This is the first of a series of weekly entries profiling key players in the Clinton campaign. Today’s subject is Jake Sullivan. Sullivan is something of a “wunderkid” once profiled in Time magazine as one of “40 under 40” to watch. His resume is impressive. He is a Rhodes scholar and graduate of Yale Law School and visiting professor there. He was a law clerk to an Appeals Court Judge and later for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. He then became senior legal counsel to Minnesota [mc_name name=’Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’K000367′ ] before joining Hillary Clinton’s 2008 failed presidential campaign as an adviser on foreign policy.
After Obama won the nomination, he helped prepare him for the 2008 debates against [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ] and became an Obama adviser throughout that campaign. After Obama won the election, he joined the State Department again hooking up with Clinton as her deputy chief of staff. When Clinton stepped down as Secretary of State in 2013, he became Joe Biden’s senior foreign policy adviser.
There are two issues that define Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State- the Iran nuclear talks and Benghazi. It was during a trip abroad accompanying Clinton that Sullivan quietly slipped away to Oman whose officials had relayed a secret message from Iran to the United States expressing an interest in nuclear talks. This came about after a regime change in Tehran. It was Sullivan who first met with these Iranian officials in Oman that set into motion the nuclear talks with Iran. It was his sources who provided Obama with the telephone numbers for Iranian officials in Tehran in an outreach effort. One report has Sullivan checking and rechecking his sources before Obama placed that call.
From most reports, we can gather that the current framework for a deal with Iran simply delays the inevitability of that country obtaining nuclear weapons. As far as this writer can tell, the hope is that more moderate voices within Iran will eventually win the day, they will abandon their nuclear aspirations, and the Middle East will erupt into one loud chorus of “We Are the World” or “Kum-Bay-A.”
On foreign policy, Clinton, without saying so, is attempting to position herself as more hawkish than Obama on most issues. There is no doubt that Sullivan has played and is playing an important role in this charade. He is generally considered the most doubtful of Clinton aids at the State Department regarding Iranian intentions. By implication, one is led to believe that Clinton, at Sullivan’s suggestion, will take a slightly harder line on Iran and other issues. But it bears repeating that Sullivan was the point man on the eventual negotiations and remained in that role until he left the White House to join the 2016 Clinton team. Nothing has been signed or categorically agreed to yet. This entire endeavor could blow up in the face of the Obama administration as the 2016 campaign proceeds.
Clinton could try to distance herself from this impending deal, but the seeds were laid during her tenure as Secretary of State and her top foreign policy adviser on her campaign is the very one who set the entire scenario into motion. She can run from a failed or bad deal, but she cannot hide. And once the nuclear arms deal genie is out of the bottle, it becomes more difficult to put it back. As Politico described it, “…the deal has the clear fingerprints of his (Sullivan) political mentor, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton…”
The other event that defines Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State is the continued controversy over Benghazi. Here, the potential problems for Sullivan and Clinton are more ominous in the short term. The Left wing press has been vehement in their attacks on Republican efforts to get to the bottom of the story accusing the GOP of being on a witch hunt. However, there are enough gaps in stories and some accusations that need definitive answers that demand scrutiny. Recent revelations about Clinton’s use of private e-mail accounts while Secretary of State- and the deletion of messages- only leaves the sore open.
We do know that a major arms movement operation was occurring in Benghazi and that Ambassador Stevens was the point man in those operations. It was the reason he was in Benghazi on 9/11/12. We are also know that a shipment of arms had left Benghazi bound for Turkey with the eventual recipients being Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime. We are told that Jake Sullivan and Hillary Clinton were tepid supporters of this “arm the rebels” policy with Sullivan later publicly conceding that arming the rebels would have limited effect on toppling Assad.
However, the aftermath of that attack on the US consulate in Benghazi is what is most disturbing in this whole ordeal. In an effort to redirect the conversation, the infamous “talking points” was developed which Susan Rice then repeated on Sunday talk shows. I can give Rice a pass (sort of) since she was doing her job as instructed. But, there is ample evidence that those talking points were designed to provide the Obama administration with political cover for an operation that had gone deadly bad. Almost from the beginning, no one believed that a spontaneous demonstration over an Internet video led to the deaths of four Americans. Some characterize the whole post-attack scenario as a cover up; I characterize it as political expediency and naivete at its worst.
Where Jake Sullivan has problems is in reports that he was present, along with long-time Clinton family counsel Cheryl Mills, in a late night document destruction orgy at the State Department. These accusations come from a former State Department official- Raymond Maxwell- who the liberal press has pilloried as a disgruntled employee who was reprimanded for his lack of foresight over security in Libya. If these reports can conclusively be substantiated, Sullivan’s meteoric rise in the administration’s foreign policy apparatus could come to a halt. [mc_name name=’Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’C001076′ ] has stated that they heard reports that both Mills and Sullivan directed this effort, but the incident was left out of their report for whatever reason. Also, we know from documented reports that some State Department officials did talk to Sullivan regarding the talking points. Considering the fact they were used, one has to conclude that as Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff he agreed with them.
In many areas, Clinton will have to distance herself from Obama lest we hear the accusations that she would represent the third Obama term. Foreign policy is one area. She is considered more hawkish than Obama and the belief is that Sullivan is the man behind that persona. However, its kind of hard to swallow that line. If anything, Jake Sullivan is the foreign policy link and glue between Obama and Clinton. He has managed to work both sides of the fence when in reality, there is no fence. Considering the fact that under Clinton the number of foreign policy successes is few and far between (Myanmar? The killing of bin Laden, but even that is in question now), Clinton bears responsibility for the Obama foreign policy failures too numerous to mention and Jake Sullivan, as her prime adviser, also shares that responsibility.