Rudy's Charles Hill problem

When evaluating a candidate for the presidency, it’s wise to look at more than just the candidate himself or herself. For instance, a Hillary presidency would probably elevate people like Sandy “Docs in socks” Berger, Bill Richardson and others to positions of power. One of the knocks on Fred Thompson is his relationship with Spencer Abraham. Etc.

Clint Taylor emailed us to explain the problems that one ally of Rudy Giuliani might bring to a Giuliani administration. That advisor is Professor Charles Hill of Yale University. Here’s Clint’s letter.

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Bryan, Allah, Michelle–

I saw your link in the headlines to Yale Prof—and Giuliani foriegn policy adviser—Charles Hill taking a swing at the Bush administration’s foreign policy while he talked up Rudy’s:

Describing his candidate’s brand of foreign policy, Hill said: “It’s not aggressive, it’s pragmatic, and it’s ‘get the job done.’ And that has to be done through working with people, being cooperative, being very inclusive, bringing in people of a wide variety of opinions and making them see the commonalities among them and getting them to work together, so it is very different from that,” Hill said.

It’s an odd proxy attack, with the Giuliani campaign using Hill to criticize the President. I’ve got a lot of respect for Prof. Hill’s service to the country as a diplomat, and he is also reported to be one of the best teachers at Yale. Nonetheless he’s taken a couple of positions in the recent past that probably put him at odds with a lot of your readers—both of which were summed up pretty well in his letter to the Wall Street Journal last year in defense of Yale’s disastrous decision to admit as a student Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, former Taliban adviser to Mullah Omar. Hill’s letter is preserved here at Powerline:

The widespread denunciation of Yale for permitting Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi to take courses as a non-degree student is unjustified. This is exactly what a great university should be doing. A university, by definition, must be open to the vast external world and provide a space for intellectual and personal interaction among differing perspectives. Only through such engagement with others can the process of learning and changing for the better take place.
U.S. national interests also are involved here. Put simply, the greater Middle East region for decades has been moving into violent opposition to the established world order. American policy has been, and must continue to be, to encourage those states, parties and individuals who want to be, or to become, good international citizens and to defend ourselves against those who don’t; for if the latter prevail, the result could be an all-out world war waged from that region against the international state system.
Seen in this context, Mr. Hashemi’s case and that of Dubai Ports World are in the same category. DP World represents an Arab state willing to play by the rules of international commerce; we should have welcomed them to our shores, not kicked them in the teeth. Mr. Hashemi, who has never been charged with Taliban-style crimes, and who was reported by the American press to have been helpful to the U.S. forces during the 2003 Afghan campaign, is by every account a friendly and constructive presence here at Yale. He has chosen to shape his life on our side of the line.
As a “Special Student” in a category designed for people without a standard academic background, he is not taking a slot away from any qualified applicant. Yale deserves praise for spotting someone who can make a positive difference and giving him a chance.
Charles Hill
Lecturer
Yale University
New Haven, Conn.

As one of those leading the denunciations of Yale’s decision, I’ll say Hill got this half right: we do need to encourage individuals who want to become good international citizens. But there was never any credible reason to think Hashemi had converted from his love and admiration of the Taliban. He was, at best, an opportunist like the Iraqi WMD source known as “Curve Ball”, telling the West whatever it wanted to hear. At worst, his eloquently expressed sympathies for the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, whom he continued to defend on September 12th, 2001, never went away.

Note that not only does Hill defend Yale’s embrace of Hashemi, a man who once begged his Taliban masters to be sent to America to defend the Taliban’s regime (and did so on Yale’s campus in early 2001), but he also defends one of the Bush administration’s acknowledged missteps: ceding management of American ports to Dubai Ports World, a decision I cautioned against rushing into here. Just as Yale thought better of keeping Hashemi around, the Bush administration backed away from its Dubai Ports World decision.

On both of these issues, conservative blogs led successful revolts against unpopular decisions. But now that Mayor Giuliani is the Presidential frontrunner, the blogosphere is taking for granted his general reputation for “toughness” without looking closely at what his positions, and those of his advisers, actually are.

I believe Mayor Giuliani is tough, and I know Professor Hill is smart. But on these issues, Professor Hill was wrong and out of step with what conservatives believed. As a likely National Security Advisor or Secretary of State if Mayor Giuliani is elected President, should we expect more policy decisions like these from Prof. Hill?