May 8, 2014

Thursday Hillary Bash - Not Lewinsky, Boko Harum

Clearly not.
I was busy with a couple of job interviews today and didn't have a chance to provide a Thursday Hillary Bash.  But that doesn`t mean there isn`t Hillary news this week.

I`m going to ignore the re-hash of the Lewinsky affair (literally and figuratively speaking).  After all, the Washington Post and others have already spun it as having done Hillary Clinton a favor.  She wants the re-telling of the story out of the way long before the presidential elections.  I actually think it hurts Hilary because it would be a mistake for Republicans to focus  on that during the 2016 general election.  It's a distraction that would hurt them more than her.  This frees up the GOP to focus on the Benghazi issue or other substantive issues closer to the general election instead.

But that's not ignoring the issue, so let me drop that there and share this instead.  Think Progress is defending Hillary Clinton's resistance to classifying terrorist organization Boko Harum as a terrorist organization.  First, here's the back story on Boko Harum's 'sudden' importance, also via Think Progress:
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week tweeted out support for efforts to recover the more than two hundred girls kidnapped almost a month ago, saying “We must stand up to terrorism” and using the now ubiquitous #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. But now conservatives are angrily pointing out that she had refused to list the Nigerian group behind the kidnapping as a terrorist organization during her time at the State Department, threatening to turn the latest push against the group into a political football.
Here's the argument they make in defense of Hillary:
That the State Department under Clinton declined to name Boko Haram to a list of terror groups maintained at Foggy Bottom is true. But in making the point, an explosively titled article from the Daily Beast focuses more on the politics of the issue in light of the new interest in Boko Haram, rather than the actual reasoning behind the State Department’s decision. After drawing attention to Clinton’s tweet, the story continues on to note that what the former first lady “didn’t mention was that her own State Department refused to place Boko Haram on the list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2011, after the group bombed the U.N. headquarters in Abuja,” quoting named and unnamed Republican sources as the crux of its argument.

But there were multiple valid reasons for the State Department to disagree with the Justice Department and other agencies dealing with counterterrorism — such as the FBI and CIA — who urged State to place Boko Haram on the Foreign Terrorists Organization (FTO) list. “Designation is an important tool, it’s not the only tool,” a former State Department official told the Beast. “There are a lot of other things you can do in counterterrorism that doesn’t require a designation.” This includes boosting development aid to undercut the causes of unrest and deploying the FBI to assist in tracking down Boko Haram, both of which the U.S. actually did.

In addition, Clinton didn’t act in a vacuum to determine not to designate Boko Haram back in 2011. Scholars on Twitter who focus on the region, terrorism broadly, and Islamist groups in particular were quick to point out that not only were there few benefits and many possible costs to designation, many of them had argued against listing Boko Haram several years ago. In a letter to the State Department dated May 2012, twenty prominent African studies scholars wrote Clinton to implore her to hold off on placing Boko Haram on the FTO list. Acknowledging the violence Boko Haram had perpetrated, the academics argued that “an FTO designation would internationalize Boko Haram, legitimize abuses by Nigeria’s security services, limit the State Department’s latitude in shaping a long term strategy, and undermine the U.S. Government’s ability to receive effective independent analysis from the region.”
So the argument that the CIA, FBI and the Justice Department assessments were not the whole story is the first line of defense for Hillary? That's odd, given that in the case of Benghazi, the White House and State Department would have us believe that they relied solely on the assessments of these departments for their talking points about the Benghazi attacks being a demonstration in response to a youtube video. How convenient is that? Think Progress rails against conservative polticizing of the issue when they are using government agencies (haphazardly at that) as a political defense of an indefensible action. Hilarity.

They also argue that the classification was a tool but not the only tool to use. This from the team that used no tools in Benghazi. This from the team that used no tools in Syria and is using no tools in Russia. The reality is that the administration and the NSA have proven themselves toothless in the face of adversity. They are also proving themselves clueless. Having this tool available and not using it is pointless? What is the harm in using the classification in addition to the tools Think Progress points out State did use? After all, those other methods were clearly insufficient. Perhaps even toothless?

Finally, Think Progress actually argues that "Scholars on Twitter who focus on the region" argued against it. I guess they prefer governance by tweet to the more informed, considered opinion of a governing agency and leadership. That's good - I thought they might be pure socialists at Think Progress.

Think Progress' defense of Clinton is so weak it's a non-starter. Hell, I'm a conservative and I could probably come up with a better defense than that.  But I won't.
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