You don’t hear Hillary bragging very much about Libya these days, now that we see what happens when you overthrow an fairly harmless despot and replace him with Islamic terrorists. But such was not always the case. In those heady days before September 11, 2012, when our consulate in Benghazi was sacked and our ambassador along with three other Americans were murdered, Clinton and her inner circle of political cronies were developing Libya as the crown jewel of a future campaign for the White House.
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department staff grappled with how to balance their boss’s past and potential future as a Democratic presidential candidate, even as she attempted to operate as a nonpartisan diplomat, e-mails released by the State Department on Wednesday show.
The roughly 6,000 pages of mostly banal back and forth with aides and other associates show that Clinton kept a close eye on her reputation and press notices. The batch released Wednesday is part of the trove Clinton turned over to the State Department at its request last year.
The newly released e-mails, most from the middle period of Clinton’s four-year term, illustrate some of the challenges facing her now as she attempts to campaign on her State Department record.
On Libya, for instance, advisers in 2011 were eager for her to take credit for the ouster of dictator Moammar Gaddafi. Clinton was initially skeptical of using U.S. military power in Libya, but became an advocate for the idea within the administration when it became clear that Arab and NATO nations were eager to form a coalition.
Aide Jake Sullivan compiled a lengthy timeline of Clinton’s activities in developing policy in Libya, saying “it shows [Clinton’s] leadership/ownership/stewardship of this country’s libya policy from start to finish.”
Her staff was obviously pushing this scenario. Her adviser, Jake Sullivan, prepared an unctuous email with the heading:
HRC has been a critical voice on Libya in administration deliberations, at NATO, and in contact group meetings — as well as the public face of the U.S. effort in Libya. She was instrumental in securing the authorization, building the coalition, and tightening the noose around Qadhafi and his regime.
Helpfully for Clinton’s opponents, he laid out every action she took that pushed us towards a foreign policy disaster.
The Washington Examiner lists others who praised her on Libya or offered their own advice:
The former secretary of state also received advice about how to handle Libya from a variety of sources outside the State Department.
For example, James Rubin, executive editor of Bloomberg View, sent Clinton “some thoughts on Libya” in July 2011. Rubin told Clinton he hoped the memo would be “as welcome as last message,” suggesting he shared ideas with Clinton more than once. [editor’s note: we had a post yesterday on why the media is mistrusted. Could this be one of them?)
Sidney Blumenthal, a divisive confidante of Clinton’s who served as an informal advisor on Libyan foreign policy, advised Clinton on how totake credit for the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan dictator who was overthrown by rebels.
“[Y]ou should of course make a public statement before the cameras wherever you are, even in the driveway of your vacation house,” Blumenthal told Clinton on Aug. 22, 2011, shortly after rebels overran the capital city of Tripoli and deposed Gaddafi.
“You must go on camera. You must establish yourself in the historical record at this moment,” Blumenthal added. “The most important phrase is: ‘successful strategy.'”
Blumenthal, ever the auto-fellatisto, also sent this:
Around the same time, longtime Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal hailed Clinton for the fall of Gaddafi. “Just a quick note: First, brava! This is a historic moment and you will be credited for realizing it.”
This part of the Clinton email scandal has been delicious. Emails like this would have been buried a couple of years ago had Clinton used a State Department email account and State had promptly responded to FOIA requests. But by trying to hide from public scrutiny, Clinton’s emails are the hot topic for national political media at a time when Clinton would rather be talking about Paula Jones or Monica Lewinsky than this.
The Libyan emails, in particular, look as though that our policy in Libya was driven by Clinton trying to establish foreign policy credentials before another White House bid. She was collecting information to bolster her claim that the Libyan success was all hers and building a narrative of proven success. Instead, she is revealed as a shallow thinker and a rather incompetent diplomat.