While there's much to admire about Hillary Clinton, she made several statements in her recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic that worry me.
Well, his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, isn’t buying it. In an interview with me earlier this week, she used her sharpest language yet to describe the "failure" that resulted from the decision to keep the U.S. on the sidelines during the first phase of the Syrian uprising.
“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.I remember my doubts about the suggestion to arm "vetted rebels" in Syria. What could possibly go wrong?
As I see it, Clinton is not wise to so quickly distance herself from President Obama. As you may recall, Al Gore hardly, if ever, mentioned President Clinton during his campaign to succeed him, nor did he allow Bill Clinton to campaign on his behalf, even in carefully chosen locations where Clinton was quite popular. Still, the president was always the ghost on the stage of every campaign event. I've always believed that Al Gore would have won by a large and indisputable margin, had he not run such a poor campaign and had he not so obviously run away from Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton ought perhaps to take a lesson.
Of course, Clinton had many kind words for the “incredibly intelligent” and “thoughtful” Obama, and she expressed sympathy and understanding for the devilishly complicated challenges he faces. But she also suggested that she finds his approach to foreign policy overly cautious, and she made the case that America needs a leader who believes that the country, despite its various missteps, is an indispensable force for good.How's that for damning with faint praise? Au contraire, Madame Secretary, the president is wise to step away from the fantasy of American exceptionalism in which we bear the burden of setting the world to rights, as we see the right. Also, for a Democratic would-be candidate to criticize the Democratic president in these difficult and tumultuous times seems disloyal. I realize that she will inevitably differentiate her policies from those of the president, but she seems to be making serious mistakes in her statements in the interview.
If Clinton is the candidate, I believe she could lose the election by taking the anti-Obama track. She cannot win without an enthusiastic turnout by African-American voters, and Obama still retains a fair amount of support among Democrats of all colors. She appears opportunistic, and, even worse, ruthless in her ambition.
Clinton takes a harder line against Iran than Obama, but negotiations require some wiggle room unless one's position is, "My way or the highway."
HRC: I’ve always been in the camp that held that they did not have a right to enrichment. Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich. This is absolutely unfounded. There is no such right. I am well aware that I am not at the negotiating table anymore, but I think it’s important to send a signal to everybody who is there that there cannot be a deal unless there is a clear set of restrictions on Iran. The preference would be no enrichment. The potential fallback position would be such little enrichment that they could not break out. So, little or no enrichment has always been my position.Not much wiggle room there.
Clinton's seemingly unreserved support for the policies of the present Israeli government is worrisome, too.
Much of my conversation with Clinton focused on the Gaza war. She offered a vociferous defense of Israel, and of its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well. This is noteworthy because, as secretary of state, she spent a lot of time yelling at Netanyahu on the administration's behalf over Israel’s West Bank settlement policy. Now, she is leaving no daylight at all between the Israelis and herself.While it's true there is wrong on both sides, Israel's response seems disproportionate, as is indicated by a comparison of the numbers of Palestinians and Israelis killed and wounded. Also, if the Israeli government truly wants peace, perhaps the leaders might consider a bold, unilateral, admittedly risky move to lift the blockade of Gaza, remove the checkpoints which make travel so difficult for the Palestinians, and stop the spread of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. So long as Israel's neighbors in Gaza live in miserable conditions, Israel will not have peace.
“I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets,” she told me. “Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”
Note: To disagree with the present policies of the Israeli leadership does not make me antisemitic any more than disagreement with the policies of my own government makes me un-American.
If the interview is Clinton's pre-season launch of her candidacy for the presidency, and I think it is, then she's made several missteps, and, I hope she sets herself aright. I don't think any candidate, except in certain circumstances, a sitting president, is entitled to anointment as the chosen candidate for a political party, but I fear the stage is being set for anointing Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate. I hope other prominent Democrats in the party rise to challenge Clinton, so we have a real contest and open discussions of various policies for moving the country forward and winning the election in 2016.