CNN's senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar tipped the scales in favor of the conservative meme that Hillary Clinton has "no major achievements to point to" as Secretary of State.
In an April 22 post on CNN's Political Ticker blog, Keilar highlighted conservatives who are attempting to "fill the political vacuum with repeated criticism of her diplomatic record, which polls show is a positive with voters ahead of a potential 2016 White House run." Keilar noted that the effort to diminish Clinton's accomplishments was politically important to conservatives, and she's right. In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, RNC chairman Reince Priebus strongly suggested that the GOP would focus on defining what Clinton has "done or hasn't done."
Although she noted that Clinton allies had documented her accomplishments as secretary, Keilar concluded the post by largely rehashing the conservative spin, claiming Clinton is "without major achievements to point to":
The group points to a list of 11 achievements on its website. It credits her with restoring America's leadership and standing in the world, building and maintaining a coalition to enact unprecedented sanctions against Iran, her role in a nuclear missile reduction treaty with Russia and her support for the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
"And, yes, you can also find information on her implementation of (audit)-inspired reforms, including the integration of women into the secretary of state policy framework and ensuring our economic, energy, and environmental goals serve U.S. national security interests," senior adviser Burns Strider told CNN.
But without major achievements to point to, like progress on Mideast peace, and U.S.-Russian relations at a post-Cold War low despite her attempt to reset them, arguments for her accomplishments are modest.
Even Clinton herself has struggled to clearly articulate concrete examples of her success.
"I really see my role as secretary, and, in fact, leadership in general in a democracy, as a relay race," Clinton told an audience at a recent event in New York when she was asked about her triumphs in that job. "You run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton."
By using her own voice to characterize Clinton's record as lacking in major achievements, Keilar is ceding the high ground to right-wing talking points at the expense of the assessment of foreign policy experts, who have praised Clinton for repairing the badly damaged relationship between the United States and the rest of the world that resulted from the presidency of George W. Bush. As foreign policy journalist Michael Hirsch noted in the National Journal:
It is not that Clinton can't point to some notable and enduring achievements. Because of her worldwide popularity and tireless travel -- she set a new record for a secretary of state by visiting 112 countries -- Clinton helped undo the damage that the habitual unilateralism of the George W. Bush administration had done to the global image of the United States. As Clinton put it to me in a 2010 interview, "My big-picture commitment is to restore American leadership, and I think that's about as big a job as you can get. And everything I've done is in furtherance of that."
Clinton's individual accomplishments have been recorded in various outlets despite their exclusion in Keilar's post. These include avoiding war in Gaza by negotiating a cease-fire, extensive diplomacy in Russia, imposing the toughest sanctions in Iran's history, restarting diplomatic relations with Myanmar, and advocacy for women's rights worldwide.