Wally filling in tonight for Rebecca to blog about the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing today.
The full committee heard from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who was arguing for a large budget for her department. Arguing for a large budget when the US economy is still tanking. $55.7 billion dollars, according to the figures she gave.
And here's the worst part about the hearing: Partisan crap.
On the Democratic side, you had no serious challenge of the money. Just fawning and pet issues. If you're late to the party, Hillary is a Democrat.
And when I say fawning, I'm not referring to the compliments. Hillary got a number of them from Republicans and Democrats and I don't begrudge her a single one (I campaigned for Hillary in the 2008 primaries -- and would do so again). I'm talking about accepting her pretexts, refusing to question them.
A few economic questions came from Republicans -- a few. But you also had some I-hated-Hillary-for-years Republicans who undercut the economic issues that were brought up.
The issue was the money. It's a shame that both parties refused to focus on it. (Again, a few Republicans did focus on the money.) In focusing on the money there are at least two aspects.
1) Is this too much money?
2) Is it going to be used effectively?
The second one only came up once and, when it did, Hillary said that she had created the first review (she had a fancy name for it, I'm keeping things simple) to go through for each dollar and see what was needed.
I like Hillary. And she was prepared.
But her claim of a review? Worthless. Two hours into the hearing, she's talking about competing with China and is asked (by a Democrat) shouldn't she be asking for more money?
(When I said "fawning," that's what I was talking about. Billions of our dollars are being asked for -- the highest State Dept. & USAID budget ever. And a Democrat's asking her shouldn't she ask for even more money.)
She agreed that she'd have to reshuffle the money once she found out what Congress was giving her department.
You're submitting a budget to Congress. You're saying "I need this and will spend it on that" and yet you're telling us that once Congress signs off on your budget, you're going to apply the money however you want and, in fact, your request really isn't genuine.
Did no one get that?
Hillary had a big argument and I'm going to keep it simple. (In part because I was too technical on a post here about the economy and Rebecca forwarded me all of the e-mail questions. I'm not complaining about that and thank you to everyone who e-mailed about getting lost. That's why I'm keeping it simple.)
Hillary's argument was? I want you to picture the whole world as a small group of people, okay?
And Hillary's arguing that the State Dept. has to take people out to eat. They have to pay for it. They have to be the big spender. Because that's what people want America to do.
I used people for a reason. I bet if you go into work tomorrow and say, "Hey, I'll treat, anyone want to go to lunch?" a big group of people will want to. And I bet you that you can do that every day until you're broke and they will keep sponging.
But don't mistake that for anything other than sponging.
I didn't hear one thing from Hillary that indicated it was more than people sponging. (In fairness to her, no one asked her about that.)
Now my other issue from the hearing is one I praise her for.
The US provides aid all over the world. (Not enough in good economic times, but they do provide aid.) In many parts of the world, Hillary would be visiting and people would tell her that Saudi Arabia and this country and that country was giving this and this and this and why wasn't the US? And Hillary would respond that the US was giving water and giving this and that and more than all three other countries added together. Why wasn't it registering?
Because there was no effort to do so. Hillary has advocated for (and this is now policy) that when US aid goes to a foreign country, it's identified. So say 14 barrels of water are sent to Haiti, okay? They're distributed from a tent with United States on it. Hillary talked about (and I agree) the need to better "brand" this country around the world.
I applaud her for that. I don't know if you'll remember this or not (and I know some of you will be too young too) but during the years Bush occupied the White House, the US image around the world was awful. We were advised to say we were from Canada when traveling abroad, for example. During all that time, US aid was going out and the US wasn't getting credit. That was a huge mistake because our image was awful. So I give Hillary credit for that. As she said, if US tax payers are going to foot the bill for it, they deserve the credit.
And now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"