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Hillary’s ‘Truth To Power’ Speech In China

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign site has posted her latest “foreign policy” pronouncements as delivered at George Washington University last night.

And, as usual, the speech contains a reference to Hillary’s amazing foreign policy triumph, when she ‘spoke truth to power’ in China in 1995, as an example of the kind of fearless leader of the free world she will be:


Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, delivers a foreign policy speech at George Washington University in Washington, Monday, Feb. 25, 2008.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Remarks on Foreign Policy at George Washington University

February 25, 2008

Thank you. It’s a great personal honor for me to be here with extraordinary leaders of our nation’s military forces and to thank them for their long and dedicated service to our country. I am grateful for their confidence in my ability to lead our nation in difficult times…

We are here at such an extraordinary moment in American history. The stakes have rarely been higher. I’ve had numerous historians tell me that America’s point in our arch of destiny, today is perhaps most similar to the situation confronting President Truman when he became our president and commander in chief.

Dramatic events during this past week have reminded us how volatile our world has become and how essential it is that we have sound strategy and strong leadership. From Kosovo to Cuba, from Iraq to Pakistan, to our embassy being burned in Belgrade, these are some of the most challenging spots on our global map. The world is being transformed with [sic] enormous risks and possibilities that we must meet with confidence, optimism, resolution and success.

The next president will inherit all of these global challenges and more from a president who failed to handle them well. A war in Afghanistan and a war in Iraq. America’s reputation at an all-time low.

Countries rushing to acquire nuclear weapons. Crushing poverty that stymies economic and political progress in too many regions of the world. Global warming and global health pandemics

Over the past seven years, we’ve seen what happens when the president presents the American people with a series of false choices and then is indifferent about the consequences: force versus diplomacy, unilateralism versus multilateralism, hard power versus soft. We’ve seen the tragic result of having a president who had neither the experience nor the wisdom to manage our foreign policy and safeguard our national security. We can’t let that happen again. America has already taken that chance— one time too many.

The symbol of our presidency – the American Eagle – holds arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other. Both are symbolic tools of what we need to keep our democracy strong and our nation safe— tools that a President must know how to use in the daily course of events, but also when that 3 a.m. phone call comes to the White House because an unforeseen crisis has erupted without warning. In that split second the president has to respond and make a decision that could affect the safety and lives of millions of people here in our country and around the world. Whoever sits at that desk in the Oval Office on January 20th, 2009 needs all the tools available, all the resources at our disposal, and the wisdom to know how to use them

We need a president who understands there is a time for force, a time for diplomacy, and a time for both, who understands that we enhance our international reputation and strengthen our security if the world sees the human face of American democracy in the good works, the good deeds we do for people seeking freedom from poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, and oppression.

With me, this is not theoretical. This is very much who I am, what I have done, and what I will do. The American people don’t have to guess whether I understand the issues or whether I would need a foreign policy instruction manual to guide me through a crisis or whether I’d have to rely on advisers to introduce me to global affairs.

I’m lucky to have had a pretty good inside view, over eight years in the White House and now over seven years in the Senate, of what the president goes through day in and day out dealing with all of these challenges. Obviously the work that I have done on human rights, democracy, international development gives me a deep appreciation of the importance of winning the hearts and minds of those in societies whether or not they are for us today. I believe that we can seed democracy and create new strong alliances overseas…

Dealing with the rising power of China provides an example. I went to Beijing in 1995 and spoke out for women’s rights and human rights. The Chinese government wasn’t happy; they pulled the plug on the broadcast of my speech. But I took that as a compliment. Because it was important for the United States both to be represented and to make absolutely clear that human rights is an integral part of our foreign policy and that women’s rights is key to that. What we have learned is that where women are oppressed and denied their basic rights we are more likely to have regimes that are more adversarial to American interests and values…

Electing a president should not be an either/or proposition when it comes to national security. We need a president who knows how to deploy both the olive branch and the arrows, who will be ready to act swiftly and decisively in a crisis, who will pursue strategic demands of hard diplomacy to re-establish moral authority and our leadership. In this moment of peril and promise, we need a president who is tested and ready, who can draw on years of real world experience working on many of the issues that we now confront, who knows when to stand ones ground and when to seek common ground, who has the strength and fortitude to meet the challenges head on without fear and without sowing fear.

I believe I am the candidate most ready today to be that kind of president and commander in chief…

If you go to Hillary’s campaign’s site and read the speech you will see her usual rant against “cowboy diplomacy” and her desire to turn our foreign policy and military into an international charity.

But as Mrs. Clinton herself suggests, let’s look at her shining example of how she dealt with the rising power of China as an example of what kind of President and Commander In Chief she will make.

