Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Distracted by Trivia While Libya Burned

By David Ignatius - May 27, 2015, WashPost

WASHINGTON -- Secretaries of state have had private contacts since the job was created, so it's a mistake to get too indignant about Hillary Clinton's email exchanges about Libya with her longtime friend, Sidney Blumenthal. Still, these messages offer some useful insights about the court politics of Washington, and the way policymaking can be overwhelmed by trivia and personal puffery.

Try reading these messages not as a catalog of scandal (which doesn't appear to be there) but as fragments of an epistolary novel of Imperial Washington, written in the modern genre of email. There's a faint echo of Anthony Trollope in the revelations of petty plots, coy flattery and bids for influence. The fact that Libya, the nominal subject of most of the messages, is going down the drain is almost an afterthought.

The central characters in this palace intrigue are Clinton and Blumenthal, her Svengali-like confidant since the 1990s who is referred to in these documents as "HRC friend," "HRC Contact" and "Friend of S [for Secretary]." He had been shut out of a State Department job by the White House in 2009 but continued his friendship with Clinton and saw her occasionally. "Post-election, we'd like to have you over for dinner. Bill can come, too ...," reads one message.

Blumenthal didn't offer policy prescriptions so much as a running chronicle of the political machinations in Libya and the deteriorating security situation there. This gossip is dressed up with attributions to "an extremely sensitive source," "a particularly sensitive source," and the like.

(More here.)


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