Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s long-anticipated announcement that she is running for president in 2016 is expected to come this Sunday. But the decision that played a big part in her losing the 2008 nomination, as well as her long foreign-policy record, is already haunting her 2016 bid.
President Barack Obama successfully used Clinton’s support of the Iraq war to surge to victory over the former senator and first lady during the 2008 Democratic primary. Now, with the rise of the Islamic State and the United States once again engaged in military operations in Iraq, rivals are taking Clinton to task for her decision to support the original war.
“Considering the premise for invading Iraq was based on falsehoods and considering the ramifications we live with now from that mistake, I would argue that anybody who voted for the Iraq War should not be president and certainly should not be leading the Democratic Party,” Sen. Lincoln Chafee (D-R.I.), told CNN in a recent interview. Chafee has formed a committee to explore a presidential bid.
Elsewhere, former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) attacked Clinton’s foreign policy without using her name. At a Wednesday event at the University of Chicago, Webb stretched his critique of Clinton back to the start of her husband’s presidency.
“We really have not had a clear strategic doctrine since the end of the Cold War. I would say particularly since about 1993,” Webb said. He went on to blast the Iraq war and the decision to intervene in Libya. Webb also is eyeing a run for the presidency in 2016.
Asked if he was directly critiquing Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, Webb said, “Stay tuned.”
Webb’s comments reflect a difficult reality for Clinton, widely considered the frontrunner to win the Democratic ticket in 2016. Her 23 years in the national spotlight, dating back to President Bill Clinton’s administration, leaves a long line of foreign-policy decisions that her opponents can target. Her support as a senator of the 2003 Iraq invasion is among the most prominent of her foreign-policy vulnerabilities, but as Webb’s comments show, there are other decisions waiting to be critiqued.
The Iran nuclear deal is another issue that leaves Clinton vulnerable to attack. As secretary of state, she laid the groundwork for the controversial nuclear accord recently struck by Tehran and Washington. On April 4, she called the deal an “important step” but was cautious about its prospects for success.
“The onus is on Iran and the bar must be set high,” Clinton said in a statement. “There is much to do and much more to say in the months ahead, but for now diplomacy deserves a chance to succeed.”
And Republicans aren’t going to drop the fallout from a 2012 assault on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya — and whether she could have prevented the death there of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. A recent dust-up over Clinton’s use of personal email while at State only added fuel to the GOP’s fire.
She has also avoided choosing a side in the recent spat between Washington and Jerusalem, whose ties have sunk to historic lows. In the past, Clinton has said she has a “very good relationship” with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but has stayed relatively silent as the relationship between President Barack Obama and Netanyahu has deteriorated.
Clinton has also stayed silent on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal Obama hopes to have in place by the end of the year. The potential agreement has many critics within the Democratic Party, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), has challenged Clinton to state her stance on the deal.
In a recent interview with the Atlantic, Clinton began distancing herself from Obama’s overriding foreign affairs doctrine.
“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Clinton said.
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