Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from the LA Times

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

Hillary Clinton, still in Africa, compares Nigeria's rigged elections to Bush vs. Gore

August 13, 2009 |  9:27 am

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton jokes with patients and staff of the Heal Africa clinic in Goma, Congo Tuesday Aug. 11, 2009

When I traveled as a reporter with former Secretary of State James Baker back in the 1990s, he had a rule. Never stay out of Washington longer than 10 days. A former campaign manager and White House chief of staff, Baker understood that, in politics, geography is destiny. Leave town for too long and you risk losing friends -- and influence.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is in the midst of an 11-day odyssey to Africa that already has inspired one maybe-she-was-exhausted gaffe -- when she snapped at a questioner who asked her for former President Bill Clinton's opinion on something. As the Ticket reported earlier, the question was mistranslated -- apparently the guy in the Congo wanted to know President Obama's POV.

Now, after some laudable and heart-wrenching footage in which Clinton poignantly highlighted the use of rape as a tactic of war in the Congo, the secretary of State has stepped in it again.

On the fifth stop on her seven-nation tour of Africa, Clinton delivered her message that Nigeria's "lack of transparency and accountability has eroded the legitimacy of the government and contributed to the rise of groups that embrace violence and reject the authority of the state."

Then, during a town-hall meeting in Nairobi, she compared Nigeria's rigged elections to the 2000 presidential election that came down to a contest in Florida between Al Gore, her husband's vice president, and George W. Bush, whose brother Jeb was governor at the time.

Our democracy is still evolving. You know we've had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections as you might remember. In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state. So we have our problems too.

A spokesman for Jeb Bush said the former governor would have no comment but wished the secretary "a safe and successful trip."

Maybe she's tired. Maybe she was trying to soften the harsh blow she'd delivered in upbraiding the Nigerians. Or maybe, as Baker might suggest, she needs to come home.

See what you think.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Clinton jokes with patients and staff at the Heal Africa Clinic in Goma, Congo, on Tuesday. Credit: Associated Press

Twitter update: More than 30,000 of you have registered here for free Twitter alerts on each new Ticket item. Don't be left behind. Or follow us @latimestot