Natalia J. Garland
Friends? Obama and Clinton? Who could guess it judging by their
criticisms and ridicule of each other during the 2008 presidential
primaries? Asking Senator Hillary Clinton to serve as Secretary
of State was the most astounding cabinet appointment made by
President-elect Obama. Both Democrats and Republicans struggled
to make sense out of Obama's selection of Clinton. She brings a
lifetime of insider Washington familiarity: everything that the
hope and change political movement railed against. Some Obama
supporters appear to be using the defense mechanism of
rationalization to shape this inconsistency into a plausible
explanation or even a virtue, while some Republicans are relieved
that Obama has not (yet) brought in radical Chicago insiders.
(Ironically, Chicago is Clinton's birthplace.)
A few people,
however, are courageously questioning Obama's decisions. A
reporter for the New York Times, Peter Baker, recently asked Obama
about the Clinton appointment. In response to Baker's question
and to Obama's answer, a T.V. news anchor, Campbell Brown,
expressed her concerns over their interaction. This process of
question, answer, and commentary is important for two reasons. (1)
It demonstrates Obama's discomfort with and unwillingness to
account for the inconsistencies between his campaign message and
his approach to government. (2) It dangerously borders on
censorship of those who question Obama's authority.
BAKER'S QUESTION TO OBAMA
PETER BAKER, NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER: You talked about the
importance just now of having different voices and robust debate
within your administration, but again going back to the campaign,
you were asked and talked about the qualifications of the--now
your nominee for secretary of state and you belittled her travels
around the world, equated it to having teas with foreign leaders.
And your new White House counsel said her resume was grossly
exaggerated when it came to foreign policy. I'm wondering if you
can talk about the evolution of your views of her credentials
since the spring?
OBAMA: I think this is fun for the press to try to stir up
whatever quotes were generated during the course of the campaign.
BAKER: They're your quotes, sir.
OBAMA: No, I understand. And you're having fun. And there's
nothing wrong with that. I'm not faulting it.
But, look, I think if you look at the statements that Hillary
Clinton and I have made outside of the heat of a campaign, we
share a view that America has to be safe and secure, and in order
to do that we have to combine military power with strengthened
[End of quote.]
CAMPBELL BROWN'S COMMENTARY
COMMENTARY [EXCERPT] BY CNN ANCHOR, CAMPBELL BROWN: There we go
again. The pesky media, all we want to do is have a little fun,
stir things up for our own amusement.
Really, how silly
of that reporter to dare ask you, Mr. President-elect, how it is
that you completely mocked Hillary Clinton's foreign policy
experience just a few months ago and yet now you think there is no
one more qualified than she to lead your foreign policy team?
It's a clever
device, treating a question so dismissively in an attempt to
delegitimize it. As annoying as you may have found it, it is a
It was only in
March of this year that Greg Craig put out a memo outlining point
by point her foreign policy claims, calling them all exaggerated,
just words, not supported by her record.
Now, look, maybe
you regret what you said about Hillary Clinton. Maybe it was as
you suggested Monday, all just said in the heat of the campaign.
If that is the case
and you are both now rising above it, you deserve to be commended
for that and could have been explicit in saying all of that Monday.
You could have
explained the evolution of your thinking, instead of belittling a
question you didn't like.
reporters we hope are going to ask you a lot of annoying questions
over the next four years. Get used to it.
That is the job of the media, to hold you accountable, but this
isn't about the media, it's about the American people, many of
whom voted for you because of what you said during the campaign,
and they have a right to know which of those things you meant and
which you didn't.
Apparently, as you
made clear Monday, you didn't mean what you said about Hillary
Clinton. So what else didn't you mean?
