Published January 28, 2013
She came, she cried, she conquered, proving it will take more than a lethal terror attack on her watch to sink the unsinkable Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Clinton sailed triumphantly through Congress last week on her way out the State Department door, shredding expectations she would face a tough grilling. The cooling breezes from Democratic punkahwallahs and the fearful quaking from Republican wimps turned what should have been riveting revelations about the Benghazi slaughter into a day of air balls.
The highlights of her appearances — Clinton’s teary eyes over the deaths and furious “What difference does it make?” outburst — mattered only because she showed emotion. Otherwise, she was forced to give up nothing except a few hours of her time.
She was all smiles and chipper the next day when she went back to the Senate with her nominated successor, Sen. John Kerry. Her glide out of government, and almost certainly into the 2016 campaign, reached its climax Sunday night when she and President Obama appeared together on “60 Minutes.” There was mutual slobbering praise as the former rivals linked arms in their interview with CBS's Steve Kroft to the permanent profit of both.
The choreographed Hillary Farewell Tour is the latest reminder that Republicans have no answer for the Democrats’ potent brew of identity politics and the cult of celebrity.
No longer a test of performance and results, the political game now is about building a following based on race, gender and other identity markers that are immune to traditional standards of accountability.
Barack Obama wins re-election with one of the more dismal Oval Office records in memory, and Clinton is hailed as a great secretary of state without actually having done anything great.
Obama belongs on Mount Rushmore. If you don’t agree, you’re a racist.
Clinton was a brilliant diplomat. If you don’t agree, you’re a sexist.
The heads-I-win, tails-you-lose nature of Democratic politics these days snuffs out honest debate and competition, but in the short run, it’s an election juggernaut.
And it’s not just Republicans who should worry. As the Democratic Party loses more white men, white male Dems increasingly will face an uphill climb against female and nonwhite primary competitors.
Vice President Joe Biden and Gov. Cuomo, for example, are likely to seek the Dem presidential nomination in four years. If they do, they will be instant underdogs against Clinton. No matter their records and history of pandering to the base, they have no built-in constituency the way Obama did or Clinton does.
Oddly, Clinton concluded soon after losing to Obama in 2008 that she could not challenge him in 2012 because even if she won the nomination, black voters would not show up for her in the general election.
So she traveled the world and kept her mouth shut if she ever disagreed, and is now rewarded with a send-off that smacks of departing royalty. With Obama helping propel her into orbit, she instantly becomes the front-runner for 2016.
But now, while the record is fresh, is the time to apply some inconvenient facts to her tenure at State. A fair reading of the last four years is that America is weaker around the globe, largely by her and Obama’s choice.
Start with the twin terrors of Iran and North Korea. Both are marching toward what they insist will be confrontations with America. While Obama and Clinton tried to stop their nuclear programs with sanctions and, in the case of Iran, sabotage, the policies failed. The confrontation is closer than when the dynamic duo took office.
The Mideast is more of a mess, too, and the policy of turning a smiley face toward the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere is a first-rate disaster in the making. The abandonment of Iraq and the plan to quit Afghanistan undercut hard-won success and risk calamitous defeat.
Syria and Libya prove that leading from behind is not leading at all. Al Qaeda groups are rising throughout Africa. China and Russia show they neither fear nor respect the United States.
As for our friends, important ones like Israel, Poland and Colombia are alarmed. The Saudis are turning to China, and even Canada wonders whether we are reliable.
Finally, this: Can anyone name a country that Obama and Clinton turned from an adversary into a friend? No, you can’t, because there aren’t any. Not one.
But, as Clinton said about Benghazi, what difference does it make? Absolutely none, and that’s her real legacy.
To continue reading Michael Goodwin's column in the New York Post on additional topics including Sen. Diane Feinstein and her proposed gun ban, click here.