Chuck Hagel’s re­cord on Is­rael was go­ing to ru­in his chances of be­com­ing De­fense Sec­ret­ary?)

But un­like the pop­u­lar claim among con­ser­vat­ives that Benghazi was a cov­er-up, Amer­ica Rising PAC puts forth a more re­fined ar­gu­ment in its book: Clin­ton put the wheels in mo­tion that even­tu­ally led to the em­bassy at­tack. “It was this un­rav­el­ing of the gov­ern­ment of Libya and the coun­try’s vi­ol­ent des­cent in­to ji­hadist con­trol that serves as the back­drop for the events lead­ing up to the tra­gic ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Benghazi on Septem­ber 11, 2012,” the au­thors write.

The book also cites former De­fense Sec­ret­ary Robert Gates’s mem­oir as proof of Clin­ton’s na­iv­eté about the situ­ation in Libya. Gates didn’t men­tion Clin­ton spe­cific­ally, but wrote, “The ad­voc­ates of mil­it­ary ac­tion ex­pec­ted a short, easy fight. How many times in his­tory had that naïve as­sump­tion been proven wrong?”

And if neither of those points work, there’s al­ways time to quote Clin­ton’s in­fam­ous Benghazi testi­mony. When asked about the State De­part­ment ori­gin­ally at­trib­ut­ing the at­tack to an anti-Muslim video, Clin­ton replied, “What dif­fer­ence, at this point, does it make?” What was meant as an ex­as­per­ated re­sponse to the hear­ing has be­come Clin­ton’s “47 per­cent” mo­ment to con­ser­vat­ives.

Rule #2: “Name one thing “¦ “

When faced with a Hil­lary 2016 sup­port­er, con­ser­vat­ive com­ment­at­ors will in­ev­it­ably de­mand them to “name one thing Hil­lary Clin­ton ac­com­plished as first lady/sen­at­or/sec­ret­ary of State!” (This de­mand shall hence­forth be known as the Krau­tham­mer.) It’s a ques­tion that’s also been asked by Bill Kris­tol, Hugh He­witt, An­drew Sul­li­van, and the con­ser­vat­ive Me­dia Re­search Cen­ter.

A few ex­amples from the book:

  • At a re­cent for­um hos­ted by The New York Times, Thomas Fried­man asked Clin­ton what ac­com­plish­ment she was most proud of as sec­ret­ary of State: “In a long-win­ded re­sponse that ran over two minutes, Clin­ton began by say­ing it was her job only to pass the bat­on, then ticked off a series of ex­cuses but failed to men­tion a single con­crete ac­com­plish­ment” (What Clin­ton ac­tu­ally said was she was rep­res­ent­ing the U.S. around the world while Obama was deal­ing with the re­ces­sion at home, but point taken.)
  • “State De­part­ment Spokes­wo­man Jen Psaki — a top aide on Obama’s reelec­tion cam­paign — was one of the first to be caught in the col­lat­er­al dam­age of ‘what did Clin­ton achieve?’ ques­tion. Pressed re­peatedly to name a single ac­com­plish­ment from Sec­ret­ary Clin­ton’s 2010 Quad­ren­ni­al Strategy Re­view “¦ Psaki came up empty.”
  • Politico ed­it­or Susan Glass­er de­scribed how not even an ‘ar­dent de­fend­er’ of Clin­ton’s could name a single ac­com­plish­ment.”
  • Quot­ing Sul­li­van: “I was hav­ing din­ner with a real Clin­ton fan the oth­er night, and I ac­tu­ally stumped him (and he’s not eas­ily stumped). What have been Hil­lary Clin­ton’s ma­jor, sig­na­ture ac­com­plish­ments in her long ca­reer in pub­lic life?”

It’s a val­id ques­tion, but it’s also overly simplist­ic. Ask­ing for “one thing” that ex­em­pli­fies the suc­cess of U.S. in­ter­na­tion­al dip­lomacy is sort of like ask­ing for the one reas­on the U.S. lost the Vi­et­nam War. And Clin­ton her­self has a re­but­tal; The Wash­ing­ton Post has a good roundup of the achieve­ments she lists in her book.

Rule #3: She’s too weak!

Lib­er­als of­ten de­ride Clin­ton for her hawk­ish­ness, but con­ser­vat­ives see her as a pushover. She can’t win — push too hard and she’s an un­re­lent­ing harpy; try to take a nu­anced ap­proach and she wants Amer­ica to be the world’s doormat.

Failed Choices first links Rus­sia’s tense re­la­tions with the U.S. to the reas­on for the con­tin­ued mas­sacres in Syr­ia. “The Re­set hurt Amer­ica’s stand­ing in the world be­cause it back­fired so badly,” the au­thors write. “It failed to pre­vent in­no­cent Syr­i­ans from be­ing murdered by Rus­si­an weapons. It failed to pro­tect journ­al­ists, gays, and dis­sid­ents from be­ing jailed in Rus­sia.”