The media is going
to be asking, and you were wrong Monday. Annoying questions are
about more than just the press having fun. Annoying questions are
about the press doing its job, and the people's right to
[End of quote.]
elected by the majority of Americans--is entitled to govern, but he
must communicate clearly with the American people and accept
responsibility for how he evaluates people's qualifications and
character. He must become transparent regarding his reasons for
having changed his mind. At one time, Obama had said that Clinton
was an example of "the same typical politics that we've seen
in Washington." Then, when Obama appointed Clinton to
Secretary of State, he introduced her as "my dear
What happened? How
can you be dear friends with someone who represents everything you
are against? A dear friend is usually someone with whom you have
common likes and dislikes, or with whom you have bonded due to
shared life experiences. Even if a friend becomes a competitor,
that person is not someone to be bashed. But, Obama and Clinton
seemed to be more than competitors: Obama developed an entire
political movement in rejection of Clinton and the ways of
Washington. So, either they were friends all along, or they
became friends after Clinton conceded the presidential nomination
to Obama. Either way, it's confusing.
seems capable of expressing and asserting herself, and we can hope
that all of Obama's appointees will behave intelligently and
ethically. The following is an excerpt from Clinton's acceptance
of the Secretary of State appointment.
CLINTON'S REMARKS ON
SECRETARY OF STATE APPOINTMENT
thank you for this honor. If confirmed, I will give this
assignment, your administration and our country my all.
I also want to
thank my fellow New Yorkers, who have for eight years given me the
joy of a job I love, with the opportunity to work on issues I care
about deeply, in a state that I cherish. And you've also helped
prepare me well for this new role. After all, New Yorkers aren't
afraid to speak their minds, and do so in every
[End of quote.]
Clinton appears to
have a long history of expressing herself. Speaking her mind
seems to be a part of her personality. When Hillary Diane Rodham
graduated from Wellesley in 1969, she gave a commencement speech.
The speaker before her was a Republican senator who criticized the
student protests across the country. Whether or not it was
appropriate, Clinton then improvised her speech in response to and
in disagreement with the senator's remarks. What this incident
illustrates, however, is Clinton's ability to assert herself and
to defend what she believes is right.
CLINTON'S SPEECH AT WELLESLEY GRADUATION
every dissent, whether it's an individual academic paper, or a
Founder's parking lot demonstration, is unabashedly an attempt to
forge an identity in this particular age. That attempt at forging
for many of us over the past four years has meant coming to terms
with our humanness. Within the context of a society that we
perceive--now, we can talk about reality, and I would like to talk
about reality sometimes, authentic reality, inauthentic reality,
and what we have to accept of what we see--but our perception of
it is that it hovers often between the possibility of disaster and
the potentiality for imaginatively responding to men's needs.
There's a very strange conservative strain that goes through a lot
of the New Left, collegiate protests that I find very intriguing
because it harkens back to a lot of the old virtues, to the
fulfillment of original ideas. And it's also a very unique
American experience. It's such a great adventure. If the
experiment in human living doesn't work in this country, in this
age, it's not going to work anywhere.
But we also know
that to be educated, the goal of it must be human liberation, a
liberation enabling each of us to fulfill our capacity so as to be
free to create within and around ourselves. To be educated to
freedom must be evidenced in action, and here again is where we
ask ourselves, as we have asked our parents and our teachers,
questions about integrity, trust, and respect. Those three words
mean different things to all of us. Some of the things they can
mean, for instance: integrity--the courage to be whole, to try to
mold an entire person in this particular context, living in
relation to one another in the full poetry of existence. If the
only tool we have, ultimately, to use is our lives, so we use it
in the way we can by choosing a way to live that will demonstrate
the way we feel and the way we know.
[End of quote.]
Today's topic was
not intended to make a pro-Clinton statement or an anti-Obama
statement. The purpose of this three-part essay was to show that
the hope and change political movement as developed by Obama has
also been extinguished by Obama. Today's emphasis was on Obama's
indirect censorship of a reporter who, essentially, questioned
Obama on the process or evolution of Obama's altered views:
specifically as related to Obama's selection of Clinton. Obama
dismissed the reporter's question and thereby escaped
accountability. The American people must not tolerate censorship
of questions, ideas, or disagreement.
People who have
some level of access and influence, such as Baker, Brown, and
Clinton, are to be appreciated for publicly exercising their
freedom of speech. Whether or not Clinton is a typical insider,
whether or not she is loved by everyone, she is likely to continue
her great adventure and unlikely to fade into the background
behind any authoritarian figure. (Written 12/04/08: bibliography available.)
[NOTE: For other
essays on the topic of censorship, see Audacity of Censorship, Part I
(written 05/21/08), Audacity of Censorship, Part II
Until we meet