Friday, January 16, 2009

Hillary Clinton on Indonesia

Everyone has talked about Barack Obama's connections to Indonesia, which are deep and resonant, dating back to his formative childhood years in Jakarta. But no one has discussed what Hillary Clinton's appointment as Secretary of State means for Indonesia.

After all, as head of the vast army of Foggy Bottom, she'll have her own team - and, some Obama supporters fear, her own agenda. No one would put it past the Clintons to be pursuing their own goals, even while leading America's dipomats around the globe.

Indeed there's a curious history between the Clintons and Indonesia, in the form of Lippo Group vice-chair James Riady, who was indicted, pled guilty, and paid million in fines related to campaign contributions for the 1996 US presidential election. The name Riady still conjures up images of Clinton corruption, particularly on the American right, and it wouldn't be surprising if Hillary wanted to distance herself from those old associations.

Any lingering bad blood, though, doesn't seem to be affecting her geopolitical outlook. Presuming she's on board to carry out Obama's wishes, Indonesia should be nicely positioned in coming years for an cozy bilateral relationship. In fact here's what Hillary said in her recent confirmation testimony before Congress, giving kudos to both Indonesia and Obama's mom (and herself) in a single rhetorical flourish:

"As a personal aside, I want to mention that President-elect Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, was a pioneer in microfinance in Indonesia. In my own work on microfinance around the world – from Bangladesh to Chile to Vietnam to South Africa and many other countries -- I’ve seen firsthand how small loans given to poor women to start small businesses can raise standards of living and transform local economies. President-elect Obama’s mother had planned to attend a microfinance forum at the Beijing women’s conference in 1995 that I participated in. Unfortunately, she was very ill and couldn’t travel and sadly passed away a few months later. But I think it’s fair to say that her work in international development, the care and concern she showed for women and for poor people around the world, mattered greatly to her son, and certainly has informed his views and his vision. We will be honored to carry on Ann Dunham’s work in the months and years ahead."


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6 comments:

johnorford said...

Hillary Clinton gets a lot of flack (mayb deservedly so, cos sometimes she does come out with some weird stuff).

But I reckon she'll be a great secretary of state.

Christopher Taylor said...

If she and Obama can get on the same page, I agree - if we learned anything from the primaries, it's that she's one tough cookie, which could be a very useful skill as a negotiator-!

Alaksir said...

But wasn't the "team of rivals" she set up for her campaign a mess? I just hope she'll do a much better job managing conflicts than she does managing people...

Christopher Taylor said...

Indeed you're right ... her campaign as the entitled heir-apparent was a disaster ... by the time she found a winning theme, as a scrappy street-fighter for the working class, it was too late.

Alaksir said...

I'm actually talking about the squabbling between some of her top aides, like when Mark Penn and Harold Ickes were blaming each other for the campaign's failures. Now that doesn't look very good to me if you're going to be in charge of delicate things like dealing with the Israelis and Palestinians...?

Christopher Taylor said...

Yes, her campaign was known for leaks and infighting, while "No Drama Obama" ran the tighter ship-