The Red Phone Farce

After Hillary Clinton released her "Red Phone" ad today (on the Vodpod to the right, along with Obama’s response ad) John Dickerson of Slate asks the Clinton campaign on its conference call today:

"What foreign policy moment would you point to in Hillary’s career where
she’s been tested by crisis?"

You can listen to the question and answer on Matt Yglesia’s blog, but here’s what he had to say:

After an uncomfortably long moment during
which neither Mark Penn, Howard Wolfson and Lee Feinstein have anything
to say, and then Lee Feinstein tries to step in with a save and starts
talking about Clinton’s endorsement by high-level military officials.

Feinstein, the campaign’s foreign policy guy, is making the best of a
bad situation here. But the more strictly political people walked into
a debacle. How could they go forward with that ad without having a good
answer to the question on hand? It’s inept in the extreme.

It’s inept but not surprising. Because Senator Clinton hasn’t had some experience where she was tested by some foreign policy crisis. I’ve read every major book on the Clinton presidency out there, and don’t know of any point where she played some critical role in the Situation Room at the White House during some key crisis — Somalia, the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, the bombing of the Cole.


Indeed, as Patrick Healy pointed out in the NY Times months ago:

But during those two terms in the White House, Mrs. Clinton did not hold a security clearance. She did not attend National Security Council
meetings. She was not given a copy of the president’s daily
intelligence briefing. She did not assert herself on the crises in
Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda.

And during one of President Bill Clinton’s
major tests on terrorism, whether to bomb Afghanistan and Sudan in
1998, Mrs. Clinton was barely speaking to her husband, let alone
advising him, as the Lewinsky scandal sizzled.

Sure, she saw the President up close during many of these crises, after he emerged from the Situation Room. But it’s arguable that Sandy Berger, Leon Panetta, George Stephanopolous, John Podesta, Erskine Bowles, Madeleine Albright, Tony Lake, Warren Christopher, and dozens of other senior advisers to Bill Clinton played a much greater role during the biggest crises in the 1990s than she ever did.