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The Hillary Speech-A Partial Parsing

9:06 AM, Jul 17, 2009 • By RACHEL ABRAMS
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Thank you and et cetera. Clichés and truisms. Many.

Platitudes, plus a definition of our mission: "And with more states facing common challenges, we have the chance, and a profound responsibility, to exercise American leadership to solve problems in concert with others. That is the heart of America's mission in the world today."

People think our power has waned or they think we have too much power. "But they are wrong."

It's not whether we should lead but how. 21st century. "Rigid ideologies and old formulas don't apply." What does apply? A "new mindset."

Next part must be read in full for full flavor of total platitudinousness: "President Obama has led us to think outside the usual boundaries. He has launched a new era of engagement based on common interests, shared values, and mutual respect. Going forward, capitalizing on America's unique strengths, we must advance those interests through partnership, and promote universal values through the power of our example and the empowerment of people. In this way, we can forge the global consensus required to defeat the threats, manage the dangers, and seize the opportunities of the 21st century. America will always be a world leader as long as we remain true to our ideals and embrace strategies that match the times. So we will exercise American leadership to build partnerships and solve problems that no nation can solve on its own, and we will pursue policies to mobilize more partners and deliver results."


A little stump speech, in case someone ever wants her to run for something, anything, ever again: 16 years of having the "privilege, really, to represent our country overseas" (don't ask, but the initials are F.i.r.s.t.L.a.d.y). "I've seen the bellies of starving children, girls sold into human trafficking," and so forth. She's seen people with "a sense of futility about their futures." But "hope, hard work, and ingenuity" are good. 36 years, advocate for children, women, etc., here at home. Affordable health-care, mortgages. Also, laid-off auto workers in Detroit-WAIT A MINUTE!! Is this a foreign policy speech?-global economy, blah, blah, blah, and blah. Oh yeah.

We must multi-task, but we must have priorities. What are they? Nukes, bad. Terrorists, bad. "We want to isolate and defeat terrorists and counter violent extremists while reaching out to Muslims around the world." Um, conflation? Middle East peace, good. Global economic recovery, good. Development agenda, good. Clean energy, good. HUMAN RIGHTS, GOOD! "Liberty, democracy, justice and opportunity," good. Damage to our image in recent years (BUSH BAD), but things are looking up. "It's kind of like my elbow - it's getting better every day." (Laughter.) (Really? That was funny??)

World tour: Latin America, Lebanon, Iran, Liberia. We're your friends if you're "inspired by democracy." Blather. Platitudes. President Obama. Ghana. Transparent governance. Blather. "We cannot go back to Cold War containment or to unilateralism." No nation can stand alone. "The issues are too complex." Right-y-o.

Truism, truism, truism, and cliché. "For just as no nation can meet these challenges alone, no challenge can be met without America." "We'll go beyond states to create opportunities for non-state actors and individuals to contribute to solutions." Place at the table for states shouldering responsibilities. Multi-polar world, bad. Multi-partner world, good.Not a panacea. Clear-eyed about our purpose. Some will take us for 98-pound weaklings. But we're not! "And to these foes and would-be foes, let me say our focus on diplomacy and development is not an alternative to our national security arsenal." Global cooperation. old-fashioned common sense. Principle and pragmatism. And puppy-dog tails.

Smart power: "vehicles for cooperation with our partners"; "principled engagement with those who disagree with us"; "development as a core pillar of American power" (WHAT DOES THAT MEAN??); "integrate civilian and military action in conflict areas" (AGAIN, HUH??); "leverage key sources of American power, including our economic strength and the power of our example." Chestnut, cliché, truism, platitude. Bedrock alliances, frayed in recent years. (BUSH BAD!) (Tell that to Tony Blair and John Howard.) European Union, revitalized NATO.

Asian tour: Japan and Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines.Trans-Pacific institutions. "We are both a trans-Atlantic and a trans-Pacific nation." Another tour: China, India, Russia and Brazil, as well as Turkey, Indonesia, and South Africa. Full partners in "tackling the global agenda." Broad-based agenda, bi-national commissions. There will be bumps in the road, but that's okay. We're determined. Um, whatever.

Oh yeah: "Iran can become a constructive actor in the region if it stops threatening its neighbors and supporting terrorism. It can assume a responsible position in the international community if it fulfills its obligations on human rights. The choice is clear. We remain ready to engage with Iran, but the time for action is now. The opportunity will not remain open indefinitely."

"In one of my favorite observations, Max Weber said, ‘Politics is the long and slow boring of hard boards. It takes both passion and perspective.' Perspective dictates passion and patience. And of course, passion keeps us from not finding excuses to do nothing."

Okay, I fell asleep at this point, but I'm sure there was lots more fascinating stuff about global institutions, partnerships with people (not just governments!), educational exchanges, GLOBAL WOMEN'S ISSUES, TV shows, innovative technologies, Security Council consensus, leading with d i p l o m a c y, d . . . e . . .v . . . e . . . l . . . o . . . p . . . m . . . e . . . n . . . t . . . snore.