The Wikileaks documents show that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has, as Voltaire said about the Bourbon kings of France, learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
Her request that American diplomats at foreign postings and the United Nations gather personal data about their foreign counterparts is eerily reminiscent of her use of private detectives to unearth negative information on those who were politically inconvenient during the husband's campaigns for president and his White House tenure.
At the time, I called these operatives the "secret police." Now, apparently, we call them the "diplomatic corps."
The Wikileaks documents show that you cannot only not teach an old dog new tricks, but you can't stop her from doing the ones she has always done.
The Wikileaks information indicates that Hillary -- and her predecessor, Condolleeza Rice -- instructed American diplomats to gather information about "office and organizational titles; names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cell phones, pagers, and faxes," as well as "Internet and intranet 'handles'; Internet e-mail addresses, website identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent-flier account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information."
The New York Times explains that this information could be used to develop intelligence about the activities and whereabouts of foreign diplomatic personnel.
Seems like old times. In the 1992 presidential campaign, the Clintons retained private detectives to learn negative information about the women who were accusing Bill of improper conduct so as to provide blackmail material to cow them into silence. During his White House tenure, FBI files on prominent Republicans somehow ended up on the desk of an operative who was hired pursuant to Hillary's recommendation after a career as a bar bouncer.
Linda Tripp, whose efforts led to the denouement of the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky, found the details of her personnel file splashed all over the newspapers. A subsequent federal lawsuit found that her file information had been released improperly, and a U.S. district court judge levied a heavy fine on the government for the violation.
The fact that this current State Department covert operation was initiated under Rice does not lessen Hillary's guilt for having pursued it. Clinton, not Rice, has run for president and is presumed to continue to be interested in the job. Her addiction to spies, dumpster divers, sleuths and negative research operatives has always been a cause for concern.
The jury has been out on how well Hillary is performing as secretary of state. I have always been critical of her riding on her husband's name to achieve fame and power. But when she was appointed secretary of state, clearly despite her husband rather than because of him, I felt it prudent to withhold judgment. This is, after all, the first real job she has ever gotten on her own.
So far, we don't see any huge achievements. But we do see some modest ones. She has evidently succeeded in getting Russia to stop its sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, arms that would have made an Israeli strike at Iranian nuclear facilities impossible. She has also done a great deal to strengthen sanctions against the Iranian government to the point where they may really be biting. George W. Bush's and Rice's failure to do so was a big black mark against them in their records.
But these Wikileaks make one wonder if she has really learned anything at all. She always goes for the jugular and loves the politics of personal intimidation and destruction. It is because she is so well suited and adept at this form of political combat that she was instrumental in her husband's success in beating back the impeachment efforts that stemmed from his lies under oath in the Paula Jones litigation about his affair with Monica.
Now she appears to have transformed the diplomatic corps into a spying operation, giving us yet another intelligence-gathering agency. But, in doing so, she has undoubtedly alienated our allies and damaged our diplomats' credibility. Who is going to leave his credit card unguarded after a diplomatic lunch after hearing about the new Hillary spygate?
Maybe it was too much to hope for to have thought that she had grown in office.