Unethical Quote of the Week: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Hillary said something unethical? I'm shocked! Shocked!

“But the bottom line is, whose side are you on? Are you on Qadhafi’s side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been created to support them? For the Obama Administration, the answer to that question is very easy.”

—–Obama Administration Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, responding in a press conference to Congressional objections that the U.S. continued participation in attacks on Libya violates the War Powers Resolution—which it undoubtedly does.

Most of the objections to Sec. Clinton’s comments focus on her apparent hypocrisy; after all, this is the same woman who as a U.S. Senator in 2003 objected to “are you with us or against us” rhetoric from the Bush Administration regarding the Iraq war by saying,  “I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration somehow you’re not patriotic. We should stand up and say we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration.” But this isn’t necessarily hypocrisy: Hillary has a right to change her mind. What is unethical about her statement on Libya is that it is manipulative, unfair and dishonest.

I favor U.S. action in Libya. I think it is disgraceful that the U.S. isn’t taking meaningful action against Syria’s Assad while he is slaughtering his own people, especially since President Obama promised in his May 19 address to use “all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal” to oppose repression and support democratic transitions across the Middle East. Nevertheless, this is a nation of laws, and process matters. The War Powers Resolution requires Obama to receive Congressional approval to continue raids in Libya, and he hasn’t sought or received them. It isn’t, as Clinton dishonestly claims, a matter of “whose side” we are on. It is a matter of whether we have a constitutional government with integrity, or simply a bunch of old words and aspirations that our government can ignore and discard whenever they get in the way of what a President or a majority party thinks is a good idea at the time.

Undoubtedly, this has been the general attitude of Democrats and Obama since they took the reins of power in 2008. “Process be damned” has been the motto, highlighted, or lowlighted, by the many parliamentary tricks, deceits and dubious devices employed to create the health care reform bill and to get it passed into law. When you know it all and are certain you are right, it is easy to act as if the ends justify the means.

Clinton’s statement reduced that arrogant supposition to its essence. Forget about process, she is saying,  do we want to get rid of a dangerous dictator, or not? The United States, however, is a constitutional democracy, and thus is built on process. Clinton’s sweeping extinction of process as an essential aspect of governing intentionally obscures the core American principle that not only must we do the right thing, but we must do it the right way.

And with that, let me refer you to a delightful rant on this same topic, by the deft and perceptive Ken at Popehat. This is an ethics blog; I can’t write stuff like this. But in these situations, I would sure like to.

7 thoughts on “Unethical Quote of the Week: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

  1. I followed your link to Ken’s post on Popehat. I tell my children that some people will think less of them and their intelligence (poverty of vocabulary)when they use that sort of salty language. However, I couldn’t have said it any more intelligently and completely than Ken did. The only word that I would have tried to add is perfidious (but I really like mendacious too). I just finished reading Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Our current government in many ways acts with the capriciousness as the Crown did in 1775. I hope in the coming elections we can elect some grownups with a better sense of how to do the right thing.

  2. What I don’t get about this issue is this: the President decides that he doesn’t want his Justice Department to defend DOMA, because he thinks it’s unconstitutional.

    But here, he could legitimately make the argument that the WPA is unconstitutional. But he doesn’t.


    • Yes, Both Ken and Patrick, the other primary blogger at Popehat, excel at this kind of thing, and don’t over-use it, which is equally impressive, either. I’m not bad at those kinds of riffs either, but my mission restrains me here.

  3. I’m 100% in agreement, though I believe the date cutoff for bad administration behavior and calling out the democrats gives a false impression. The Republicans have been going full out filibuster while the democrats have had control, and prior to 2009, the republican administration was using as many tricks as possible. Subverting the intended process was the main benefit of Karl Rove, and it carried over into the post 9/11 war on terror mythos.

    Yes, Hillary Clinton should get called out, but once this was extended to the entire administration, it should not have been left at just the democrats.

    • The Republicans have been going full out filibuster while the democrats have had control, and prior to 2009, the republican administration was using as many tricks as possible.

      What were these dirty tricks?

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