Thursday, March 17, 2011

Obama's indecision on Libya has pushed Clinton over the edge

By Joshua Hersh

Fed up with a president “who can’t make his mind up” as Libyan rebels are on the brink of defeat, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is looking to the exits.

At the tail end of her mission to bolster the Libyan opposition, which has suffered days of losses to Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, Clinton announced that she’s done with Obama after
2012 — even if he wins again.

“Obviously, she’s not happy with dealing with a president who can’t decide if today is Tuesday or Wednesday, who can’t make his mind up,” a Clinton insider told The Daily. “She’s exhausted, tired.”

He went on, “If you take a look at what’s on her plate as compared with what’s on the plates of previous Secretary of States — there’s more going on now at this particular moment, and it’s like playing sports with a bunch of amateurs. And she doesn’t have any power. She’s trying to do what she can to keep things from imploding.”

Clinton is said to be especially peeved with the president’s waffling over how to encourage the kinds of Arab uprisings that have recently toppled regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, and in particular his refusal to back a no-fly zone over Libya.

In the past week, former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton’s former top adviser Anne-
Marie Slaughter lashed out at Obama for the same reason.

The tension has even spilled over into her dealings with European diplomats, with whom she met early this week.

When French president Nicolas Sarkozy urged her to press the White House to
take more aggressive action in Libya, Clinton repeatedly replied only, “There are difficulties,” according to Foreign Policy magazine.

“Frankly we are just completely puzzled,” one of the diplomats told Foreign
Policy magazine. “We are wondering if this is a priority for the United States.”

Or as the insider described Obama’s foreign policy shop: “It’s amateur night.”

(Story continues below)
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Clinton revealed her desire to leave yesterday in an interview with CNN’s
Wolf Blitzer, responding four times to his questions about whether she would
accept a post during a potential second Obama administration with a single word: “No.”

Philippe Reines, an adviser and spokesman for Clinton, downplayed thesignificance of the interview, saying, “He asked, she answered. Really that simple. [It] wasn’t a declaration.”

But her blunt string of four “no’s” followed a period of intense frustration for the secretary, according to the insider, who told The Daily that Clinton has grown weary of fighting an uphill battle in the administration.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates came out against a no-fly zone almost two weeks ago, while Clinton grew closer to the Libyan opposition.

Last week, excommunicated members of Libya’s embassy to the United States set up shop in an office inside the State Department.

Obama himself made light of her strong feelings for supporting the opposition in a speech last week at the Gridiron Club Dinner, an annual gathering that traditionally features a stand-up comedy act by the president.

"I’ve dispatched Hillary to the Middle East to talk about how these countries can transition to new leaders — though, I’ve got to be honest, she’s gotten a little passionate about the subject,” Obama said to laughter from the audience.

“These past few weeks it’s been tough falling asleep with Hillary out there on Pennsylvania Avenue shouting, throwing rocks at the window.”

And to some, the firing last week of State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley over disparaging remarks he made about the Pentagon detention policies had the appearance of a power move by the Defense Department more than anything else.

While the stakes in Libya could not be higher, the insider said that something far more domestic was on Clinton’s mind after she leaves the State Department: “She wants to be a grandmother more than anything."