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Posted at 10:27 AM ET, 01/10/2008

Clinton and Northern Ireland

By Michael Dobbs


With Irish leaders Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, Dec. 7, 2007

"I went [to Northern Ireland] more than my husband did. I was working to help change the atmosphere among people because leaders alone rarely make peace. They have to bring people along who believe peace is in their interests. I remember a meeting that I pulled together in Belfast, in the town hall there, bringing together for the first time Catholics and Protestants..."

--Hillary Clinton, Nashua, N.H. Jan. 6, 2008.


Hillary Clinton has repeatedly cited her White House years as key to why she has the ability to serve as president from "Day One." Both she and her husband have pointed to her "independent" role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland as an example of her foreign policy experience. Her critics, notably former Clinton pollster Dick Morris, have poured scorn on her claim that she was "intimately involved" in the peace process. So who is right?


The Facts

It is true that Hillary visited Northern Ireland more times than Bill. By my count, she went there six times between 1995 and 2000, while he went four times. But she accompanied her husband as first lady on those four occasions, so they were hardly "independent" visits. (She would sometimes fly in a day early to give a lecture.) She made two visits by herself to the province, in May 1999, when she was the keynote speaker to a women's conference, and a 12-hour trip in October 1997, when she gave a lecture at the University of Ulster.

These visits provide a useful insight into Clinton's first lady experience, and how helpful it will be to her if she makes it all the way back to the White House as president. I just spoke to Senator George Mitchell, the Clinton administration's leading Northern Ireland peace negotiator, who said that Hillary was "not involved directly" in the diplomatic negotiations that led to the landmark April 1998 Good Friday agreement on power-sharing. On the other hand, Mitchell credits Clinton with taking an intelligent interest in the issues and getting acquainted with many of the key players.

"She was very much involved in encouraging the emergence of women in the political process in northern Ireland, which was a significant factor in ultimately getting an agreement," Mitchell told me. Mitchell believes that Clinton's time in the White House enabled her to become "personally acquainted" with world leaders, which will help her if she becomes president.

Chris Thornton, a political reporter for the Belfast Telegraph, said that Hillary Clinton's visits to northern Ireland contributed to the "mood music" that made an eventual settlement possible, but were hardly key to reaching an agreement. "Would we have reached a settlement without that kind of stuff? Yes. Would we have got one without the intervention of Bill Clinton and George Mitchell? No."

Hillary is making a lot more of her Northern Ireland role on the campaign trail than she did in her memoir "Living History." As the Boston Globe recently noted, her stories of bringing Protestant and Catholic women together have become more dramatic with each retelling. The claim that she brought Catholics and Protestants together "for the first time" seems dubious. This would not be the first time that she has mixed up her chronology.

The Pinocchio Test

Hillary Clinton seems to be overstating her significance as a catalyst in the Northern Ireland peace process, which was more symbolic than substantive. On the other hand, she did play a helpful role at the margins, by encouraging organizations like Vital Voices, a women's group that takes a stand against extremism. One Pinocchio for exaggeration.

(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | January 10, 2008; 10:27 AM ET
Categories:  1 Pinocchio, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Other Foreign Policy  
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Comments

Maybe that is why that person in NH come from Ireland to "thank" Mrs. Clinton at one of her rallies in NH? Could he have been a Clinton plant for the media? Why that just brings me close to tears.

Posted by: Amy | January 10, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Mrs Clinton keeps saying she's made 35 years of change. What are the changes is is talking about?

Posted by: Grace | January 10, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

You have presented no evidence that she is "overstating her significance." The quotation you present is 100% true, based on the facts you review. What part of her statement are you suggesting is an exaggeration?

Posted by: Economists for Obama | January 10, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Saying that she's responsible for the first meeting between Protestants and Catholics at a meeting that she arranged in Belfast? That's not an exaggeration? Oh please. I lived there. She showed up as First Lady. If she hadn't bothered to take the lovely holiday in Ireland there still would have been peace. Peace in Northern Ireland was due to hard work on the part of the Irish people and their political leaders, with significant help from George Mitchell (I wonder if we can get *him* to run for the presidency) and encouragement from Bill Clinton. Hillary needs to get over herself.

Posted by: Exiled Lady | January 10, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I continue to be stunned by negative press on Hillary Clinton; there has been some mention of how Obama would endure greater scrutiny now that he is a front-runner. Instead, on 'the fix' the first entry after NH is a positive post on what's next for Obama, and the 'fact checker' picks a piece citing 'exaggeration' on a low-key HRC quote.