From her ghostwritten autobiography, “Living History,” pp 354-363:

WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

The U.N. women’s conference was expected to provide an important forum for nations to address issues such as maternal and child health care, microfinance, domestic violence, girls’ education, family planning, women’s suffrage, property and legal rights.

It would also offer a rare opportunity for women from around the world to share stories, information and strategies for future action in their own countries. The conference is held roughly every five years, and I hoped my presence would signal the U.S. commitment to the needs and rights of women in international policy…

Sensitive to concerns across the political spectrum, I worked with Melanne Verveer and the President’s staff to assemble a delegation for Beijing. Bill named people from varied backgrounds to represent our nation, including Republican Tom Kean, the former Governor of New Jersey; Sister Dorothy Ann Kelly, President of the College of New Rochelle; and Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, Vice-Chair of the Muslim Women’s League. Madeleine Albright, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, was the official head of the delegation

I stayed up all night in the little cottage we occupied at Kaneohe Marine Base, working on my book and the latest draft of my speech for Beijing… All eyes were now on Beijing, and I knew that all eyes would be on me too. My staff and I had been working on remarks that would forcefully defend the U.S. position on human rights and expand conventional notions of women’s rights. I would criticize Chinese government abuses, including coerced abortions and the routine squelching of free speech and free assembly…

After we ate dinner on the plane, the cabin lights were turned off and most of the passengers bundled themselves in blankets and curled up to sleep as we crossed the Pacific. But the speech team still had work to do. We were on our fifth or sixth draft, and we needed to show the text to our resident foreign policy experts, who had joined us in Honolulu along with other administration officials and support staff. Winston Lord, the gentlemanly former Ambassador to China whom Bill appointed Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; Eric Schwartz, a human rights specialist on the National Security Council; and Madeleine Albright huddled at a dimly lit worktable and pored over the text. Their job was to catch any inaccuracies or inadvertent diplomatic gaffes. Given all that had preceded it, one wrong word in this speech might lead to a diplomatic brouhaha. Their review was critical, I knew, but I was always wary whenever the experts weighed in. Often they were so intent on leaving their carefully nuanced, diplomatic imprint on a draft that they turned a good speech into mush. Not so in this case.

“What do you want to accomplish?” Madeleine had asked me earlier.

“I want to push the envelope as far as I can on behalf of women and girls,” I said.

Madeleine, Win and Eric recommended that I strengthen a section defining human rights and refer to a recent affirmation of those rights at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. They suggested beefing up passages about the effects of war on women, particularly the devastating proliferation of rape as a tactic of war and the increasing number of women refugees resulting from violent conflict. Most important, they understood that the power of the speech lay in its simplicity and emotion. They kept me out of trouble but were careful not to intrude with a heavy hand.

Brady Williamson, a Wisconsin lawyer who led my advance team, received daily inquiries from Chinese officials as to what I was going to say in my speech. They made it clear that while they welcomed my physical presence at the conference, they didn’t want to be embarrassed by my words and hoped that I “appreciated China’s hospitality.” …

Finally, it was time to enter the Plenary Hall, which looked like a mini United Nations. Although I had delivered thousands of speeches, I was nervous. I felt passionately about the subject, and I was speaking as a representative of my country. The stakes were high―for the United States, for the conference, for women around the world and for me. If nothing came out of the conference, it would be viewed as another missed opportunity to galvanize global opinion on behalf of improving conditions and increasing opportunities for women and girls. I didn’t want to embarrass or let down my country, my husband or myself And I didn’t want to squander a rare opportunity to advance the cause of women’s rights.

Our delegation had been busy negotiating with other delegations over the language in the conference’s plan of action. Some delegates clearly disagreed with the American agenda for women. The fact that women’s rights was an emotional issue made the delivery of my speech harder for me. I had learned during health care reform that my own strong feelings rarely help me in my delivery of a public address. Now I had to make sure that the tone or pitch of my voice would not confuse the message. Like it or not, women are always subject to criticism if they show too much feeling in public.

Looking out into the audience, I saw women and men of all complexions and races, some in Western garb and many dressed in their nation’s traditional clothing. The majority wore headphones to listen to simultaneous translations of the speeches. That was a curveball that I hadn’t anticipated: as I spoke, there was no response to my words, and I found it difficult to get into a rhythm or gauge the crowd’s reaction because the pauses in my English sentences and paragraphs didn’t coincide with those in the dozens of other languages the delegates were hearing.

