Like Minds

I sat captivated by the sights and sounds of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton being interviewed on “60 Minutes” the other night. The two are most impressive and their artful dance away from some most interesting questions was fascinating to watch. It was a lesson in the art of political palaver at its best. A follow-up news story from HuffPost gives us the gist of the interview and it begins as follows:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama lauded Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as one of his closest advisers and said their shared vision for America’s role in the world persuaded his one-time rival – and potential successor – to be his top diplomat while he dealt with the shattered economy at home.

During a joint interview that aired Sunday, Obama and Clinton chuckled as they described their partnership and stoked speculation that Obama may prefer Clinton to succeed him in the White House after the 2016 elections. Clinton is leaving Obama’s Cabinet soon, and speculation about the former first lady and senator has only grown more intense after a heated appearance last week on Capitol Hill.

The contrast between Hillary’s relaxed, almost off-the-cuff demeanor and the President’s careful, guarded approach to the good questions asked of them both was most interesting — as was the body language of the two main characters. The President sat cross-legged with his hands carefully folded on his lap, for the most part — clearly a man who knows that anything he says can and will be used against him. Hillary sat in a relaxed posture with a smile on her face much of the time, seemingly in the company of good friends and unconcerned that something she might say could come back to bite her.

The two are most impressive and despite the fact that the President smiled his way around the question of whether or not he was endorsing Hillary Clinton for the next run at the White House, the format and the obvious friendship between the two sent a clear message: if Hillary wants to run, she’s got the President’s full support.

The woman is solid, no question. She handles herself well in the public eye — though I did have reason to question one of her outbursts recently before the Senate Committee that was pushing her for evidence of spilled milk over the death of four Americans in Benghazi not long ago. She had reason to lose her cool momentarily as Republican Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin was relentless in his determination to find fault with the Obama Administration and the way it handled a dangerous situation. The Republicans are determined to show that this Administration is weak and unable to respond properly to an international crisis. They seem to prefer the approach of John Wayne or Clint Eastwood: shoot first and ask questions afterwards. Freud would have a field day with some of those people.

In any event, Hillary has come through her last weeks as Secretary of State with shining colors and has emerged as a very strong contender for the Presidency the next time around — should she choose to run. I dare say there will be considerable pressure brought to bear to see to it that this happens, including pressure from Barack Obama who clearly admires and respects the woman who gave him a run for his money in his early attempts to gain the White House himself. Here’s hoping!

Sorry, Hillary

Please understand that I am a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter. I think she is a bright and very capable woman and I would dearly love to see her take a run at the Presidency in 2016. At the same time, as a teacher of logic for 42 years and a responsible blogger who tries hard to see both sides of complex issues, I must point out that Hillary wasn’t thinking clearly earlier this week when she testified to a Senate committee about the killings in Benghazi last September. Facing an angry Republican Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, Hillary apparently lost her cool and pounded the table as she said:

“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” Clinton responded, suggesting that Johnson was focused on unimportant semantics. “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.”

Now think about it: if we want to “figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again,” don’t we have to think about the possible causes? It does matter whether the cause was a planned attack or a simple, spontaneous outburst over a low-budget film on U-tube that angered Muslims all over the world. That is, it does matter whether it was a “protest or…because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to kill some Americans.” What matters is why this happened, and Johnson was right to pursue this line of questioning and Hillary seems to have lost her presence of mind (and her cool) in the heat of the moment. I don’t judge her in this case because I can only imagine the pressure she was under, but I do point out that her response makes no sense. Figuring out why it happened requires an examination of possible causes. It’s simple logic.

What happened in Benghazi was terrible and it does demand answers to the question why. This is especially so given the current unrest in that part of the world — and the attitude of the radicals in Libya toward all Westerners. And if that answer suggests that the State Department was remiss in not responding to requests for increased security, or if perhaps it was indeed a spontaneous outburst over a  hateful movie, we need to know. The Republicans typically tend to make hay even when the fields are wet  (it’s hard not to look for hidden agendas), and during the campaign when this story broke I thought it was just another political ploy designed to garner votes for candidate Romney. But in this case they are right to seek answers so that, as Hillary correctly points out, this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.