Forgettable leaders deserve their anonymity. True leaders, on the other hand, can stand the test of time.
Consider Hillary Clinton.
The one-time presidential contender was wrapping up her tenure as Secretary of State in January, when Sen. Ron Johnson, (R-Wisc.), dared to ask her about the September 11 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. To most observers, it was a clear-cut act of terrorism that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including our ambassador to Libya.
Clinton, though, was uninterested in the cause of the disaster. “Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?” she thundered.
Left-wing commentators from Rachel Maddow to the Talking Points Memo cheered as if Clinton had hit upon some profound truth. But what she really seemed to be saying is that the Obama administration isn’t interested in learning from a direct attack on the U.S. and our representatives overseas. And those who don’t learn from history, as they say, may well find themselves repeating it.
But not Clinton. She’s off to a comfortable retirement. And while she may consider running for president again in 2016, it says here that she won’t be elected. Instead, she’ll drift off, lost to the sands of history.
Margaret Thatcher, on the other hand, will be with us for all of time.
During a recent lecture at The Heritage Foundation journalist Charles Moore, Thatcher’s official biographer, predicted that her name will be known in 500 years. Not simply because of everything that she overcame to win election as Britain’s first female prime minister, but because of all that she accomplished while in office.
Thatcher, Moore noted, was among the earliest to spot the potential in Mikhail Gorbachev. She invited him to visit her at the prime minister’s retreat of Chequers some six years before he became Soviet leader. “I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together,” she said then, foreshadowing the cooperation that would help bring down the Berlin Wall without any violence.
She also accurately predicted the future after the Wall fell.
Thatcher was nervous about German reunification. “We beat the Germans twice, and now they’re back” she warned. She didn’t want to see Europe dominated economically by a united Germany. That, of course, is exactly what’s come to pass.
“In 2011, Italy and Greece had prime ministers imposed on them by Germany,” Moore notes. When finally given a chance to choose their own leader, Italians voted resounding against Germany’s pick, Mario Monti.
Germany has benefitted greatly from the common currency, but it’s unclear whether voters in struggling countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy really want to remain in the Euro zone.
Thatcher was steadfast in her defense of the British currency, the pound sterling. In one of her final parliamentary appearances as P.M., she railed against those who aimed to give Brussels control over British fiscal policy. “What is the point of trying to get elected to Parliament only to hand over sterling and the powers of this House to Europe?” she asked. Staying out of the common currency has helped Britain avoid many of its problems over the years.
Thatcher’s question should echo on this side of the Atlantic, more than two decades later. “Congress has fallen into the habit of passing sprawling and vague laws, filled with arcane cross-references that most Members of Congress neither read nor understand,” Heritage warned in its new book America’s Opportunity for All. “This effectively turns lawmaking over to unaccountable staff and unelected bureaucrats.”
It raises the question Thatcher asked: Why run for office, just to hand off your power to unelected bureaucrats?
Today’s “leaders” are all too eager to pass off power and let someone else lead. That’s why most of them will be forgotten, while Thatcher and her guidance will be celebrated down through the ages.