Is Kerry a better Secretary of State than Hillary?
posted at 2:01 pm on April 21, 2014 by Allahpundit
Via Truth Revolt, it’s David Ignatius who raises the question in the clip but you may find big-name Republicans pushing this point in 2016. I’ve wondered about this myself and go back and forth on it: Would it be better or worse for the GOP if Kerry banks some sort of major diplomatic accomplishment over the next three years? I don’t mean the peace process; nothing’s going to happen with that. But what if, say, UN inspectors verify that Assad has indeed disgorged his chemical weapons per the U.S./Russia disarmament deal? What if, for whatever reason, Putin decides that things have gone far enough in Ukraine and resolves to play (relatively) nice going forward? What if, miracle of miracles, Iran really does freeze its nuclear program in return for sanctions being lifted? Those would all be big deals foreign-policy-wise, in increasing order of bigness. If one or more of them happens before 2016, where does that leave the Democratic nominee-in-waiting?
Republicans will argue, a la Ignatius, that Kerry’s success is smoking-gun proof of Hillary’s failure, that he managed to achieve things that she couldn’t. That slides perfectly into the growing realization that, for all the hype, Hillary has nothing to show from her 20 years of Senate and near-presidential service. She did lots of shuttle diplomacy as Secretary of State but never seemed to be in the thick of big-ticket international confrontations like Kerry has on Syria, Iran, Russia, and Israel and the Palestinians. The one arguable exception is Libya and that ended up producing her biggest foreign-policy liability in Benghazi. Contrasting her record with Kerry’s is potentially an effective way, I think, to get lower-information voters to see that the emperor has no clothes. In the abstract, they might not give much thought to the “she has no accomplishments!” claims simply because people tend to conflate fame with achievement and she has, after all, been famous for a very long time. Set up a direct comparison with Kerry, though, and it’s harder to ignore the point. Why aren’t Democrats clamoring to nominate him (again) instead of her? Hard to say.
Three potential problems with this approach, though. One: In order to indict Hillary, Republicans will have to celebrate Kerry’s achievements to some degree. How likely is that? If they spend six months tearing him and O to shreds for naivete in negotiating a nuclear freeze with Iran, how do they then turn around and salute him for having accomplished something Hillary never did? Two: Kerry himself will doubtless be a loyal soldier for Hillary, crediting her with having “laid the groundwork” or whatever for his achievements at State. (President Hillary might even keep him on as SoS in gratitude.) If you’ve got Republicans running around praising Kerry and then Kerry turns around and says he owes it all to Hillary, that’s an … unhelpful message for the GOP. Three: Hillary’s not going to be running on her record as Secretary of State, she’s going to be running on her experience, both direct and vicarious from having served at the highest levels in two Democratic administrations. She may have nothing to show for her service but she knows how things work; she won’t be caught by surprise as commander-in-chief and she won’t stumble around in trying to get legislation passed like Obama has. She’s running as the first woman president and for a third Clinton/Obama term. Her achievements are beside the point. If the public buys that narrative frame, then why would the GOP’s arguments about how much better Kerry is as a diplomat matter? But then, if the public buys that frame, no argument from Republicans will matter much.