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Noonan on Hillary

Clinton arriving in New Delhi today

Clinton arriving in New Delhi today

I can only take Peggy Noonan in limited doses, if at all. But she does write well, and when she’s not being overly partisan, she does have interesting observations. Like yesterday, in her weekly WSJ column. Noonan takes up four separate topics: the moon landing forty years ago, the Sotomayor hearings, Al Franken’s assuming his position in the Senate, and Hillary Clinton. The Clinton topic arises out of Noonan’s observation that Franken is engaged in a “Full Hillary.” When she entered the Senate, “she did the absolute commonsense thing, keeping her head down and charming people with her hardworking, non-Diva-like attitude.” On completing her discussion of Franken, Noonan turns back to Clinton and writes:

Clinton is in a different position now. By this spring it must have become apparent to her that when the nice new president came and offered her the secretary of state job, and she said yes, she got rolled. What he got was clear: He took her off the chessboard. She wouldn’t be in the Senate being a counterforce, wouldn’t be planning her next move or become the rallying point of anti-Obama Democrats. She’d be on board, part of the team and invested in the administration’s success, for now its success would ensure her future. If their relationship didn’t work, nobody would think it was his fault.

What she would not have known was that she would be a public face of American diplomacy—not the face but a face—and not a decisive inside power. The portfolio for key areas—Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Mideast—was day by day given to others. She was sent off to do interviews on “Good Morning Manila.” In a foreign-affairs apparatus of clashing egos, she’d be just another ego. A Henry Kissinger or George Shultz would never have allowed this. She didn’t even go to the G-8 or the Russia meeting. President Obama, that canny fellow, only wants Obama in the room. It is true she broke her elbow, but they make it sound like a farming accident where her elbow was torn from her arm as she fed the thresher. Tina Brown wrote a witty column saying Mr. Obama should let Hillary out of her burqa.

But you know, one thing Mrs. Clinton’s learned is how to wait. Things turn on a dime, you wake up in the morning and there’s a new headline that changes everything. Sooner or later Mr. Obama is going to get in trouble, sooner or later the trouble will take hold and settle in, and sooner or later she will be the unsullied one who quietly did her duty in spite of the slights to which she’s been subjected. And when that happens, she will emerge—reluctantly, painfully—as the Democratic alternative. The one who almost won, who knew—who learned the hard way—that you can’t do everything all at once, that it’s the economy, stupid.

They will look like kids playing with history. Hillary isn’t a kid. She’s experienced, and has been roughed up by history. Watch. She’ll roll right back.

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