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Lords of the Transition Team
Our leadership class’s real accomplishment is résumé padding.

Hillary Clinton with Huma Abedin at a 2008 campaign rally.

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Mark Steyn

Let us put aside, as he so rarely does, Anthony Weiner’s spambot penis, and consider his wife and putative first lady. By universal consent, Huma Abedin is “smart, accomplished” (the Guardian), “whip-smart” (The Week), “accomplished” (Time), “smart and accomplished” (the Daily News) — oh, and did I mention “accomplished” (Forbes)?

So, if she’s so smart, what has she accomplished? Let us put aside her Muslim Brotherhood family background — let us put it aside in the same corner as Anthony Weiner’s infidel penis, the Muslim Brotherhood being one of the few things on the planet rising even more spectacularly than Anthony. Instead, consider merely the official résumé. Huma Abedin’s present employment is as “head of Hillary Clinton’s transition team.” Mrs Clinton, you may recall, was once secretary of state. This was way back in January. Since then, she has been “transitioning away from government to become more involved in her family’s charitable foundation.” You can’t make a “transition” without a “transition team.” Well, not in America. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands recently abdicated and managed to transition away from being queen back to the non-queen sector without benefit of a “transition team.” But it would be entirely unreasonable to expect U.S. cabinet officials to attempt the same tricky maneuver.

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In 2001, Bill Clinton was struggling with his own “transition back to private life.” He was reported by his ever reliable New York Times stenographer Adam Nagourney to be having difficulty “trying to place his own telephone calls.” The telephone is a technology many older people can have problems with, particularly if they had a full-time staff to place their calls throughout the Nineties. The 1890s, that is. So, alone in retirement at Chappaqua, a bewildered Bill would pick up the speaking tube and bark, “Hello, Central, get me Gennifer Flowers.” Fortunately, he was able to make a full recovery, and has since earned (according to CNN) $89 million in “speaking fees.” But few others could manage their “transition” quite that adroitly. So for the last six months the smart, accomplished Huma Abedin has been the executive supremo of Mrs. Clinton’s “transition team.”

Is this a grueling, time-consuming burden? Is this why Anthony Weiner’s shorts find themselves alone in the small hours burning the midnight oil? No. Politico’s Maggie Haberman recently broke the exclusive news that Ms. Abedin is taking “extended vacation time from her job.” This is not because the Clintons are naturally revolted at having their good name sullied by association with a sick pervert and his creepy enabling wife, but because, as you eventually discover if you plough deep into Miss Haberman’s story, “Hillary Clinton has close to no schedule next month.” She is now transitioning from her transition to her summer in the Hamptons, and presumably that requires an entirely different kind of transition team, to bring the beach towels and mix the margaritas.

Let us take it as read that “Head of Hillary Clinton’s Transition Team” is a meaningless title. Many societies have offices of state whose origins are lost in the mists of time. In London, David Cameron’s cabinet includes a man who holds the position of Lord Privy Seal. “Lord Privy Seal” would make an excellent ceremonial title for Anthony Weiner’s penis, but is in fact one of the most ancient gigs on the planet. Prior to 1307, his job was done by the Keeper of the Wardrobe. But the Keeper of the Wardrobe felt that, what with having to keep the wardrobe, he didn’t also have time to keep the privy seal, so a new post was created. Today, the Lord Privy Seal is a position reserved for a valued confidant the prime minister wants in his cabinet but without a department to run. Someone “smart” and “accomplished,” so to speak. But it’s one thing to have a job title rendered meaningless by the intervening seven centuries, and another to invent it out of whole cloth the day before yesterday, and have the media pass it off to their readers with a straight face. Presumably, Ye Lord Keeper of Ye Transition provides some valuable service for Mrs. Clinton, but, if so, it would be nice if Maggie Haberman could let us in on it.

What else has Huma Abedin accomplished? She was Hillary’s right-hand gal in the 2008 campaign for the Democratic nomination. Which Hillary lost. So not much of an accomplishment there. Subsequently, she was deputy chief of staff at the State Department, a job so demanding she latterly combined it with some private-sector consulting. What accomplishments does the State Department have to show for the Clinton-Abedin years? Secretary Clinton, as her supporters like to brag, “traveled a million miles.” “One is always nearer by not keeping still,” wrote the poet Thom Gunn. So Mrs. Clinton flew a million miles — to “reset” our relationship with Russia, and lead from behind in the Arab Spring. This weekend, America’s embassies in Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, and a bunch of other places will be shut down because everybody hates us. Meanwhile, Putin has embraced the first American defector to Moscow in decades, and is all but egging Obama to pull out of the G20 Summit and the insufficiently LGBT-friendly Russian Olympics. As Hillary in her more reflective moments must surely wonder about those million miles, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”



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