The Cable

Clinton Announces Presidential Bid That May Put Focus on Foreign-Policy Record

The former secretary of state unveiled her candidacy in a video published Sunday.

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pulled the lid Sunday off the worst-kept secret in Washington, formally announcing that she is running for president and opening a campaign season that will likely put her record as America’s top diplomat under intense scrutiny.

The announcement came in a video in which Clinton touts herself as a champion of the middle class and working Americans. “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion,” Clinton says in the video.

The highly anticipated video features families and individuals talking about new challenges they are taking — having a child, returning to work after staying home with children, starting a new career. With an uplifting jingle and a montage that delays the candidate’s appearance until the 90-second mark, the video has a somewhat tongue-in-cheek feel. One couple mentions that their goal for 2015 includes getting their dog to stop eating out of the trash can. Then Clinton appears, proclaiming that “I’m getting ready to do something too: I’m running for president.”

Clinton advisors have said that her presidential campaign, this time around, will try to avoid some of the mistakes of her 2008 effort, focusing more on small events with voters. In the video, Clinton says she will hit the road to “earn your vote.”

Sunday’s announcement marks a historic moment for the former first lady and senator, who during her decades in public life has become both a pioneer for the role of women in public life and a deeply divisive figure in American partisan politics. If elected, she would become America’s first female president.

The coming campaign is likely to pick over that long public life, a career that most recently included a stint as secretary of state. After losing to then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, the two rivals buried the hatchet, with Clinton taking the top job at Foggy Bottom. Her tenure at the State Department saw Clinton become a beloved U.S. figure with foreign audiences as she kept a grueling schedule traveling the world, in the process shattering travel records for her position.

Clinton’s time at the State Department has also proved to be deeply controversial. Given the slew of ongoing crises in the Middle East, foreign-policy issues may become surprisingly important during this election season. While serving in the Obama administration, Clinton staked out a series of positions generally more hawkish than those of her boss. Clinton was an early and vocal advocate for the military intervention in Libya that helped topple Muammar al-Qaddafi. Clinton also advocated, along with then-CIA Director David Petraeus, in favor of a plan to more aggressively arm Syrian rebel groups.

“I think the real challenge she’ll have is trying to run away from foreign policy. She has, after all, been the secretary of state for four years and the Clinton-Barack Obama foreign policy has really been a bust,” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, told Fox News on Sunday. “And you see that around the world; the world is not safer and I think she’s going to try to run away from foreign policy but it’s going to come back to be, once again, an issue that I think really dogs her throughout the campaign.”

There are also signs of discontent within the Democratic Party that Clinton is cruising toward the nomination without having to answer to its left wing. On Sunday, one of the few Democratic politicians considering a run against her, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, criticized Clinton for her vote as a senator in favor of the Iraq war. “She didn’t do her homework, and we live with the ramifications today,” Chafee said on CNN’s State of the Union. “If you show lack of judgment, lack of doing your homework then, what can we expect in the future?”

On Sunday, Clinton acolyte and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pointedly declined to endorse her until she presents a more substantive agenda. Democratic Party activists have signaled that they hope to push Clinton to embrace a more progressive agenda, a desire that has culminated in loud calls for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to seek the nomination.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s Republican rivals are wasting no time in going after her. “I think the thing is about the Clintons is that there’s a certain sense that they think they’re above the law,” Kentucky senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

YouTube/Hillary Clinton

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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