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Secretary of Shame By: James Kirchick
New York Post | Monday, August 17, 2009


It's been nearly a decade since the disputed presidential election of 2000, when a handful of ballots in Florida threw our democracy into a tailspin. One would assume that, however sore their feelings, most Democrats would have gotten over Florida by now, especially considering that they now occupy the White House and enjoy massive majorities in Congress. But time does not heal all wounds.

In Nigeria earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about that country's latest presidential election, which was marred by violence, ballot stuffing and other irregularities. Rather than limit her answer to a discussion of Nigeria's problems, Clinton reassured her audience of their nation's relative stability by informing them that her own country was not much better. "In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for President was the governor of the state. So we have our problems too," Clinton replied. "Our democracy is still evolving," she said of the oldest and most resilient constitutional democracy in the world.

Aside from its morally relativistic quality -- a defining element in the language of the left -- Clinton's remark had the added quality of being utterly paranoid.

Never mind that a consortium of media outlets found that President Bush would have won the election even if the Supreme Court allowed a manual recount of ballots to proceed, as some Democrats wanted. Whatever the legal arguments that the Court utilized, then-Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore took the high road by conceding the election to his opponent, citing the supremacy of the rule of law. If Clinton had to drag Florida into her discussion of Third World electoral reform, why couldn't she mention Gore's gracious concession, the embodiment of the sort of peaceful transition of power that has so often eluded African leaders?

Clinton's remark wasn't just a trivial aside, but the sort of assertion that discredits America overseas. Whether it's conspiracy theories about how the 2000 election was "stolen" by shadowy interests or how a half-dozen "neocons" tricked our government into fighting a "war for oil" (or Israel), such claims do great damage to the US by lending credibility to the false grievances of our enemies, who mock the notion that America is a beacon of liberty.

President Obama came into office boasting of how he would improve America's image in the world. How can he do that when his Secretary of State is confirming the allegations of anti-American propagandists?


James Kirchick is assistant to the editor-in-chief of the New Republic. He reported last year from southern Africa for The Weekly Standard.


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