Hillary Clinton seems to have found a way to get people from moving beyond her disastrous “dead broke” claims, but not in a way that is likely to please those voters tired of wars and military interventions. Clinton used an interview this week to criticize the “failure” of President Obama’s policies in Syria and to insist that she wanted a more interventionist military approach. President Obama was quoted responding to such criticism by calling it “horseshit.” It seemed a return to the 2008 election where Clinton campaigned on her hawk credentials in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — a mistake for many Democratic and independent voters. Recently, she changed her mind and said that the Iraq War was a mistake despite her refusal to listen to a chorus of critics of the war at the time when it was a popular political move. Despite that change, Clinton is suggesting that she would have armed the Syrian rebels and acted more aggressively to stop the Islamic State.
In the interview with prominent foreign affairs writer Jeffrey Goldberg, Clinton attacked Obama’s decision not to quickly and strongly support the Syrian rebels and said that the West Wing’s foreign policy mantra — “Don’t do stupid stuff”— is “not an organizing principle.” She seemed to brush over the fact that that the same course that led us into repeated costly military campaigns or that many of the rebels at the time were found to be committing atrocities like the regime. Then there is the fact that many of our weapons have already ended up in the hands of the Islamic State in places like Iraq — as we saw in Afghanistan with Al Qaeda.
The statements were a replay of Clinton’s much maligned campaign against Obama in 2008 that she was the one who could handle the “3 a.m. phone call.” As someone who supported both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, many insisted that they did not want any more such calls.
The change in strategy and message may not be coincidental. A major poll this month by NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing Obama’s approval rating at an “all-time low.” The interview was widely viewed as designed to separate Clinton from the declining fortunes of both Obama and the Democratic Congress.
Putting aside the timing, Clinton has repeatedly shown herself to be closer to George W. Bush than Obama on military interventions. She used the interview to reaffirm her absolute support for Israel and her credentials in committing U.S. military resources in foreign conflicts.
Nevertheless, while criticizing Clinton on the attack against Obama and interventionist drumbeat, liberal writers like Joan Walsh at Salon.com are still cited in the article below as still expecting to support Clinton for the next president. It is part of a continuing rift on the left of our political spectrum. It is not clear what are the dominant values of the Democratic Party going into this election. Civil liberties and war issues used to be a rallying point for liberals. However, those issues have been seriously undermined by the Obama Administration and the Clinton campaigns in 2008 and 2014. Clearly, some agree with Clinton’s hawkish views and others are drawn to the chance of electing a female, even one with opposing views. However, there remains a remarkably fluidity in the defining values for the party going into the election beyond the dominant blue state/red state rhetoric that the Republicans are simply worse. That narrative is clearly not working but seems to be the only theme upon which the party is advancing consistently. There is the immigration issue but that has proven extremely risky and does not appear to have paid off politically. Indeed, some black leaders and voters have publicly opposed the effort by Democratic members to push for legalizing the status of millions of undocumented individuals. We are, as the Chinese curse says, living in interesting times.