WASHINGTON, D.C. - Vast reservoirs of ink have been shed over the potshots Hillary Clinton took at Barack Obama last week in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic.
While the incident is surely overblown, I think it does introduce a dynamic that will play out over and over as long she is a candidate.
1. Loyalty. Mrs. Clinton chose to kick President Obama when he was down, not a classy thing to do. Not a loyal thing to do. Obama’s approval ratings are at their lowest marks ever, dragged down mostly by troubles in distant lands.
Would she have taken a swing at the president if he were at the top of his game? What do you think? Still, this behavior is standard operating procedure in politics. Vice presidents and cabinet members do need to separate from the presidents they served, so there’s nothing unique about HRC on that score.
But this is worrisome: Clinton also undermined the president she served at an extraordinarily complicated moment. Israel and Hamas were in an unconventional war. The last husk of the Iraqi government was withering as Islamic State militants were capturing strategic territory and threatening thousands of civilian lives. Russia and Ukraine remained in an unpredictable standoff. An outbreak of Ebola was threatening Africa.
Tossing a little political napalm on those fires was borderline irresponsible.
2. History, short-term. Mrs. Clinton criticized Obama for not having an overarching foreign policy strategy. Well, she was the man’s Secretary of State for four years, wasn’t that precisely her job? What was her grand vision? To visit as many countries as possible?
She said the administration’s policy on Syria was a “failure.” That’s her administration, too. Wasn’t she supposed to be in charge of making policy on Syria?
3. History, longer-term. Mrs. Clinton was one of 29 Democratic senators who voted to authorize the Iraq War. That is a hard vote to defend, especially for a Democrat.
Non-hawks wonder what she learned from the disaster in Iraq. She still is inclined to intervene in situations where the odds of success are negligible.
4. History, the husband. Just how is Obama’s pragmatic, non-ideological foreign policy any different than her husband’s?
Bill Clinton was reluctant to use force. He did in Bosnia, but got out of Somalia as soon as there were casualties. He refused to intervene in a desperate Rwanda. He engaged with China and tried to boost new democracies. He tried and failed to broker progress between Israel and the Palestinians.
He didn’t have a Kissingerian geopolitical logo for his foreign policy either. He also didn’t have to deal with exploding Islamist terrorism, an Arab Spring that turned into a human rights winter or aggressive Russian nationalism.
5. Fellow Democrats. These criticisms have mostly come from Democrats. Republicans have been cheering her on.
So these are the five ingredients that will compose the anti-Hillary dynamic, fair or unfair: her character, her record in the Cabinet, her record in the Senate, her husband and her enemies in the party that rejected her eight years ago.
Lucky her for there is one giant missing factor: a Democratic opponent.