Let's examine the claims in the quote...

1. I went to Northern Ireland more than my husband did -- true

2. I was working to help change the atmosphere... -- a far cry from 'This would not have happened without me'; contrast with Obama saying 'I' passed ethics reform...

3. bringing together for the first time -- the post says this 'seems dubious'...ok, if you're a 'fact checker' not an 'impression checker' maybe you should find an instance which disproves her statement, rather than make the vacuous statement that it 'seems dubious.'

Look, Obama and McCain are media favorites; HRC is not. I'm not citing a conspiracy or any such thing, I just feel that content-producers could do much better to make a good faith effort to at least appear balanced.

Posted by: Seufet | January 10, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Seems to me the press just writes about the events that Hillary generates. I remember the kindergate scandal where Hillary released a statement attacking Obama for wanting to be president in kindergarten. The press printed it.

People mocked Hillary for it in the blogs.

Then, Bill complained that they were getting bad press because the press released Hillary's information.

The press also went along with her media stunt with Shaheen. That backfired on Hillary when she sent Penn out during the evening, completely undermining her apology.

Look at the source, not the messenger.

Posted by: Kiku | January 10, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Seems to me, Michael Dobbs, that more than one Pinocchio is warranted for this little gem. At least two would be appropriate (one factual inaccuracy and one for self-promotional spinning).

Add to it the fact that her "harrowing trip into Bosnia" has been revealed as a USO trip with singer Sheryl Crow, comedian Sinbad and daughter Chelsea in tow (see the NY Times and NY Daily News recent stories, if WaPo can't find y'alls version) and it is another deflation of her over-inflated ego.

Why just today she claimed that by crying -- okay nearly crying or pretending to cry -- she's liberated all women ... blah, blah, blah...

Perhaps Jon Lovitz's "the Exaggerater Guy" from SNL could play her in the movie "I Am Legend, 2: Hillary clinton, Empress Extraordinaire" ... yeah, that's the ticket...

Posted by: jade_7243 | January 10, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Is there ANY comment that Hillary could make that would not garner a Pinocchio from "Fact Checker"?

Tom Toles got it right the other day.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/opinions/cartoonsandvideos/toles_main.html?name=Toles&date=01092008

Posted by: ffc | January 11, 2008 2:42 AM | Report abuse

I don't think that anyone actually takes this type of self-serving claim of foreign policy experience seriously. It is not surprising or very grievous. People remember seeing George Mitchell and Tony Blair, and, yes, Bill Clinton pushing on Gerry Adams, in the evolving story on the N. I. settlement. So, this is just heard as more campaign talk. It's one thing to have illusions of grandeur, or to exaggerate one's importance when running for office, it's another, however, to lie about an opponent, to distort their record of accomplishment or position, or to attempt to sabotage their campaigns. With all that Mrs. Clinton might be legitimately attacked for these days, let's leave the Northern Ireland footnote alone.

Posted by: Rarignac | January 13, 2008 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Exaggerations in politcal speeches are commnon themes for all candidates, both R.,I.,and D. That's a given. What is not a given is the virulence encountered by the female who dares competing with the "boys". I expected all the racists to come out with Obama but I never realized the misogyny that is rampant in America today, especially the press. People like Chris Matthews makes no bones about it, though he may actually have a personal gender problem himself, but I would have expected more from the written press. Of course, after the debacle they made leading up to Iraq, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.
A woman president? Please--that's so "old Europe."

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Posted by: tsblzezjsw | February 24, 2008 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Northern Ireland was just #1 on her list when she was interviewed by CNN about her Ohio and Tex victories and asked what specific experience makes her prepared to answer that red phone at 3am -

Laughable!

I hope Obama jumps all over this.

Posted by: NYC GOP | March 5, 2008 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Hillary was the first to bring Northern Irish women together? I seem to recall two Northern Irish women (one Catholic and one Protestant) receiving a Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for organizing women to stop the violence. And having gone to the University of Ulster, I can attest that it's not exactly the center of the storm--the place about which she's going to get the 3AM phone call. Maybe another Pinocchio?

Posted by: Terry Maxwell | March 5, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

While I admire HRC's ruthlesness and street-fighting smarts (not bad traits for a Prez, given the world as it is) I see nothing beyond her activities as a First Lady With Attitude that qualifies her as a top choice for POTUS. As a First Lady she will go down as a distant second to Eleanor Roosevelt, which is not a bad rating in my book.

