Politics & Policy

Lords of the Transition Team

Hillary Clinton with Huma Abedin at a 2008 campaign rally.
Our leadership class’s real accomplishment is résumé padding.

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.

#ad#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?”

#page#What accomplishments does Ms. Abedin’s husband have for his lifetime in “public service”? Other than the $3 million Park Avenue apartment that mysteriously came his way after his enforced return to the private sector. Carlos Danger’s pitch to the electors of New York is that they need him: His gifts are so extraordinary, his talent so prodigious, his skill set so indispensable that, like all great men weighed in the scales of history, he must be taken, as Cromwell said, warts and all. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Yet his time in Congress left no trace whatsoever. The most ridiculous thing about Anthony Weiner is not the tumescence of his Tweets but the flaccidness of his résumé.

Any day now, Hillary Clinton, having spent 20 minutes in the private sector, will be needing a new “transition team” to help her transition into replacing President Obama. He’s “smart” and “accomplished,” too. He had a million bucks of elite education — Occidental College, Columbia University, Harvard Law School — and became a “community organizer.” His wife went to Princeton and became a 350-grand-a-year diversity-outreach coordinator, a job so vital to the University of Chicago Hospitals that when she quit to become first lady they didn’t bother replacing her. This is what it means to be “smart” and “accomplished” in the hyperpower at twilight.

#ad#My old boss Conrad Black recently pointed out that “the economy can’t recover as it did in the past until more people are adding value” — making and doing something real. Instead, 40 percent of Americans perform minimal-skilled service jobs about to be rendered obsolete by technology, and almost as many pass their productive years shuffling paperwork from one corner of the land to another in various “professional services” jobs that exist to in order to facilitate compliance with the unceasing demands of the microregulatory state. The daily Obamacare fixes — which are nothing to do with “health” “care” but only with navigating an impenetrable bureaucracy — are the perfect embodiment of the Republic of Paperwork.

But nobody adds lack of value like America’s present leadership class — diversicrats, community organizers, and “power couples” comprising somebody handling the transition of a government official and somebody handling the transition in his boxers. If this is “smart” and “accomplished,” no wonder Putin’s laughing his head off.

Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2013 Mark Steyn

 

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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