Hillary Rodham Clinton paid a brief visit to Pakistan yesterday and called on General Pervez Musharraf. Her chat with Mushy got scant coverage in the media, unfortunately, being overshadowed by her visit with Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. All the news stories about her stop in Pakistan seemed to derive from a single Associated Press article, and had been cut to various lengths by the news organizations.
The longest account (probably the full text of the AP original) was to be found in two identically-worded articles in the Pakistani press. Here are some excerpts from the version in the Daily Times:
LAHORE: US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton met President Pervez Musharraf at the Army House on Sunday, shortly after she arrived for a brief visit, an official said.
The two discussed a range of issues, including the situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East, he said, quoting Musharraf as telling Clinton that Pakistan was in favour of a “stable, strong and prosperous Afghanistan” and that Islamabad was extending full support to the world community in the fight against terrorism. Musharraf also informed Clinton about the steps his government had taken to curb militancy and secure the Pakistani border with Afghanistan to check militants’ activities, the official said.
The official said Clinton praised Pakistan’s role in the fight against terrorism. Musharraf stressed the need for enhancing trade and economic ties between the US and Pakistan, APP reported, and informed the delegation about the significance of better US market access for Pakistan. He discussed the proposal for Reconstruction Opportunity Zones and US assistance for the FATA Sustainable Development Plan.
The president said security along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border was the joint responsibility of both sides. He briefed the delegation on the Pakistan-India peace process and efforts for the resolution of all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, APP reported. He asked for US support for Pakistan’s efforts to promote durable peace, political stability and progress in the region.
General Musharraf was no doubt assuming that he was talking to the next president of the United States. I’m sure Hillary was assuming the same thing. So what’s the subtext here?
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Obviously, Hillary is setting herself up as a foreign policy heavyweight in anticipation of the campaign speeches and policy papers which will be in sound-bites and WaPo headlines starting this time next year. But what will be the substance of her Pakistan policy?
Whatever Ms. Rodham Clinton is up to, it’s got to be in opposition to the policies of the current administration. It can’t be, “I plan to continue the policies of President Bush, and stay the course, etc., etc.” It has to be something like, “I plan to break free of failed Republican strategies, and am proposing bold new initiatives…”
But what kind of initiatives?
There are two general tacks the future president can take with respect to Mushy:
|1.||She can chide General Musharraf for the lack of democracy in his country, for his tolerance (if not encouragement) of various terrorist groups within his borders, and for his continuing confrontational attitude towards India, thus implying a dangerous leniency by the Bush administration; or|
|2.||She can chide President Bush for failing to do enough for Pakistan, our staunch ally in the War on Terror and a true friend of freedom, promising more aid, military hardware, strategic coordination, etc., etc.|
Or maybe she can think of another approach, one that’s not obvious to me. But, whatever it is, it will have to be seen as a tough, no-nonsense, strong-on-national-security policy. It’s been obvious for the last five years that she’s going to hit the Republicans from that angle, and make sure that her lefty pacifist rivals are marginalized as a result.
Hillary is a shrewd and ruthless political strategist. We are in for some interesting times.
The photo of Hillary that I used at the for this post was taken from her official Senate website, in the banner at the top of the page. But in the process of my search I came across the original, a photo of Ms. Rodham Clinton giving a speech at Yale on Class Day in 2001. Just as a matter of interest, I’ll put the original next to the doctored photo below (Yale has © plastered all over the photo page, but since they let their esteemed alumna put it on her website, I think it’s within fair use to post it here):
One of my favorite activities is doctoring images, so I compared the two with a professional eye. What’s interesting is what was done to the photo, and what’s wasn’t done.
The microphone in front of Hillary was removed from the photo, but not very well, leaving a smudgy gray residue on her right shoulder.
The sunny green background was removed, leaving only a faint halo along the edge Hillary’s skin and hair (if they’d given me the doctoring job, even that would be gone, but never mind). The blurry blue-gray background was obviously designed to pick up the color of the Senator’s jacket.
The color-tone of her face and hair was warmed up to provide a nice contrast with the background.
But her eye-pouches were not smoothed out, nor were her jowl lines reduced or muted. As far as I could tell the details of Hillary’s face and neck (execept for the color tone) were not altered.
No Katie Couric job on the future president’s photo. It seems that Hillary Rodham Clinton does not number personal vanity among her vices.
She’s an intriguing woman. I look forward to an entertaining political season as the campaign heats up.