Tuesday, December 02, 2008


A Tale of Two Legislatures

'Shame on you Barack Obama! declared Hillary Clinton during her losing primary campaign. Now on the payroll she refers to those abrasive exchanges as a 'lively dialogue'. Such is politics. Something which struck me though about Hillary's recent elevation is that initially the offer did not seem like one. Hillary was said to be merely considering the idea. In the UK, you don't hesitate when offered a job in the Cabinet; if you are a politician this is the Holy Grail, or as near as dammit. But an academic discussion forum I belong to was divided over Hillary's best interests.

Doyen of pollsters, Sir Bob Worcester, reckoned Hillary would 'be mad to leave the Senate' as the Secretary of State job might only last a short while before she is replaced. Being in the Senate would keep her profile high should she fancy another shy at the White House in 20012.

Other scholars weighed in with the observation that service in the Senate carries real power and legislative clout- you can be on a committee actually redrafting clauses on the Senate floor. In other words, this example displays the fact that our legislature is by comparison a mere 'influencing' one compared with Congress's more policy-making role. Indeed some politicians over here regard the House of Commons as just something you have to get into in order to achieve the real power of government office. In the US you have to give up your legislative role to fill a Cabinet post while in Britain, it's just your entry card into the competition for one.

But in the end she ignored Sir Bob's advice and took the job. She'll have to work out why she voted for the Iraq War while presumably negotiating a withdrawal and wonder why she thought it would be such a bad idea while meeting representatives from the likes of Iran. But, this again, is just politics; its vagaries throw up all kinds of odd circumstances and bedfellows. Talking of bedfellows, it'll be interesting to see how 'Big Dog' husband, Bill, handles the role of being 'Mr Secretary of State'. Given his skills and experience together with his instinct for political compromise, I suspect Obama will be getting two high quality people for the price of one.

I don't think working out why she voted for the Iraq War while negotiating a withdrawal is that difficult.

The war wasn't hard to support. Sanctions were hurting ordinary Iraqis while Saddam Hussein continued to commit grave abuses of human rights.

Marsh Arabs, for example, were severely punished for supporting the first gulf war. Draining the marsh lands was a grave environmental crime that successfully staved out the bulk of this population.

Had the US and Britain walked away, it is likely that the genocide of this people would have been completed.

And they would not have been the only ones to suffer.

What's hard to dispute is that the prosecution of the war was incompetent and that allied forces committed acts of barbarity that effectively undermined their cause.

In any case events have moved on and I don't imagine Hilary was had it in mind that the US would occupy Iraq indefinitely when she voted for the war.
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