A Tale of Three Speeches

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We mere citizens of the world who once upon a time looked to the President of the United States to be both a strong leader and a bold representative of important moral principles sit aghast at the horror of #USElections2016. Still, it may soon be over, or not as the case may be.

Let’s look at two speeches by the leading candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, that go a long way to defining their approach to responsibility in public life.

On 14 September 2012 Mrs Clinton as Secretary of State stood in front of the coffins containing the bodies of the four Americans including US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens who had been murdered in the attack on the American offices in Benghazi, Libya. This appalling event took place on 11 September, the anniversary of the 9/11 onslaught by Al Qaeda against the World Trade Center. Coincidence? Of course not.

This created an alarming potential PR disaster for President Obama, then running for re-election in a few weeks’ time. How to present himself as the champion of US security interests who had eliminated Osama Bin Laden when the US Ambassador to Libya had been killed in such a way on that very anniversary day?

A plan was hatched at top speed. Present these carefully planned attacks not as the US security disaster that it was, but rather as the regrettable if not almost understandable spontaneous reaction by ordinary Arabs to a provocative anti-Muslim video made in the United States!

Thus President Obama at the United Nations on 25 September 2012:

In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening; in every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask themselves how much they’re willing to tolerate freedom for others.

That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.  Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.

It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well — for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and every faith … We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them …

And on this we must agree:  There is no speech that justifies mindless violence.  (Applause.)  There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents.  There’s no video that justifies an attack on an embassy …

Note the sly wording. He does not explicitly blame the video for the attack on the Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues. But the strong unambiguous deliberate implication of his words is to create a firm link in the minds of world public opinion between the video and the attack. The post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, deployed to mislead the planet.

The sun sets on President Obama’s eight years in office and all the wasted opportunities and half-hearted detachment that have characterised his foreign policy from the start. Who replaces him? What might she or he bring?

Mrs Clinton in the days straight after the Benghazi attack knew that the video had had nothing to do with this well planned terrorism. But she also knew that her own ambitious political plans rested to a large extent on the re-election of President Obama.

Thus her words standing in front of the bodies of fallen State Department colleagues, above all Ambassador Stevens whom she knew personally:

I was honored to know Ambassador Chris Stevens. I want to thank his parents and siblings who are here today for sharing Chris with us and with our country. What a wonderful gift you gave us … People loved to work with Chris, and as he rose to through the ranks they loved to work for Chris. He was known not only for his courage but for his smile — goofy but contagious; for his sense of fun and that California cool …

This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.

Note again the cunning wording. She does not directly pin the attack on the Americans in Benghazi on the video. That would be untrue! “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”!

But in a few words she carefully places the Benghazi attacks and the video in the same tight emotional and intellectual space. That juxtaposition is enough for her PR purposes. As a wily Russian diplomat once said to me: “Nothing is linked. But everything is linked”.

Maybe as a former ambassador myself I am over-sensitive when it comes to what our political leaders say when standing in front of the coffins of murdered diplomats who died representing those leaders. But this is too much.

It’s one thing deliberately to mislead or tell outright lies when vital national interests are threatened. The deception/lie maybe has some claim to be necessary or at least defensible, to advance the Greater Good.

But it’s quite another to mislead/lie purely for one’s own ambitions. That is not necessary or defensible. And to do that standing just feet away from the body of a friend and colleague who died serving his country is beyond extraordinary. It’s ghoulish. Macabre. It dishonours his life and his death by instrumentalising both for private greedy reasons.

In short, never mind the avalanche of grisly revelations emerging from EmailGate and all the countless other lies and evasions and equivocations and obfuscations Mrs Clinton has emitted during her long mediocre years in US public life.

This one ghastly episode shows that Hillary Clinton is unfit to lead American diplomats and soldiers. How can they be expected to do what it takes and risk their own lives for their country in extreme moments of stress and danger, when they know that the President herself may dishonour their ultimate sacrifice merely because it suits her to do so?

What about Donald Trump? This speech on 16 June 2015 seems to be a typical enough example of his worldview:

The US has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. (APPLAUSE)

It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you.

They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people.

It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably — probably — from the Middle East.

But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening.

And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.(APPLAUSE)

Islamic terrorism is eating up large portions of the Middle East. They’ve become rich. I’m in competition with them.

They just built a hotel in Syria. Can you believe this? They built a hotel. When I have to build a hotel, I pay interest. They don’t have to pay interest, because they took the oil that, when we left Iraq, I said we should’ve taken.

A bizarre nonsensical stream of semi-consciousness.

Mr Trump too is unfit to lead American diplomats and soldiers. How can they be expected to do what it takes and risk their own lives for their country in extreme moments of stress and danger, when they know that the President himself may well not have the foggiest idea what he’s talking about?

* * * * *

Thus the situation the world faces. The United States is poised to elect a new President who is unfit to lead that great country, and who will be entangled in impossible scandals and controversy from Day One.

Therefore what?


CCrawford

Charles Crawford is a British former career diplomat turned writer, public speaking specialist and mediator. His work for HM Diplomatic Service featured postings in communist Yugoslavia, South Africa as apartheid ended and Russia after the USSR collapsed, then three ambassadorships: in Sarajevo after the conflict (1996-98); in Belgrade after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic (2001-03); and in Warsaw when Poland joined the European Union (2003-07). He served as FCO Speechwriter in the 1980s and has drafted or contributed to speeches by members of the British Royal Family, Prime Ministers and different Foreign Ministers and other senior figures. A speech he supported on Technology, Security Freedom delivered by former MI6 Chief Sir John Sawers won a 2016 Cicero Award

Speeches for Leaders available via Amazon: Click Here

 

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