Hillary’s been running on experience. Obama keeps pointing out what she did with it.

Then again, the better tack might be “what experience?” At first, the Hillary people didn’t know:

February 29, 2008

Pregnant Pause

It was, in this reporter’s opinion, the most interesting moment in today’s Clinton campaign phoner with reporters. Responding to the release of HRC’s new TX TV ad, which asserts in no subtle terms that only she has the experience to deal with a major world crisis, and, relatedly, to keep your children safe, Slate’s John Dickerson asked the obvious question:

“What foreign policy moment would you point to in Hillary‘s career where she’s been tested by crisis?” he said.

Silence on the call. You could’ve knit a sweater in the time it took the usually verbose team of Mark Penn, Howard Wolfson and Lee Feinstein, Clinton’s national security director, to find a cogent answer. And what they came up with was weak — that she’s been endorsed by many high ranking members of the uniformed military.

You can go listen to the clip here.

When this happened, I didn’t think much of it, figuring it was the Hillary equivalent of Kirk Watson’s deer in the headlights moment.  Just as Obama does in fact have a legislative record, I assumed that Hillary did in fact have the experience she was talking about (I just didn’t think it had done her any good).

I was wrong

Hillary did eventually come forward with the particulars of her experience.  But, as it turns out, she was lying.

“I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland,” she told CNN on Wednesday. But negotiators from the parties that helped broker the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 told The Daily Telegraph that her role was peripheral and that she played no part in the gruelling political talks over the years.

Lord Trimble shared the Nobel Peace Prize with John Hume, leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, in 1998. Conall McDevitt, an SDLP negotiator and aide to Mr Hume during the talks, said: “There would have been no contact with her either in person or on the phone. I was with Hume regularly during calls in the months leading up to the Good Friday Agreement when he was taking calls from the White House and they were invariably coming from the president.”

George Mitchell, who did the actual work on the peace accords, had this damningly faint praise for Hillary’s cookie-baking in Ireland.

“She became quite active in encouraging women in Northern Ireland to engage in the political process and in the peace process, and ultimately the role of women was important in moving the process forward,” said Mitchell, who is neutral in the presidential race. “She was one of many people who participated in encouraging women to get involved, not the only one.”

If we itemize the information in the Chicago Tribune article, Hillary’s claims wind up looking something like this:

Pressed in a CNN interview this week for specific examples of foreign policy experience that has prepared her for an international crisis, Clinton claimed that she

  • “helped to bring peace” to Northern Ireland
  • negotiated with Macedonia to open up its border to refugees from Kosovo
  • “standing up” to the Chinese government on women’s rights
  • a one-day visit she made to Bosnia following the Dayton peace accords
  • that she had advocated on behalf of a U.S. military intervention in Rwanda to stop the genocide there

The analysis is simply devastating to these five claims:

  • Northern Ireland:  ” But her involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process was primarily to encourage activism among women’s groups there, a contribution that the lead U.S. negotiator described as “helpful” but that an Irish historian who has written extensively about the conflict dismissed as “ancillary” to the peace process.”


But Tim Pat Coogan, an Irish historian who has written extensively on the conflict in Northern Ireland, said the first lady’s visits were not decisive in the negotiating breakthroughs in Northern Ireland.

“It was a nice thing to see her there, with the women’s groups. It helped, I suppose,” Coogan said. “But it was ancillary to the main thing. It was part of the stage effects, the optics.

“There were all kinds of peace movements, women’s movements throughout the ‘Troubles.’ But it was more about the clout of Bill Clinton,” added Coogan, who said Clinton administration decisions to grant visas to leaders of the Irish Republican Army’s political wing and appoint a U.S. negotiator were the keys to changing the political climate.

  • Macedonia:  The Macedonian government opened its border to refugees the day before Clinton arrived to meet with government leaders. And her mission to Bosnia was a one-day visit in which she was accompanied by performers Sheryl Crow and Sinbad, as well as her daughter, Chelsea, according to the commanding general who hosted her.
  • China: One of Clinton’s most noteworthy forays onto the foreign stage came in 1995, when she delivered a speech at the United Nations‘ women’s conference in Beijing. That speech was widely noted and hailed as a bold call for women’s rights, especially because Clinton explicitly spoke out against forced abortion and other practices of the host country.

    “In the years since, I have met many women from many places who tell me they were at Beijing, or had friends who were, or who were inspired by the conference to launch initiatives,” Albright wrote in her 2003 memoir.

    The speech might never have happened if the first lady had not pressed for it, said one former Clinton administration official sympathetic to her candidacy who traveled with her and Albright to Beijing. The administration was conflicted about whether Hillary Clinton should go to Beijing at all because of the regime’s record on human rights.

    “Yet she was determined to go and was convinced that her going would send a very strong signal of support for human rights,” said the official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named. “Everyone at the end of the process almost certainly would have said, ‘How could we be so foolish to question the wisdom of the trip?'”

    Still, Rice questioned whether that trip amounted to the kind of preparation for a global crisis that Clinton has claimed.

    “How does going to Beijing and giving a speech show crisis management? There was no crisis. And there was nothing to manage,” Rice said.

  • Bosnia:  In 1999, Clinton visited Albanian refugee camps in Macedonia during the NATO bombing campaign to force Slobodan Milosevic’s troops out of Kosovo. Macedonia had sealed its borders in an attempt to stop the arrival of refugees but, under Western pressure, reopened them the day before Clinton visited the camps.
    A former Clinton administration official sympathetic to her candidacy said her presence “played a very important role in helping to shore up support for the Kosovars.”

    But Ivo Daalder, a former Clinton NSC official with responsibility for the Balkans and author of a history of the Kosovo conflict, said the border opening had nothing to do with her negotiating skills.

    “It was her coming that helped. But she had absolutely no role in the dirty work of negotiations,” said Daalder, an Obama supporter. “This had nothing to do with her competence.”

  • Rwanda:  “Whatever her private conversations with the president may have been, key foreign policy officials say that a U.S. military intervention in Rwanda was never considered in the Clinton administration’s policy deliberations. Despite lengthy memoirs by both Clintons and former Secretary of State and UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright, any advice she gave on Rwanda had not been mentioned until her presidential campaign.

“In my review of the records, I didn’t find anything to suggest that military intervention was put on the table in NSC [National Security Council] deliberations,” said Gail Smith, a Clinton NSC official who did a review for the White House of the administration’s handling of the Rwandan genocide. Smith is an Obama supporter.

Prudence Bushnell, a retired State Department official who handled the Rwanda portfolio at the time and has not allied with a presidential candidate, confirmed that a U.S. military intervention was not considered in policy deliberations, as did several senior Clinton administration officials with first-hand knowledge who declined to be identified.”

Hillary should immediately fire anyone in her campaign who suggested she bring up Rwanda. I mean really.

So, unlike Kirk Watson’s brain-fart, Hillary was not able to back up her claims of experience with anything more than Laura Bush could claim today.  Hillary is running around lying about NAFTA, Rezko, and (apparently) herself.

And yet it’s Obama who’s supposed to be all style and no substance.  Go figure.