Last weekend, during the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went out after a work session and had a beer. According to the New York Post, this was a “diplomats gone wild” event. Afterwards, Clinton became “Secretary of Partying” according to a TMZ tabloid, and the Telegraph wondered if she is becoming “an embarrassment as Secretary of State.” Moreover, the New York Post went so far as to put her picture on the front page with the caption “Swillary.” How dare she “party” for a whole 30 minutes, have a beer, and show us that she is human?
This is not the first case regarding Clinton’s “drinking problem.” In April 2008, it was reported by ABC that Mrs. Clinton had a shot of whiskey in north-west Indiana. Furthermore, there is a rumor going around that Secretary Clinton took on Senator McCain at downing vodka in Estonia in 2004.
But it is still a mystery why the media creates a big deal out of it. Secretary Clinton is a highly respected diplomat, with years of experience in public service, and it is difficult to understand how a bottle of beer or a shot of whiskey or vodka could hurt her reputation.
On the other hand, by taking part in public events and socializing with her colleague diplomats, Secretary Clinton may be taking extra effort to better fulfill her position. She could have simply gone to bed after the official Summit hours were over. However, she decided to stay and do more for her country. Yes, it could be argued that she was not drinking for her country, but for her personal pleasure, but she could have gone elsewhere and done the same, not come back to the Summit’s party.
President Obama did the same thing a couple of years ago, when he was trying to ease tensions between police Sgt. James Crowley and Harvard professor Henry Gates during the “Beer Summit.” However, at that time, the Crowley-Gates issue was in the center of attention, not the fact that they were drinking beer. But, in Secretary Clinton’s case, no one mentioned that the U.S. currently finds itself isolated from its traditional allies in Latin America, which became clear at the Summit. Other scandals were going on as well, such as Secret Service members being investigated for a potential imbroglio involving prostitutes and the bilateral U.S.-Colombia agreement. Yet, that obviously did not deserve as much attention as Mrs. Clinton’s bottle of beer.
In diplomatic sense, it is only natural that alcohol is served at certain events. It would be impossible in France to have an official cocktail party without champagne or wine. Current French President Nicholas Sarkozy, in fact, suffered from negative publicity when he declared that he does not drink wine. It was an insult for the French, the country of wine and cheese, that their leader does not drink the nectar of its soil. In the U.S. the situation is apparently different. This case shows that for some media outlets, one’s professional achievements are less newsworthy. This reinforces the image of the media wrongly putting its focus on issues that are of minor importance. The media should forget about the beer and focus on a U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement that was signed at the Summit which brings a $1 billion increase of U.S. exports to that country. Write about the Secret Service scandal and let Secretary Clinton, a grown woman, have a well-deserved beer.