Actually, both HRC and BHO have more direct experience for the job than Lincoln had when he was elected. Lincoln only served a single term in the House. He built his credentials in the Illinois court of appleals -- and through brilliant, thought provoking speeches on the major issues of the day.

That Lincoln was elected and served during
the great crises in our history is too well known not to repeat, lest we forget through familiarity.

HRC claims to deal with solutions rather than promises, with action instead of words. While Senator Obama's words lack the ultimate resonance of Lincoln's, Clinton's claim of solutions has yet to see the light of day. What is her actual, foreign policy experience? What are her solutions to the economic problems we face?

For example, does her health care plan, which would put the insurance industry out of business, and millions of its employess out of work, stand a chance of becoming a reality?

We wiil have to take her word on that. How ironic!


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"I don't know there was much she did apart from accompanying Bill [Clinton] going around," he said. Her recent statements about being deeply involved were merely "the sort of thing people put in their canvassing leaflets" during elections. "She visited when things were happening, saw what was going on, she can certainly say it was part of her experience. I don't want to rain on the thing for her but being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player."

Mrs Clinton has made Northern Ireland key to her claims of having extensive foreign policy experience, which helped her defeat Barack Obama in Ohio and Texas on Tuesday after she presented herself as being ready to tackle foreign policy crises at 3am.

"I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland," she told CNN on Wednesday. But negotiators from the parties that helped broker the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 told The Daily Telegraph that her role was peripheral and that she played no part in the gruelling political talks over the years.

Lord Trimble shared the Nobel Peace Prize with John Hume, leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, in 1998. Conall McDevitt, an SDLP negotiator and aide to Mr Hume during the talks, said: "There would have been no contact with her either in person or on the phone. I was with Hume regularly during calls in the months leading up to the Good Friday Agreement when he was taking calls from the White House and they were invariably coming from the president."
Central to Mrs Clinton's claim of an important Northern Ireland role is a meeting she attended in Belfast in with a group of women from cross-community groups. "I actually went to Northern Ireland more than my husband did," she said in Nashua, New Hampshire on January 6th.

"I remember a meeting that I pulled together in Belfast, in the town hall there, bringing together for the first time Catholics and Protestants from both traditions, having them sitting a room where they had never been before with each other because they don't go to school together, they don't live together and it was only in large measure because I really asked them to come that they were there.

"And I wasn't sure it was going to be very successful and finally a Catholic woman on one side of the table said, 'You know, every time my husband leaves for work in the morning I worry he won't come home at night.

"And then a Protestant woman on the other side said, 'Every time my son tries to go out at night I worry he won't come home again'. And suddenly instead of seeing each other as caricatures and stereotypes they saw each other as human beings and the slow, hard work of peace-making could move forward."

There is no record of a meeting at Belfast City Hall, though Mrs Clinton attended a ceremony there when her husband turned on the Christmas tree lights in November 1995. The former First Lady appears to be referring a 50-minute event the same day, arranged by the US Consulate, the same day at the Lamp Lighter Café on the city's Ormeau Road.

The "Belfast Telegraph" reported the next day that the café meeting was crammed with reporters, cameramen and Secret Service agents. Conversation "seemed a little bit stilted, a little prepared at times" and Mrs Clinton admired a stainless steel tea pot, which was duly given to her, for keeping the brew "so nice and hot".

Posted by: Anyone but her | March 8, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Here we go again!!!!! Please, give Hillary a break! She had done many things in her live that she doesn't recall very well most of it. But, I am sure that when she become president of the U.S. her memory will become better (especially for hispanic poeple!). Go memoryless, long-tonge Hillary!!!!
Hillary 00000008!

Posted by: Julio L. | March 8, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Phony "experience" alert! For those who haven't seen this, the Daily Telegraph, with the assistance of Northern Irish politico (and Nobel prize winner) David Trimble, has effectively dismembered Hillary Clinton's claim, made on CNN last week, that "I helped bring peace to Northern Ireland." Trimble, the leader of the main Protestant political party at the time, says that while he did meet Hillary a few times in Belfast, "there was nothing that she did, apart from accompanying Bill" that he can remember: "Being a cheerleader for something is different from being a major player."