After thanking Gertrude Mongella, the Secretary-General of the conference, I began by saying that I appreciated being a part of this great global gathering of women:

This is truly a celebration―a celebration of the contributions women make in every aspect of life: in the home, on the job, in the community, as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, learners, workers, citizens and leaders…. However different we may appear, there is far more that unites us than divides us. We share a common future. And we are here to find common ground so that we may help bring new dignity and respect to women and girls all over the world-and in so doing, bring new strength and stability to families as well.

I wanted the speech to be simple, accessible and unambiguous in its message that women’s rights are not separate from, or a subsidiary of, human rights and to convey how important it is for women to make choices for themselves in their lives. I drew on my own experiences and described women and girls I had met all over the world who were working to promote education, health care, economic independence, legal rights and political participation, and to end the inequities and injustices that fall disproportionately on women in most countries.

Pushing the envelope in this speech meant being clear about the injustice of the Chinese government’s behavior. The Chinese leadership had blocked non-governmental organizations from holding their NGO forum at the main conference in Beijing. They forced NGOs devoted to causes ranging from prenatal care to micro-lending to convene at a makeshift site in the small city of Huairou, forty miles north, where there were few accommodations or facilities. Although I didn’t mention China or any other country by name, there was little doubt about the egregious human rights violators to whom I was referring.

I believe that on the eve of a new millennium, it is time to break our silence. It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights…. For too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words.

The voices of this conference and of the women at Huairou must be heard loud and clear: It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.

It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution.

It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.

It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.

It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages fourteen to forty-four is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes by their own relatives.

It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation.

It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.

If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights … and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.

I ended the speech with a call to action to return to our countries and renew our efforts to improve educational, health, legal and political opportunities for women. When the last words left my lips―“Thank you very much. God’s blessings on you, your work and all who will benefit from it”―the serious and stony-faced delegates suddenly leaped from their seats to give me a standing ovation. Delegates rushed to touch me, shout words of appreciation and thank me for coming. Even the delegate from the Vatican commended me for the speech. Outside the hall, women hung over banisters and rushed down escalators to grab my hand. I was thrilled that my message had resonated, and it was a relief that the press reports, too, were good. The New York Times editorial page wrote that the speech “may have been her finest moment in public life.” What I didn’t know at the time was that my twenty-one-minute speech would become a manifesto for women all over the world. To this day, whenever I travel overseas, women come up to me quoting words from the Beijing speech or clutching copies they want me to autograph.

The reaction of the Chinese government was not so positive. I learned later that the government had blacked out my speech from closed-circuit TV in the conference hall, which had been broadcasting highlights of the conference

So this doesn’t quite add up to Mrs. Clinton’s claim in her speech:

The Chinese government wasn’t happy; they pulled the plug on the broadcast of my speech. 

The speech was not being “broadcast.” There was only a closed circuit feed to the rest of the conference hall.

And it doesn’t even seem like they cut that since:

Outside the hall, women hung over banisters and rushed down escalators to grab my hand.

Why would the people outside of the room be so excited if they had not heard what she said?

And so much for Hillary’s claims that, unlike Mr. Obama, she won’t need to depend upon advisors and policy experts:

The American people don’t have to guess whether I understand the issues or whether I would need a foreign policy instruction manual to guide me through a crisis or whether I’d have to rely on advisers to introduce me to global affairs.

Her “Living History” account is replete with advisers helping her to prepare for the UN Women’s Rights Conference speech that so clearly changed the world. 

Mrs. Clinton lists her staff, her “speech team” and numerous other advisors:

We were on our fifth or sixth draft, and we needed to show the text to our resident foreign policy experts, who had joined us in Honolulu along with other administration officials and support staff. Winston Lord, the gentlemanly former Ambassador to China whom Bill appointed Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; Eric Schwartz, a human rights specialist on the National Security Council; and Madeleine Albright huddled at a dimly lit worktable and pored over the text…

Madeleine, Win and Eric recommended that I strengthen a section defining human rights and refer to a recent affirmation of those rights at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. They suggested beefing up passages about the effects of war on women, particularly the devastating proliferation of rape as a tactic of war and the increasing number of women refugees resulting from violent conflict. Most important, they understood that the power of the speech lay in its simplicity and emotion. They kept me out of trouble but were careful not to intrude with a heavy hand.

No, she doesn’t need any help at all.

Also note how Hillary was so courageous that she didn’t even dare to mention China by name in her speech.

And never mind that her speech itself was so vague and tautological as to be virtually meaningless. After all, who is for the breaking of little girls’ spines?

But bear in mind, this is what Hillary endlessly cites as her most heroic moment — giving a speech about women’s rights at a United Nations conference discussing “women’s rights.”

Oh yeah, she is ready to be President all right.

How can anyone doubt that?

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Tuesday, February 26th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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