In September 1995, then-first lady Hillary Clinton spoke on human rights for women and girls, detailing in a speech in China a shocking list of abuses around the world.
“It is time for us to say here in Beijing … that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights,” she said at the Fourth World Conference on Women. She even criticized the host country for limiting discussions of women’s issues.
Clinton talked, in devastating detail, about violations committed globally. She spoke against selling women and girls into slavery or prostitution, or raping them as a terror tactic or prize of war.
Clinton has used the rights of women and girls as the cornerstone of her career since graduating from law school and working as an attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund. She continued to do so as first lady, as a U.S. senator, as secretary of State. Last week, she did it again, as a Clinton Global Initiative advocate.
How jarring, then, for allegations to emerge of top State Department officials under Clinton concealing abuses of women and children by U.S. diplomatic staff.
A State Department whistleblower has accused high-level officials of a vast cover-up that included squelching investigative findings that members of then-Secretary Clinton’s security detail – as well as the U.S. ambassador to Belgium – solicited prostitutes.
CBS News reporter John Miller uncovered a State Department inspector general’s memo alleging that several investigations were influenced, manipulated or simply called off by those officials.
The memo detailed at least one example of a 2011 investigation of U.S. Ambassador Howard Gutman, who “routinely ditched … his protective security detail.” Inspectors suspect he did so to solicit sexual favors from prostitutes, including children.
CBS reported that, after those allegations surfaced, Gutman was recalled from Belgium to meet with Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, then permitted to return to his post.
CBS cited eight additional examples of improprieties, including allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and that Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries,” which the report called an “endemic” practice.
Most important, the memos revealed that State’s diplomatic security bureau under Clinton had ordered the inspector general’s office to stop investigating the case.
And then, out of the blue, in this administration’s typical fashion, President Obama announced his intention to nominate Denise Bauer as ambassador to Belgium.
That Friday-evening “news dump” largely avoided the attention of a press corps and a nation stunned by the seemingly endless scandals suddenly attached to the Obama White House.
It contained no mention of what happened to Gutman – a big campaign-finance bundler for both Obama and Clinton – who stood accused of engaging in out-of-control sexual escapades with women and minor children, other than to say he was being replaced, conveniently, by a woman.
That was bad enough. But one other thing should disturb any observer: Here was Clinton, the self-proclaimed champion of women and children, apparently standing by as women and children were abused by people who worked for her – and the only proactive step of her trusted staff was to cover it all up.
Clinton spokesman Nicholas Merrill told CNN that Clinton was unaware of the investigations until learning about them from media reports and doesn’t know anything about them beyond what the media reported.
If Clinton is to continue to promote herself as a protector of women and children, she should get in front of this scandal and demand that Congress get to the bottom of it.
A true champion of women and children should not have this stain on her record; like a splattering of blood-red berries on a white-linen tablecloth, it will serve as a constant reminder that she did not speak for those who had no voice.
By not expressing outrage over a cover-up within her own ranks, she shirks responsibility and damages any level of trust that people might have in her as an effective leader.
If she cannot stand up for those for whom she takes bows onstage following lofty speeches, then just whom does she stand for – other than herself?