More damning, in my view, was the Telegraph's investigation into Hillary's claim to have met with a group of Northern Irish women in the Belfast "town hall," bringing together "for the first time Catholics and Protestants"; in an account she gave last January in New Hampshire, she implied that this was a major event, an encounter between people who had only just stopped shooting each other. The Telegraph could find no record of anything like that. Instead, according to their reporter, Hillary seems be referring to a 50-minute meeting in a cafe, mostly between women who, though coming from different sides of the religious divide, knew each other already and had met many times before
See: http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/xxfactor/

Posted by: C. Finn | March 9, 2008 4:43 AM | Report abuse

John Hume - He is regarded as one of the most important figures in the modern political history of Northern Ireland and one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace process there. He is also a recipient of the Gandhi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Award, the only recipient of the three major peace awards.

http://fray.slate.com/discuss/forums/951758/ShowThread.aspx
Statement by John Hume
"I am quite surprised that anyone would suggest that Hillary Clinton did not perform important foreign policy work as First Lady. I can state from firsthand experience that she played a positive role for over a decade in helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

She visited Northern Ireland, met with very many people and gave very decisive support to the peace process. There is no doubt that the people of Northern Ireland think very positively of Hillary Clinton's support for our peace process, due to her visits to Northern Ireland and her meetings with so many people. In private she made countless calls and contacts, speaking to leaders and opinion makers on all sides, urging them to keep moving forward.

Anyone criticizing her foreign policy involvement should look at her very active and positive approach to Northern Ireland and speak with the people of Northern Ireland who have the highest regard for her and are very grateful for her very active support for our peace process."

Let's see....Who would I believe?

(John Hume ) Vs. Dick Morris
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Morris

Posted by: athy | March 10, 2008 12:25 AM | Report abuse

I am constantly amazed that anyone would believe anything HRC says or says she did.

35 years of lying and lying about the lying. Some people might think this is a good "ruthless" trait in a prez but I think it is one that the American people could live without.

I am also constantly amazed at just what people think HRC has accomplished. What she has accomplished is to promote the communism of America, theft of private citizens hard earned money, and promotion of reliability on government from cradle to grave. SOME people might think that is a good thing, personally, I prefer my freedom, which under her watch would evaporate faster than the money they procure from my wages to spend on people who refuse to get off their rear ends and work.

I am amazed and appalled that the American people not only allow our politicians to remove our rights and freedoms but encourage it, usually in the name of "they have more than I so they deserve to have it taken from them" no matter what it does to the individual, the family, or the welfare of the US of A.

Hillary, Obama, and the rest... yes, the republicans as well Mr. McCain, are promoting the idea that I should pay for your health care, your welfare, and the inability of some people figure out where babies come from and stop producing them like an assembly line without the ability to pay for them.

In a year, my business alone pays more taxes than most people who make under 75k a year do in a lifetime. Someone... please tell me why that is fair, right, or even beneficial to the US? Currently I have to fire three people. Yep, that is right three will be out of work because of the coming tax increases. We have a 7% profit margin. Not much to operate a business on and grow. Hillary and Obama and the rest... are doing their best to kill small businesses. So keep raising my taxes, keep supporting the idea that I am responsible for someone else's health care and welfare and I will keep firing people until I can fire no more. Then... I will liquidate and keep it in cash. Tax that. BTW, since I won't have an "income" I will then file for every friggen benefit Congress and the people have supported for those that are just too lazy to work. Not enough money in one job? Work two. I did for 20 years. Now I am down to 14 to 16 hour work days.

One last thing. Keep this in mind. Corporate America could cripple this country if you keep pushing them. All it would take is for half of the businesses out there that employ a few thousand people ti shut down for a week or two. You think those CEO's will hurt for money? Yeah, right. Keep messing with them and their profit margins and see what happens. Keep telling people they have to pay more and more taxes... then remember what sparked Americans to form this country against the English. Keep that in mind. Never forget that it can happen again just as easily as it had before.

Posted by: Ankharan | March 10, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Hillary's tale about pulling together a meeting in Belfast City Hall where Protestants and Catholics met each other for the first time and saw the light is pure fantasy. I live there. I remember well what happened. When Bill and the politicians got down to negotiations, the First Lady's limo brought her to a coffee shop on the Ormeau Road where I lived. It was called the Lamplighter Cafe. A group of well known community activists had gathered there to meet her. She took tea with them and they gave her the tea-pot as a memento. She didn't pull them together - how could she? She had just flown in and was about to fly out again. It was a nice pat on the head for some ladies who had slogged for years to prevent us sliding into civil war. They didn't need some yank to show them the light. At the City Hall she stood on the podium whilst Bill switched on the Christmas Tree lights helped by two school kids. It was a good night, very hopeful, but she didn't do it.

