Reviews for Hillary Clinton's pre-2009 work are largely in, but for her State Department tenure — probably the most significant for any 2016 bid — the legacy-defining is just getting underway.
In Politico's new magazine (named Politico Magazine), Susan Glasser offers a robust, Yelp-style overview of Clinton's State tenure, with interviews with a number of people from both sides of the aisle who have some ability to judge it. In keeping with the spirit of Yelp, we've estimated the number of stars each might have given.
- Aaron David Miller, former State negotiator: "She was a fine secstate but not consequential." Our estimate:
- American Enterprise’s Institute’s Danielle Pletka: "Unwillingness to take risks, unwillingness to lead, willingness to stab a lot of people in the back. And dead people." Our estimate:
- David Gordon, State staffer under Bush: "[G]ood not great … great weakness was avoiding serious diplomacy." Our estimate:
- Howard Berman, formerly of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: "[L]ook at the issues Kerry is working on and it is clear that Clinton, for rather obvious reasons, couldn’t have replicated what he has done because those issues weren’t ripe then." Our estimate:
- Dennis Ross, former National Security Council aide: Clinton was "in a place where she felt the need to prove her loyalty to the president and demonstrate she was a member of the team." Our estimate:
- Steve Sestanovich, former State department staffer under President Clinton: "It’s true that her record as secretary included few accomplishments if you mean by that peace agreements solving some big problem. If you measure her tenure by success in rebuilding America’s power position, it looks a lot better." Our estimate:
- Anne-Marie Slaughter, former State staffer under Hillary Clinton: "I continue to think that people will look back and see that she was the first secretary of state really to grasp the ways global politics and hence foreign policy have changed in the 21st century." Our estimate:
Which gives Clinton an average rating of three-and-a-quarter stars. Our methodology is certainly worth treating skeptically, but it's clear that this is precisely the sort of mixed, tepid judgment that Clinton hopes to reverse.
In case that wasn't clear before this week (which it was), news broke over the weekend that Clinton would work with the authors of an upcoming book about her time leading the State Department. She and her team have previously been diligent about killing or avoiding biographical projects they can't control; Clinton's own book about her time is coming out next summer. But for HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, Team Clinton is on board.
The reason why is clear. Hillary Clinton has had four positions in the public eye — first lady, senator, candidate, and secretary of state — the last of which, her team thinks, can still be defined. "[Critics'] Rolodexes are frozen in 2008. So anyone who takes the time to learn about her tenure at State," her advisor Philippe Reines told the Huffington Post, "it’s both important and impressive. Because a lot of people can’t be bothered."
In other words: let's get some more reviews in. Reines' plan, of course, is that he'll be able to give the book's authors a lot of five-star reviewers.