Back in January, I wrote a piece about the metrics I use to assess presidential candidates, and I said I'm looking for, among other things, someone "who understands that diplomacy and negotiation are huge parts of the president's job, and who is a solid diplomat and negotiator."
This morning, Aphra_Behn pointed me to this article about the crucial role Hillary Clinton played in the Irish peace process.
During that trip and subsequently, Hillary Clinton played a leading role in creating the links between the White House and leaders on the ground that would be so important in subsequent years.There's much more at the link, and I encourage you to read the whole thing.
Her visits to the Falls and Shankill Roads in Belfast to meet working-class women from both communities were especially important. She helped empower key women at a time in the conflict when women's voices were hardly heard. She played a major role in setting the groundwork for the formation of parties such as the Women's Coalition, which was to play an essential role in cross-community bridge building in the vital years when the peace process was being bedded down.
...Then, of course, there were the meetings in Washington, usually around St. Patrick's Day, and the White House "Irish night," which became a fixture at Hillary's insistence.
The boost to the peace process of a First Lady of the United States welcoming party leaders of whatever stripe to the White House had to be seen in person to be believed.
When perhaps the most famous woman in the world spent an extraordinary amount of time just listening to the perspectives from the various parties, it was bound to have an impact.
Progressive Unionist Party Leader David Ervine, tragically now deceased, described her as the most knowledgeable person on the issue he had met in Washington. John Hume, the SDLP leader and Nobel Peace laureate who was a frequent visitor and friend, agreed. They were sitting together in a smoky hotel bar in Washington, D.C. after an economic conference on Northern Ireland, another Clinton initiative, and Hillary had just knocked them dead with a spirited contribution on peace and economic strategy.
...Hillary used the example of her peace efforts in Northern Ireland on her future global travels. Soon after being named Secretary of State she met with a small group of Irish-American leaders and spoke of her hopes that Irish Americans would meet and give advice to other diaspora leaders such as Pakistani and Indian Americans, revealing to them how the Irish diaspora helped end the conflict in Northern Ireland.
As Secretary of State, Hillary convened several diaspora conferences and used Ireland as an example of peace brokering in her bestselling memoir, Hard Choices. She also included Northern Ireland on her final travel trip as Secretary of State and received an overwhelming reception from party leaders on all sides when she spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the American Ireland Fund at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast. She promised to stay involved and she has.
That piece reminds me a lot of the account written last summer by former US ambassador to Hungary Eleni Kounalakis of Clinton's deft diplomacy in Hungary. I highly recommend reading that piece, too, because it's a remarkable snapshot of how Clinton, faced with a last-minute potential diplomatic crisis, was able to successfully and effectively pivot, and all because she listened to the ambassador's concerns.
That's the kind of president I want to have.