Given the email scandal that has enveloped her campaign, I suspect that few people are paying attention these days to what Hillary Clinton has to say about the issues. Nor is there much reason to take her substantive positions seriously. She will say whatever she thinks it takes.
But Clinton’s unprincipled posture makes her statements revealing. They reveal how she views the political landscape.
With this in mind, what should we make of the Washington Post’s report that yesterday in a speech at Brookings, Clinton “signaled clear disagreement with [President Obama] in key areas, suggesting that in some cases. . .he has been too hesitant”?
I think it means that Clinton isn’t worried about Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. As the Post’s Anne Gearan notes, Clinton “has worked carefully to soften her hawkish reputation on national security and badly needs Obama’s coalition of voters to gain the White House.” If she took Sanders’ candidacy seriously or expected Biden to mount a strong challenge, it’s unlikely that she would, in the words of leftist Glenn Greenwald, go to a “militaristic, hawkish think tank” and give a “militaristic, hawkish speech.”
Disastrous as Obama’s foreign policy has been, it remains popular among core Democrats.
Clinton probably figures that only a very bad turn in the email scandal can derail her bid for the nomination, and that in the event of such a turn (such as an indictment), she won’t be nominated regardless of her views on foreign policy. Thus, it makes sense to tack towards the center on foreign policy in order to enhance her prospects in the general election.
This leads to the second thing Clinton’s speech tells us. She recognizes the general unpopularity of Obama’s foreign policy. Why else would a former Secretary of State take the extraordinary step of criticizing the foreign policy of the administration in which she served?
Clinton even had the audacity to criticize Obama’s approach to Russia. Madame Reset claimed that she warned of trouble on the horizon with the return of Vladimir Putin as president. Apparently, she wants us to embrace the fanciful notion that her signature Russian reset was undermined only by Putin’s return. But Putin was always the power behind the throne in Russia.
Clinton makes various claims about warnings she allegedly made as Secretary of State that went unheeded by the administration, to the nation’s detriment. But the two main things we know for sure about Clinton’s advice are (1) she was enthusiastic about the Russian reset and (2) she was a driving force in U.S. policy towards Libya.
How did these policies work out?
The Post doesn’t report whether Clinton had anything to say about Libya yesterday, and I haven’t been able to find the text of her Brookings speech. But, really, what can she say?
And here’s where the email scandal connects with Clinton’s attempt to portray herself as the adult in the room at the White House. Adults don’t jeopardize national security by conducting official business on a home brew server. And givers of sage advice don’t need to scrub that server.