Monday, July 13, 2009

A Little Of The Old In And Out

In: Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton. Last Wednesday Secretary of state Hillary Clinton made a dramatic appearance at the State Department Town Hall Meeting wearing a creme-colored suit and a fat string of pearls, arm slinged with the State Department seal. Smart power, that. She was witty, and clearly operating above the learning curve for matters of international diplomacy, answering questions on the fly from foreign policy veterans. Madame Secretary spoke, ab initio, about the difficulties of putting modern art on the walls at State. The theme -- using modern art as a metaphor -- was "Change," and how she translates President Obama's mandate to the United States State Department.

In a previous political incarnation Hillary Rodham Clinton was an ambitious member of the Armed Services Committee of the United States Senate. She displayed a powerful realism during the Democrat primary in 2008. It was, alas, her overzealousness on defense -- and the authorizing the Second Persian Gulf War -- which doomed her campaign for the American Presidency. Secretary Clinton, though, makes an interesting contrast with past Secretaries of State. Immediately previous to Clinton was Condoleeza Rice, a neoconservative ideologue much like her President, Bush 43. Colin Powell, her predecessor, whose military credentials and "toughness" were never in question, was a realist-centrist who lost a turf battle against an experienced bureaucratic infighting entity known on this blog collectively as "Chumsfeld (He is Legion)." Powell's influence declined precipetously after 9/11, and was a rare modern institutional instance of a Secretary of State who was actually politically weaker than a Secretary of Defense (Does that usually happen during wartime in American history?).

In general The Clinton Doctrine, as it seems to be shaping up, appears to be a return to the realism of George Herbert Walker Bush, 41. Realists, unlike the wide-eyed heirs of Wilson, deal with geography, military possibilities, natural resources -- like water oil and gold -- as well as their Holy Grail: international political stability. Ironically, this return to a New World Order which can appear on its face as cynical, but was delivered by a woman wearing white, in pearls with an arm in a sling. That, dear readers, is -- whether intentional or not -- the economic use of smart power. Bravo, Hillary.

Out: Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. Is pork barrel spending, internationally, the new black? Can Taro Aso's government survive? Is the Prime Minister inept? Will Yukio Hatoyama be the next Japanese Prime Minioster come August 30th? From NyTimes:

"In a meeting with top party officials, Mr. Aso said he would dissolve Parliament next week and hold the elections for its lower house, which selects the prime minister, on Aug. 30. The sudden decision follows months in which Mr. Aso had been trying to put off the national elections, in part because opinion polls have shown that his Liberal Democrats are almost certain to lose.

"Mr. Aso’s hand appeared to be forced, though, by a defeat on Sunday in a municipal election in Tokyo. The loss raised the specter of a revolt within his party, with a number of members fearing that the government’s support ratings, now in the high teens, will only continue to decline."

Although the Japanese Cabinet office said today that "the economy is showing movements of picking up recently while in a difficult situation," the benchmark Nikkei average fell 2.6 percent, or 236.95 points to an eight-week low.

In: Bruno. Granted, Sacha Baron Cohen knows how to find the g-spot of the American (and international) media. Still, the fact that Bruno took the week, conquering the North American box office (and appearing in character on today's Howard Stern show). He beat out cartoonish tentpole pics -- Ice Age 3-D, Transformers -- and, according to Nikki Finke's DeadlineHollywoodDaily, did "better than Universal expected and on par with the studio's hit 2007 'R'-rated laffer Knocked Up."

May we live in interesting times: Baron Cohen's Bruno is a bigger box office draw than Johnny Depp/Christian Bale's underpreforming drama Public Enemies.

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