Posted by: Chris, Belfast N.Ireland | March 12, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Why in the world would you use Dick Morris as a reliable source the Clinton?

Everyone--except you apparently--knows that for years Morris has made a living by bashing the Clintons on the Fox Network. He's a slimy traitor who was run out of politics.

But you never mentioned that fact in your so-called "fact checking!"

Two Pinocchios for you

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

It's ironic that people spend so much time and energy criticizing Hillary Clinton for what she ACTUALLY HAS DONE to serve this country. Yet few question the fact that Obama has no previous record of doing anything that remotely resembles his campaign rhetoric.

He's almost 50 years old. He's had plenty of time to put a mark on this world yet he's shown us nothing - just words.

If you're going to go around the country preaching "Change" you darn well better have something to that shows you've walked the talk. He doesn't. He is no MLK. He is no JFK.

If you read the latest New York Times article they report him as being a status quo politician.
----------------------------

NY Times Article:
"Obama in Senate: Star Power, Minor Role"

Excerpt: Mr. Obama took few bold stands and diverted little from the liberal orthodoxy he had embraced in the Illinois Senate.

He worked with Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma and one of the most conservative in the chamber, to establish a public database to examine government spending after Hurricane Katrina.

But for the most part, he stuck to party lines; there were few examples of the kind of bipartisan work he advocates in his current campaign.

He disappointed some Democrats by not taking a more prominent role opposing the war -- he voted against a troop withdrawal proposal by Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin in June 2006, arguing that a firm date for withdrawal would hamstring diplomats and military commanders in the field.

He went to the Senate intent on learning the ways of the institution, telling reporters he would be "looking for the washroom and trying to figure out how the phones work." But frustrated by his lack of influence and what he called the "glacial pace," he soon opted to exploit his star power. He was running for president even as he was still getting lost in the Capitol's corridors.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/09/us/politics/09obama.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

Posted by: tyn | March 12, 2008 9:26 PM | Report abuse

I had no idea some americans are exhibiting a clear lack of rading culture. I am African and unfortunately, i will be telling you what Barrack Obama has done within your own country. Especially if you are living in Chicago and you are asking what is largely, to me, a stupid question- What has Barrack Obama done? We admire barrack obama for the inspiring work he did in chicago in the wake of the crises caused by corporations such as the one hillary clinton was heading as at this point in time. He had the chance to be a rich lawyer, but he ditched all that money for a lowpaying job as a community organiser. That's far more credential than going to teaparties with your husband!!!!

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There is a St. Patrick curse on Hillary Clinton's campaign regarding her claims of bringing peace to Northern Ireland:

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Posted by: jean f cochois - stories of highfeelin times | March 19, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

To say that Hillary Clinton brought peace to Northern Ireland is just not true. I am originally from a town in Ireland where Hillary and her Husband visited in December 2000. Bill did have some influence in bringing about peace but George Mitchell will always be the one remembered in Ireland for starting the peace process. Please remember the Clinton régime did not finally bring peace to Ireland, the Good Friday peace agreement was suspended on numerous occasions. The peace that we see in Ireland now occurred during the presidency of George Bush. It's sad to mention his name in the same sentence but it is true. I know that foreign policy has not been the strongest area of the US Government over the past eight years but if you elect a candidate who basis her foreign policy on having a cup of tea in a café in Belfast with women from different religious communities (which was reported in Ireland as a staged interview!!) then I don't see a bright future for Foreign Policy here in the US. Can people not see through all this nonsensical blabbering from the Clinton campaign, from a neutral standpoint its plain to see what is going on. Get into power at any cost!!! It really looks like she is behaving like the imaginary snipers in Bosnia and is not shy about pulling that trigger on her fellow party members!

Posted by: Neutral | March 26, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Hey, any of y'all ever hear of "google"??

Here's the text of Hillary Clinton's speech to the nonsectarian Vital Voices Conference, in Belfast in 1998:
http://clinton4.nara.gov/WH/EOP/First_Lady/html/generalspeeches/1998/19980908.html

The people behind this smear are disgruntled unionists who don't get to run Northern Ireland anymore.

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