The au­thors ar­gue that Clin­ton “heaped praise” on Rus­sia by telling an in­ter­view­er, “We view Rus­sia as a great power.” They gloss over the fact that she went on to com­pare Putin to Hitler. (Putin more re­cently re­tor­ted, “It’s bet­ter not to ar­gue with wo­men.”)

Rule #4: “She’s too ag­gress­ive (against Is­rael)!”

The au­thors of Failed Choices ad­mit that Clin­ton was a “staunchly pro-Is­rael sen­at­or,” but they ar­gue she “be­came a lead­ing crit­ic of Is­rael with­in the ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Their evid­ence for this loss of sup­port for Is­rael? Clin­ton back­tracked on her pledge for an “un­di­vided Jer­u­s­alem,” op­posed show­ing cred­ible force to in­vade Ir­an, and “only” vis­ited Is­rael five times as sec­ret­ary of State. The au­thors point out that, by com­par­is­on, Con­doleezza Rice made 25 trips to Is­rael when she was sec­ret­ary of State. What they don’t point out is that Rice vis­ited 29 few­er coun­tries than Clin­ton, and brokered a deal with Is­rael in 2005 to with­draw from Palestini­an ter­rit­or­ies.

Failed Choices ac­cuses Clin­ton of op­pos­ing new Is­raeli set­tle­ments; Clin­ton, mean­while, says she “ex­pressed quiet re­ser­va­tions” about Obama’s pro­pos­al to stop Is­rael­is from build­ing new set­tle­ments. The most petty claim in Failed Choices is that un­named Is­raeli of­fi­cials were “un­happy about be­ing left out” of a con­fer­ence hos­ted in Tur­key on coun­terter­ror­ism.

None of these ac­cus­a­tions ex­actly make Clin­ton a Friend of Hamas, but in 2016, Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats will seek suc­cor from pro-Is­rael voters — and donors. It’s im­port­ant to keep up ap­pear­ances.

Rule #5: Clin­ton Inc.

Paint­ing Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton as a well-heeled polit­ic­al dyn­asty is noth­ing new. But in Failed Choices, the au­thors go bey­ond that de­pic­tion, call­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton a “sales­per­son for se­lect U.S. busi­ness in­terests” by us­ing “eco­nom­ic state­craft.”

The au­thors high­light a few shady deals, im­ply­ing pay-to-play. Huma Abedin, a long­time Clin­ton aide (and An­thony Wein­er’s long-suf­fer­ing spouse), did not dis­close that she worked for the con­sult­ing firm Teneo while she was still work­ing for Clin­ton. Though no real foul play came to light, con­ser­vat­ives would love for Teneo to be­come for Clin­ton what Solyn­dra was to Barack Obama, or GreenTech Auto­mot­ive was to Vir­gin­ia Gov. Terry McAul­iffe (a close friend of the Clin­tons). Still, it’s good to re­mem­ber that both Obama and McAul­iffe won their re­spect­ive elec­tions.

The book also notes that Boe­ing donated $2 mil­lion to a Shang­hai Expo, pos­sibly vi­ol­at­ing the State De­part­ment’s code of eth­ics. The de­fense com­pany also donated $900,000 to the Clin­ton Found­a­tion in 2010.

Boe­ing isn’t the only big-name con­tract­or the book goes after; an­oth­er one is a name you may not have heard in awhile: Black­wa­ter. Des­pite Clin­ton’s pledge to ban Black­wa­ter from gov­ern­ment con­tracts when she ran for pres­id­ent in 2008, the State De­part­ment con­tin­ued to em­ploy the com­pany (after it changed its name to Aca­demi). It’s an in­ter­est­ing tac­tic: If any­thing, Re­pub­lic­ans should be try­ing to tie Clin­ton to George W. Bush — not Obama — to irk pro­gress­ive voters. Groups like Amer­ica Rising don’t ex­actly need to make the case to fel­low con­ser­vat­ives to hate Clin­ton.

Failed Choices is a good coun­ter­point to Hard Choices, in that they spin in op­pos­ite dir­ec­tions. If you were to read them both, you’d prob­ably get a nearly com­plete pic­ture of Clin­ton’s re­cent polit­ic­al struggles. But then again, why would you want to do that to your­self?

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 5017) }}

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
ARE YOU THE GATEKEEPER?
Sanders: Obama Is a Progressive
1 days ago
THE LATEST

“Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yeah, I do,” said Bernie Sanders, in response to a direct question in tonight’s debate. “I think they’ve done a great job.” But Hillary Clinton wasn’t content to sit out the latest chapter in the great debate over the definition of progressivism. “In your definition, with you being the gatekeeper of progressivism, I don’t think anyone else fits that definition,” she told Sanders.

×