Clinton Names His New Security Team -- Dec. 5, 1996
Analysis: Albright Made The Right Political Moves
By Bill Schneider/CNN
LOS ANGELES (Dec. 6) -- Madeleine Albright made all the right moves in her skillful, carefully calculated campaign to become the first woman nominee for secretary of state.
Albright's blunt, tough-talking manner has gotten her a lot of criticism in the diplomatic world, like when she tore into Cuba following the downing of two unarmed private aircraft that ventured near the island. "Frankly, this is not cojones, this is cowardice," she said.
But it's won her a lot of admiration in the political world, just as it did for a couple of blunt, tough-talking preDecessors, Pat Moynihan and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who used the job of U.N. ambassador to establish their political bases.
Albright showed guts, like the time in Beijing in September 1995 when she criticized China's human rights policies to its leader's faces.
"It is unconscionable, therefore, that the right to free expression has been called into question right here, at a conference conducted under the auspices of the UN and whose very purpose is the free and open discussion of women's rights," Albright said.
She has displayed leadership, pressuring the Clinton Administration to take a firm stand on Bosnia long before the president Decided what to do. President Bill Clinton alluded to that this week when he announced her appointment. "Time and again, I have benefitted from her judgment and counsel on issues from Bosnia to NATO, and many, many other difficult areas," he said.
Albright has cultivated a respectful relationship with North Carolina Republican Sen. Jesse Helms. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he will preside over her confirmation hearings. She calls him "a living legend and one of the true gentlemen of the U.S. Senate."
This week, he called her a tough and courageous lady and signaled he would not stand in the way of her confirmation.
Albright's vigorous opposition to the renomination of Boutros Boutros-Ghali to be U.N. secretary general earned her criticism from other diplomats. "We're not looking for a bookkeeper," she said. "We are looking for someone who has a vision about reform, who is not dragged into reform kicking and screaming."
But it proved to the White House that she was a team player and it disarmed Senate conservatives critical of the UN.
Sure, she's made some mistakes. She devised a theory of "assertive multilateralism" -- how's that for an oxymoron? -- to defend U.N. peacekeeping missions.
It drew a skeptical reaction from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. "This 'assertive multilateralism'... is a term that causes me great concern," Lott said. "I think that those are code words, big code words, for 'international nanny'..."
And critics say she has no broad strategic vision of world affairs. But her political vision is just fine.
Women's rights activists were very coy about pressuring the administration to name a woman to a senior Cabinet post. So was the president, when he was asked whether he nominated Albright because she was a woman.
"It had nothing to do with her getting the job..." Clinton said.
Yeah, right, just like President George Bush's explanation of why he nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. "The fact that he is black and a minority has nothing to do with this," Bush said at the time.
Unlike Thomas, however, Albright made all the right moves to put herself in line for this nomination. We're not talking diplomacy here. We're talking politics -- the political Play of the Week.
Last month, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) pointed out that Clinton needed a secretary of state with political skills, someone who can sell a policy of international engagement to an indifferent public and a skeptical Congress. Albright may be just the man -- excuse me, just the woman -- for that job.
This story originally appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics."
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