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State Department gets second chance to list Hillary Clinton accomplishments; it doesn't go well

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Byron York,Hillary Clinton,2016 Elections,State Department

On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki appeared flustered when she was asked a question concerning one of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's main legacies at Foggy Bottom. It was something called the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, known around the Department by the clunky acronym QDDR, and it was created by Secretary Clinton in 2010 to "provide a sweeping assessment of how the Department of State … can become more efficient, accountable, and effective."

When Psaki announced that the 2014 edition of the QDDR is now underway, to "build on the foundation established by the 2010 review," Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked: "Off the top of your head, can you identify one tangible achievement that the last QDDR resulted in?"

Psaki could not. "Well, Matt, obviously it’s an extensive, expansive process," she began. Noting that she came to the State Department after the first review was finished, Psaki said, "I am certain that those who were here at the time, who worked hard on that effort, could point out one."

"So I’m sure there are a range of things that were put into place that I’m not even aware of were a result," Psaki concluded.

"I won't hold my breath," said Lee.

Psaki's non-answer created an obviously embarrassing situation for the Department, and on Wednesday Psaki came to the briefing with an answer ready to go. "After the 2010 QDDR," she began:

Economic statecraft, which as you know is a big part of what Secretary Clinton did when she was traveling overseas, became a — a stronger emphasis was placed on trade promotion, investment, and leveling the economic playing field. That’s something the Secretary has continued to support. As he often says, economic policy is foreign policy, and that’s one of the roles that we can play here at the State Department and our diplomats play around the world.

We also — as a result of the 2010 QDDR, we also now have a fuller integration of women and girls into our policy framework – planning and budgeting, program monitoring and evaluation, and management and training. That continues to be a big priority for the State Department, promoting women and girls around the world.

The QDDR also — the 2010 QDDR also reorganized and created bureaus to address the needs of the 21st century — of 21st century diplomacy that we’re seeing in effect today. So that includes a reorganization of the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. As you all know, and we talk about frequently in here, the ENR Bureau and the work they’re doing on energy issues, which is newer to the State Department — relatively so — is vital in places like Ukraine. We’re seeing that today.

It also established the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, and established, as I already touched on, three new bureaus, including the Bureau for Counterterrorism, which of course, is one that we work quite a bit with.

So I just wanted to highlight that as a follow-up.

There it was. With plenty of time to prepare, the State Department came up with a number of mostly bureaucratic reorganizations as the legacy of Secretary Clinton's QDDR. Lee was not impressed. "Were there any of these that didn’t simply involve rearranging of the bureaucratic deck chairs or shuffling responsibilities between one bureau to another or creating a new level of bureaucracy?" he asked. "Were any of the accomplishments in — outside of that, those areas?"

"Absolutely, Matt," answered Psaki. "I would say the whole process, if it works well, as it did in 2010, or leading up to 2010, is to better determine priorities and how to make things work better in a large functioning bureaucracy."

After a bit of back-and-forth, Lee tried again: "I'm asking for actual demonstrable outcomes, not the creation of a new position or a new job." Lee wondered whether beyond turning this office into that bureau, or signaling that this or that issue would now be a priority for the Secretary of State — whether beyond that sort of organizational business the QDDR had actually done things. After an exchange about the accomplishments, or lack of accomplishments, of a Clinton-created entity known as the Energy and Resources Bureau, Lee and Psaki appeared to call it a draw, and the briefing ended.

Hillary Clinton's memoir of her time as secretary of state, "Hard Choices," is scheduled to come out in June. If, as many observers believe, it is part of the rollout of Clinton's 2016 presidential candidacy, the recent statements from the State Department raise a question: Will voters care if Clinton reorganized the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment? Or will they be looking for something much, much bigger?

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Byron York

Chief Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner